Unified Human Sciences of the Mind: Learning Standards Prescribe Desired Neural Patterns

Nothing like being at a journey’s end, when all of a sudden fireworks explode that remind us why it’s a good thing we have made it here. We will talk about the fireworks shortly, but what I saw in that “Developing Resilient Agency in Learning” paper from the last post made me sit back down with my copy of Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind/Brain from 1986. I wanted to rethink the manipulative potential of prescribing student goals or ‘performance expectations’ (PE) that go to ‘standardizing’ the fact that we humans are the “lucky organisms fitted out with cells coordinating representations of the world with movement in the world” as Patricia Churchland put it in italics. Churchland went on to quote Dominick Purpura from 1975 in a Chapter Epigraph to her book’s Conclusion stating that: “What we require now are approaches that can unite basic neurobiology and behavioral sciences into a single operational framework.”

Learning standards tied to CEDS in the US, or UNESCO’s ISCED framework globally, are creating that long-sought operational framework. Key to those aspirations is prescribing those internalized representations of the world. Sense-making was one of the perimeter nodes of that Learner Profile spider web we met in the last post per the Mindful Agency paper. It used the term ‘sense-making’ to combine two factors: “(i) making meaning and (ii) making connections” and stated:

Sense-making is a core part of learning, and…learning takes place through making connections in several ways: neurological, social, cognitive and experiential. People understand the world through schemata–‘a cognitive structure that consists of facts, ideas and associations organised into a meaningful system of relationships.’ It is through constantly comparing existing schema with new information and understanding that we develop through our encounter with the world, that we  adapt or stretch our existing understanding to accumulate richer and deeper knowledge…our understanding of the world and relationships is not just through storing information as an ‘objective’ entity. We do not passively receive information from our environment–rather we translate information into internal representations whose value is significant.’ They [human beings] actively participate in the generation of meaning in what matters to them: they enact a world’. Sense-making is, for them, a relational and affect-laden process grounded in biological organisation.

That was a long quote so we could go back to what was simply as aspiration and a theory decades ago and then forward to real time classroom instructions now. Then we get the fireworks in the form of last week’s release of http://fabbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/BRAIN-Initiative-FABBS-presentation-FINAL.pdf called the “Opportunities for the BRAIN Initiative 2.0.” Phase II or 2.0 turns out to be “Transforming dynamic neural patterns into understanding cognition, emotion, perception and action.” How does that happen? Here’s one current example from http://learndbir.org/resources/A-Phenomenon-based-Assessment-System-for-Three-dimensional-Science-Standards.pdf  It explains that the desired student “Performance Expectations are endpoints. To successfully prepare students to meet these goals, instructional materials must provide learning materials at the nexus of these three dimensions” of Science and Engineering Practices [the outside action], Core Disciplinary Ideas, and Cross-Cutting Concepts.

Those latter two strands go to creating the desired internalized ‘schemata’ for students’ sensemaking. ALL students. Suddenly science becomes a sociocultural “enterprise organized around asking questions in the natural world and seeking to build theories and models to develop answers to those questions.” Engineering becomes a matter of design “beginning with problems, needs, or desires of human beings that need to be addressed.” We would recognize three-dimensional learning as cultural activity theory, even if it did not admit it openly in all these papers. Its focus is on “Learning what is not yet there” because its purpose is on transformative learning that will create a different future via reimagined human activities. Recognizing that Professor Churchland taught in the 80s hotbed of cultural-historical activity theory–San Diego–complete with translations from Soviet psychology works I checked to see what ISCAR was currently pushing and pulled up Roberta Patalano publishing “From the Cradle to Society: ‘As-If’ Thinking as a Matrix of Creativity.”

Remember all the ‘uncertainty’ pushing from the last post, and now the Performance Expectations, that somehow get at coordinating Professor Churchland’s inside and out dimensions? It’s all what Soviet research stipulated would be necessary to create new kinds of minds that would act in new ways in the world. Let’s look at one more current exercise http://stemteachingtools.org/brief/46 from March 2017 called “How to define meaningful daily learning objectives for science investigations.” Uncertainty creates affect-laden ‘understanding’ just as I bolded above in that block quote. It warns teachers that “displaying the target concept to be learned–the disciplinary core idea that is to be the focus of instruction–‘gives away’ what students should actually be figuring out as they make sense of phenomena by engaging in the science and engineering practices.”

