Will Your Schools Be Used as an Information Age Experiment for Economic Democracy?

That title comes out of a 2004 essay published in Columbia’s Teachers College Record laying out the desired “Pedagogical Praxis” to use computers and other ICT technology in the classroom to reinvigorate John Dewey’s 1915 idea of linking school with society. The idea is that we are living in a technological Postindustrial society that calls for different habits of mind and understandings than in the past.  And let there be no doubt, the author, an AI prof by the name of David W Shaffer, said explicitly that “the approach is psychological” and involves the social and moral development of students. Which really does sound like what the Canadians have acknowledged is the real common core being imposed on global education–new values, attitudes, and beliefs. Another prof we will get to today added changed “mores” to that list as well.

Apparently we all need changed beliefs for the 21st century as Goodwin Liu alluded to when he called for something like CCSSI-the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/morphing-the-common-core-into-a-new-rewritten-us-constitution-by-mandating-false-beliefs/ Which is certainly convenient as yesterday a US federal government commission released a report called “For Each and Every Child” that talked about using CCSSI to get the US K-12 “system” to “distribute opportunity equitably” so there would cease to be “disparities in student outcomes.” http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/eec/equity-excellence-commission-report.pdf Now people are different and long-time readers know I have talked a good bit about what Excellence in education really means. See Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi in tags. No you do not have to pronounce his name. Everyone just calls the prof Csik as it is easier. All joking aside Csik’s view of Excellence aligns perfectly with Shaffer’s view of a psychological moral and social development focus in the classroom to change students from the inside out.

Now conveniently this highly intrusive report that reenvisions the Government-Citizen and federal/state/local roles in so many areas that the ground at Montpelier, Va may have shaken yesterday sees technology and its use in the classroom as the key to gaining Equity and Excellence. You probably should check which tech stocks were up yesterday as vendors rejoiced at such an access to taxpayer coffers. OK. Less sarcasm as we hear the call for “technology systems that support learning.” There will be absolutely no references to BF Skinner and his call for using computers to be Teaching Machines delivering Operant Conditioning to the students to benefit the politically connected’s vision for the future. Ooops. Sorry. I guess it was an unconscious response to seeing that word Learning in that federal report since we know it means changes in values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. It’s almost like there is a theme going here.

Now many of the reports and books pushing ICT in the classroom as the primary emphasis cite back to a 1988 book by a Harvard business prof called In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power. Such cited support is intended to pave the way for a no questions school ICT implementation mere mortals without a Cambridge pedigree may not question. Unfortunately the systems thinkers at MIT had already, through footnotes, pointed me in Zuboff’s direction. I had her book and knew it aspired to use the new ICT technology and its ability to “informate” as she calls it and not just automate to change the nature of employee-employer work relations. She wants it to move away from hierarchical, managerial relationships in the workplace to collaboration as a “learning community.” So to her ICT is the hoped for avenue to the Democratic Vision in the Workplace and Industrial Democracy and she cites her own work as well as openly socialist labor leaders like Robert Schrank among others.

Which is her privilege but that aspiration for a new society and a new economy rather goes along with her vision for the role of ICT. It goes with the visions of the Equity Commission too given the number of times that report mentioned “levelling the playing field.” It fits with Goodwin Liu’s vision for a social citizenship obligation he wants to see accepted in a new interpretation of the 14th Amendment. So once again the cite to Zuboff merely reenforces our developing sense that the ICT push is not about getting everyone ready for the 21st century. Maybe it’s to get enough people primed to envision a nonhierarchical workplace but that may also not function very well in practice. But how would the typical student know that?

Zuboff tells the stories of numerous plants and companies transitioning away from the world of physical activity to produce products to a computerized production. Now the workers watch a computer screen and many, over time, especially those without a background in the physical production processes, lose touch with the reality those screen images represent. She writes about the disorientation. When I read that passage I immediately reverse engineered the effect on students of the schools pushing virtual reality and gaming and so much use of a computer. Wouldn’t those students likewise come to believe that reality acted much like the simulations they were creating? That the world could be made to behave like the designed models and programs they had been immersed in? Some almost from birth given the ubiquity of screens among the toddler set in the grocery store now.

Isn’t the insistence on using devices and tablets and reflecting popular culture at school just going to prime these students further? Won’t many student have trouble separating real social systems that consist of independent individuals and millions of consumer transactions that are not programs and were never designed from the online models about Society and the Economy and the Ecosystem? Especially since the reformers now want students to spend so much of their school day in virtual worlds too?

That was my concern and then the next step in my pursuit of what is really going on led to a 2009 book–Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America. Now that book is being pushed by some of the biggest names in American education over the last 20 years. It makes no bones about pushing for the fulfillment of Dewey’s dream to use school to change the nature of American society toward economic democracy. It’s as if the entire 20th century nightmare of governments trying to remake human nature and shift the emphasis to the collective that occurred after Dewey wrote his theories never happened. Let’s try again. This time with the magic ICT technology and already industrialized societies instead of agricultural ones.

Do you think that will really make all the difference in likely outcomes? Even if I am alone out on this limb frantically trying to call attention to where the Common Core in the US and education globally is really going? Now Professor James Paul Gee who we met before with his insistence that there really is no such thing as discrete individuals, http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/we-are-at-the-historical-stage-for-the-emergence-of-one-particular-new-kind-of-person/ , is cited in Rethinking Education. The writers are explaining the envisioned push in the classroom for computer gaming that has now become such an unappreciated part of the actual planned Common Core implementation. The idea is that computer “simulation is the key to letting learners explore new situations.” So the computer gets used to let students explore various possibilities for the world of the future. Unfortunately reenforcing beliefs that reality can likewise be redesigned to reflect desired assumptions.