In case anyone thinks I am exaggerating on wanting to affect future action, let me quote that “Investigations should help students construct understanding. The framework vision [remember that Purpura quote] is about students seeing that science and engineering practices are ways that can help them make sense of and change the world. Students should be deciding together what they need to investigate each day, based on what they’ve already figured out and what they need to learn to explain or design. They shouldn’t know the outcome of an investigation ahead of time.” Explicit instruction as in a lecture or textbook would “short-circuit deep learning.” PEs require that “Students should be able to say what they are trying to figure out in their own words–and come to use formal science terminology once they have gotten a feeling for it after multiple investigations.”

That would explain why those of us with solid factual knowledge in an area see misapplied concepts, or Inapt Metaphors, as students use terminology they “have a feeling for,” instead of a solid foundation grounded in facts. Such a body of knowledge might interfere with an aspiration to change the world. What these prescribed concepts and learning experiences are doing though is creating internalized schema in the student’s mind. Precisely where all these learning and cognitive scientists and education researchers are trying “to invent and perfect new concepts suitable to nervous system function, and they all have their sights set on explaining macro phenomena in terms of micro phenomena.” We get a new kind of education breaking out in earnest in the 1980s when Patricia Churchland wrote, and Lauren Resnick began pushing the now required Higher Order Thinking Skills, where the traditional logical, sequential representations that had traditionally been the purpose of instruction get replaced by a neural network combining ‘patterns of activity’ with provided categories of thought.

The three-dimensional learning required now and laid out as Mindful Agency are grounded in what psychologists theorized would be necessary to create New Kinds of Minds as Paul Ehrlich put it in a 1989 book I have warned about. Now to the fireworks as that BRAIN Initiative link had a header that said “NSF SBE Grand Challenge Ideas.” What’s that I ask? I remember the NSF funded all the controversial, ‘discovery’ math and science curricula? SBE turned out to be Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences and the SBE 2020 vision was launched in August 2010 https://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2010/08/challenges when a Paul Ehrlich colleague, John Holdren, (whom he mentioned in thanks in his book, New World, New Mind) headed the White House office that oversaw the NSF. That’s one way to fulfill that book’s goal of Conscious Evolution, isn’t it?

I started reading those SBE 2020 papers over the weekend and found the link to the Krasnow Institute and its Neuroeconomics we stumbled across pursuing Thinking and Reading like a Historian in a paper called “Understanding the Mechanisms of the Mind through an Integrated Science of the Mind Initiative.” Whereas, Professor Churchland simply hoped a neural network that functioned like Parallel Distributed Processing (PDP) in computers could become the end result of a new kind of transformation education, another co-author of that paper, James McClelland turns out to be a PDP expert. https://fabbs.org/our_scientists/james-l-mcclelland-phd/ . Another co-author at MIT, Aude Oliva, is working “to understand how humans encode, process, retain, predict, and imagine.” No wonder we get ‘bottom-up’ New Foundations for Readiness as we saw in the last post.

Another paper “Twenty-First Century Challenges and Opportunities for the Human Sciences” wanted to “develop a scientific understanding of the social processes that now shape [the natural world].” This would require the United States to finance a “significant and targeted investment in an integrated science of social and behavioral dynamics, or ‘human sciences’.” And the next year, 2011, the federal Department of Education held its first competency-based education summit to do just that and implement the developed “theory for human social action” using student-centered learning to create the needed personalized neural networks in each student. Coordinating the inside categories of thought and motivation to act with the external activity in any given environment.

It’s a good plan if transformative change in the ‘macro phenomena’ of society, economies, and political structures in largely invisible ways is the goal of education in the 21st century globally. I stumbled across this more than ten years ago now trying to figure out why the NSF had paid the State of Georgia and its University System tens of millions of dollars in grants to implement constructivist Integrated Math. None of the offered explanations held up to scrutiny. Now I know it was about creating New Kinds of Minds. Let’s close our Trilogy of Bottom-Up, Inside-Out, Neural Change in each student by quoting an SBE 2020 abstract that had no linked document, just this aspiration:

One of the most critical challenges facing next-generation social, behavioral and economic research is to understand the dynamics and consequences of interactions between human systems [that’s US!] and the natural world. To accelerate scientific progress, significant and systematic efforts must be made to identify and collect data across time and space that enable evidence on perceptions, attitudes, social institutions, situation-behavior relationships, and decision-making to be linked comprehensively to measurements of the natural environment. These data will lay the foundation for a science of sustainability.

Rereading that quote would explain why the same think tank employees or their affiliates misrepresenting how learning standards like the Common Core really work also envisioned misrepresenting the purpose of all the data gathering from the beginning.

It appears that education researchers aren’t the only ones aspiring to control our internalized ‘schemata’ that guide how we interpret the world around us.


16 thoughts on “Unified Human Sciences of the Mind: Learning Standards Prescribe Desired Neural Patterns

  1. My high school junior is taking honors pre-calculus from a very old textbook. His tutor is very frustrated, telling us parents that he should be taking Integrated Math, and that it’s a disgrace to be using such an old text book. Our son did take integrated math as part of the Common Core in his Catholic middle school (go figure), and was in the accelerated group. His 8th grade math teacher then told us that he should go off the integrated path and onto a more traditional path for high school. But now I am hearing that his math learning is being compromised since he is not doing the integrated math. Pls help me grasp this.

    • If you have not read my book Credentialed to Destroy, I cover the real purpose of Constructivist math in Chapter 3. My insights in this post build on all that research, but the purpose of Integrated Math is not to integrate Geometry with Algebra, which is one of the pitches we were given. The purpose of Integrated Math and all constructivist math is to join the internal concepts with how the external world is seen. They become interpretive lenses or the frames of a narrative the student uses to make sense of the world.

      These two old posts when I first found Ehrlich’s New World, New Mind book should help.

      The first is here. http://invisibleserfscollar.com/learning-to-learn-or-how-to-replace-old-minds-with-sustainable-new-ones/ and then I followed that up with what is still the single all time most read ISC post. http://invisibleserfscollar.com/blending-sustainability-and-education-to-gain-arational-nonlinear-minds-and-new-behaviors/

      At the time I wrote that, the phrase ‘arationality’ was new to me. I encountered it again several years later when an Oxford social scientist was explaining what competency-based education was really getting at.

      For you, the purpose of math instruction is to learn a body of knowledge that is useful to some careers and creates logical thinking. To a constructivist, math activities provides certain categories that can be used in certain contexts to help analyze a situation where there is no single, right or wrong answer. That’s why they push ‘productive struggle’ in math. So the activities have the same neural, affect-laden result in the student as what the science teachers are calling deep STEM learning in the cited link.

      It’s also why Whole Language is not about teaching reading. It’s about linking the internal conceptual web to the external world. A person who simply reads phonetically and ties it to previously in place bodies of knowledge doesn’t struggle. All that reading then reenforces what I call the Axemaker Mind. Constructivism wants to prevent Axemaker Minds because they are not malleable and they will spot an Inapt Metaphor from the get-go.

      Does that help?

      • Yes Robin, very much so. It was a few years ago that I was most interested and concerned about Common core. But it recently crept up again with the math. So perhaps it’s a blessing that our son is learning (well, trying to) pre-Calc from a 30 year old text book???!!! That was my hunch, but I kept my mouth shut with the tutor.

        • Yes, he is still learning a body of mathematical knowledge. Sounds like the tutor thinks the purpose of math is to Think like a Mathematician.

          Common Core never went away. It’s just that the desired practices and the conceptual approach are being formally merged.

          I said it was the end of this Trilogy but that’s only partially true. The Trilogy laid the foundations of the why. That’s where I am going next. I wrote this post knowing precisely where I wanted to go next. As usual some of it from the past and other aspects from within last week or two, tying it all together.

          I am married to someone who thinks Calc is intuitive and I do not. I just wanted someone to patch the bucket with a hole in it and outflowing liquids. Maybe it was also that it was spring semester my freshman year when I wanted to have fun. Anyway, first Christmas after we got married he tries to explain how to use Calculus to calculate the needed number of lights for the tree. I said if we run out, we buy more. Calculus and Christmas do not even belong in the same sentence.

  2. Robyn, as I read your articles, it occurs to me that while they insist their way of harnessing and then steering development of how – and then effectively what – we think, they actually have placed limits upon the development of “deeper knowledge” because of the restrictions of their own concepts to that which remains true. Truth should be the one sustainable that concerns us all. Am I getting it? I confess I must read your articles with focused attention and often several times over. Even so, I hold you in high regard because of the knowledge you gather and share, and because of your commitment to do so. Thank you.

    • Yes, you are absolutely and I am doing my best to bring deliberately obscured topics down to earth. It is no more deep thinking than “critical thinking’ is analytical and logical. It too applies to the supplied categories of thought. What I loved about the recent curricula links in this post is the admission that Deep Thinking has to be grounded in emotion and activity. We know it is going after neural changes and not in a good way as what fluent reading does to the brain. I also liked that they admitted you musn’t explicitly teach the DCIs. That tells us that the s-called productive struggle of constructivist math was not a way to learn math. It is a way to have math activities restructure the human mind in prescribed, circumscribed ways.

      We know the NSF is involved in Future Earth, which was one of the reasons I initially started this blog and held off publishing Credentialed to Destroy for a year. The SBE Vision 2020 links in turn talked about this Human and Social Dynamics Program begun under Bush 43 in 2004. https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=100336 One of its primary topics of interest is “Decision Making under Uncertainty.” That’s precisely what HOTS assessments, required annually for all students under ESSA, and ‘rigorous’ curricula get at. That’s NOT a coincidence.

      NSF is calling the new version CHANS–Coupled Human and Natural Systems and last fall began pushing CHANS2. http://www2.econ.iastate.edu/tesfatsi/ABMCNHSystemsSurvey.EcolModelling2012.LiAn.pdf not only lays out how crucial it is to be able to model human decision-making to CHANS research of what future earth systems could become, but it also says

      fuzzy cognitive maps (FCM) are potentially very useful in modelling human decisions and behavior in CHANS. The FCMs, derived from cognitive maps that were originally introduced by psychologists to model complex human or animal behaviors (Tolman, 1948) are graphs that contain a set of nodes (concepts) and a set of directional edges (each edge representing the influence of a concept on another). FCMs are mainly used to describe and compute agent behavior in biological or ecological studies. FCM related empirical research devoted to simulating human-environment interaction in CHANS has been minimal.

      The last statement is no longer true thanks to the data flowing in and that will flow in from these new ‘three-dimensional learning’ curricula. The DCIs, Enduring Understandings (Lynn Erickson and IB term), and Understandings of Consequence (from other NSF funded research) are the nodes and the CCCs–Cross-Cutting Concepts would be the directional edges in that quote. They frame perception and how experiences get interpreted. The student generally will lack sufficient factual knowledge to spot when a narrative is false or he has learned how to think with a Guiding Fiction. These nodes of thinking research goes back to what the Rockefeller Foundation launched in the Humanities in 1980 working with the National Endowment for the Huamnities. If you remember that research is now part of the Stanford SHEG database that we tied to New Media Literacy Standards last year. The other database was at George Mason, which is why the Neuroeconomic link matters. That’s also modelling human decisionmaking.

      Remember the Rockefeller Foundation called a similar push CFSC–Communication for Social Change? It’s about controlling the parameters of thought to what is politically useful. It also makes unapproved innovation far less likely as I noted in my book.

  3. Robin,

    I just read the 1956 edition of the book Brainwashing by Edward Hunter. He outlines the methodology used by the Communists in Korea ( and elsewhere) on POWS to break them and change them into The New Soviet Man. Basically, Korea was a laboratory . It’s painfully easy to see now how everything gleaned from those experiments has been taken to scale and dressed up to be sold to the west as education. I mean Teaching and Conditioning ..I mean Learning…. ( Must work on The People’s approved and correct thinking and speaking )

    Creating Uncertainty, Confusion, Probing for individual’s motivation, seeding doubt, role play and real world learning to create emotional connections for predictable outcomes. Stuggle (sessions) Confession, Conformity. Praxis makes Perfect.

    But its not brainwashing no. Nyet. Its SCIENCE. Neuroscience! For the Whole Child.

    Not telling you anything you don’t know. It’s just so amazing to me how obscured basic systemic and systematized Brainwashing has become .

    Deep Thinking has to be grounded in emotion and activity. a/k/a Hypnosis.

    • Yes and the NSF has restarted its Science of Learning program with its emphasis on the brain. https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=243658

      Do you remember when I wrote about the simplex system of each student and targeting that for manipulation via ‘education’? http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/statutorily-stipulating-a-science-of-the-individual-driven-by-useful-internalized-guiding-fictions/ I was rereading that this week after Pioneer came out with this White Paper that once again treats this blog and my book as something to be mined and then spun. https://pioneerinstitute.org/featured/new-study-finds-multiple-problems-with-push-for-social-emotional-learning-in-k-12-education/

      Kevin Ryan, who wrote the Foreword was at BU, which was heavily involved with the original Science of Learning initiative. If you read that paper carefully it essentially says it’s OK to target the simplex as long as it is done in the name of moral and ethical education and imposed by the community. Well, that’s where UNESCO wants it imposed as well, which is why it is called the Glocal. Have the local governments impose at the micro, neural, level of human ‘systems’.

      I got interrupted when one of my kids needed me to handle something unexpected, but it turns out think tanks are a crucial component of the 21st century Governance scheme imposed at the level of our minds and personalities. Explains all the False Narratives and misrepresentations we have encountered, doesn’t it? The think tanks are to serve as the ‘intermediaries’ between bureaucrats and legislators and advocates. Get people advocating for something that doesn’t work the way they were led to believe turns out to be key.

      Essentially we are back where Norbert Weiner speculated we might get to where education would so unite mind and matter neurologically that it is akin “to breathing life into a clay Golem” with students unable to see how much their motivations and actions have been planned in advance for political purposes.

      That Pioneer paper with its emphasis that “the community” can bind each of us at the level of the simplex reminds me of a quote I used when I first noticed the hostility “to the ‘outdated’ Enlightenment ideal of individual autonomy” and communitarian emphasis of the Reconstructionists that was built into both the Prog and Classical visions of education. Both they and that White Paper do want to argue that all of us “can only find our meaning ‘within the context of a larger society.”

      Remember this?

      If each of us is related to the whole of the community as, say, the eyes to the body, then the reason we cannot exist alone is clear; our needs, purposes, functions must be related to those of the other members of the body. At the same time, the eye performs a vital function for the body and cannot be written off as unimportant or peripheral

      The man who wrote that is now at the Bradley-funded https://eppc.org/author/hschlossberg/ public policy think tank where Robert George, who created APP, is the Board Chair. Yoel Levin, who wrote the communitarian oriented The Fractured Republicis there.

      We are all supposed to be sheep guided by our intellectual betters who just love to sign these White Papers with their graduate degrees listed so we will accept their narratives unquestioningly. Into the MH, communitarian vision of the 21st century, while being told that we are fighting against the Prog vision.

      It’s what makes our tendency to seek our own facts using books that hold nothing back on their intentions to be far superior to think tank white papers or recent books that obscure Bradley’s long standing interest in The Social Construction of Reality. It’s why they supported Peter Berger in the twilight of his life in a style who loved to boast about. I came acroos the description and said “I know that name.”

    • This owns up that the purpose of all this is grounded in education and is intended to realign the relationship between Government and the Governed.

      Part of the answer lies in public education – for example, by including media literacy in school curricula, as is being done in Italy. But there is also a need to strengthen citizens’ sense of personal responsibility. This will not be easy, as it requires reconfiguring the relationship between government and governed.

      As it stands, that relationship tends to resemble interaction between a service provider and its subscribers. A passive, transactional relationship weakens citizens’ sense of agency and responsibility, and a disempowered and disengaged population becomes an easy mark for those peddling disinformation.

      Do you remember when I wrote about the Soviet book The Scientific management of Society that was so quickly translated into English back in 1971? The Governed was the term that book kept using in its vision, now coming to fruition. A big part of the campaign is what we are to be allowed to believe.

      Now remember how we tied Media Literacy to the history DCIs via Stanford and George Mason and that original Rockefeller Funding. Fits well too with their CFSC-Communication for Social Change push. Everybody wants to control the simplex in the 21st century without admitting that to parents and taxpayers.

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