Mentioned among the useful possibilities for video gaming in the classroom is “draw players into roles that may conflict with everyday values and encourage players to notice the gap with their own beliefs.” There are listed war games that will allow the player to “switch sides to take on the perspective of the enemy.” I would assert the enemy is probably not created to reflect reality by people who also push PATHS to PAX SEL programs from our previous post or the Peaceable Classroom. Especially since the purpose of switching sides is to see the “conflict from multiple perspectives.”

Other programs are to involve “local environmental and social issues” where students will be urged to “co-create the world they inhabit.” Market economies and self-policing communities are also mentioned for the virtual world. I will let you guess how realistic the assumptions written into the programs are likely to be. And how many students will really recognize the assumptions factored into what is truly a Designed and Created Social System. That is likely a far cry from the real world the students do have to live in.

Now all this designing and reimagining is about to take us to an MIT prof who seems to function much like the Rosetta Stone for figuring out where all this is going. And we are going back to both Cambridge Cousins and more than one of the graduate programs at both places. And the continued dominance of Systems Thinking. In business and education and apparently, the planners hope, in society itself.

I hate to stop here but our Planning Prof who actually wrote his PhD dissertation in the 50s on John Dewey and his inquiry method is just too important. He came up in too many places we talked about today and deserves his own post.

I feel like humming that tune about being able to see clearly now after rain has come.


10 thoughts on “Will Your Schools Be Used as an Information Age Experiment for Economic Democracy?

  1. Hi Robin,
    we can see this in the latest vid game fad called MINECRAFT. All the 6 to 12 year olds are obsessed and it appears innocuous on the surface so parents allow hours of it. trust me I know. my son gets little to none at this point as I saw the potential connected directly to the subject of this post.
    also the 8th grader has this assignment involving carefully masked systems science connected to Lovelock and GAIA theory, walked back recently by the 91 year old posterboy for al Gores carbon fantasy of global warming.

    • Hi Madmommy. It was so interesting to recognize the danger and then read next book being pushed hard by Teacher College Press and read exactly why virtual reality was so important.

      Remember the Zombie Apocalypse post that Amplify is pushing as appropriate for the classroom or this ICT post? http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/mind-thieves-everyday-examples-that-add-up-to-a-cultural-and-political-tsunami/

      These books I am reading were meant for education and business leaders and not parents or customers or taxpayers. The original link to Zuboff came from an MIT history prof arguing to remove the discontinuity treatment between people and machines when it comes to information technology. A la Cybernetics which we also saw was NSF’s desire in its Cyberlearning push. I am not afraid of ICT (although my children will tell you it is not yet second nature) but we need to be aware of the intentions for the desired effects from ICT use that come out from sources we were not supposed to see. Or read from cover to cover.

  2. Hi Robin….are you aware that legislation has been put forth to halt Common Core here in Georgia?
    I appreciate this post, especially now that my children’s elementary school in one of metro Atlanta’s “world-class” systems has fully implemented “Bring Your Own Device” all the way down to Kinder level. It is hard being the parent who refused to let their child bring their tablet/iPod to school. They just had a fundraiser to raise money for “devices in the classroom” and to pay for professional development for teachers….yeah, now parents are being asked to donate funds for PD…nobody tells us what type of PD we would be buying, of course.

    Yesterday my 5th grader showed me a website they used for language arts during class. Their teacher made them watch this 3 times, he said:

    God forbid these kids experience figurative language through…oh, I dunno…reading a damn book or something. Nope. Of course this same teacher has a PhD (not sure what it’s based in, def not anything real). I perused the lesson plans attached to this video…what a joke. They really don’t think kids are capable of much, do they?

    • Hi Mom.

      Welcome to Invisible Serfs Collar. I had read that but Georgia’s K-12 system is so dominated by its USG system that just wants everyone to graduate so they will bring more revenue in addition to Hope to USG that weaknesses in K-12 are a benefit, not a problem. We have large parts of Georgia where the school district, closest USG institution, and the local hospital are the primary employers. There is no real private economy to speak of and the fact that 31 out of 35 USGs have no SAT minimum gets ignored. Credentials that do not add marketable knowledge or skills anyone wants to voluntarily pay for are not making the state more competitive. Add in the SEL component and ICT’s ability to limit what I call the logical, rational Axemaker Mind and we are really in a spiral downwards. We just have not recognized it yet as so many legislators rely on all the above to keep their constituents employed. Using tax money from DC and metro Atlanta.

      http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/embrace-and-seize-technologys-potential-to-capture-the-hearts-and-minds-of-todays-students/ and http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/ridiculing-the-1860s-mind-as-unsuitable-for-the-21st-century-cui-bono/ are two other posts on what educators have said is the real reason for this ICT push.

      It’s not that they do not believe kids are capable of much. It’s that they fear the capabilities of the brightest and most able to defy the herd or create a better product or some Earth shaking new technology. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/blending-sustainability-and-education-to-gain-arational-nonlinear-minds-and-new-behaviors/ is the post where I came up with the Axemaker Mind metaphor after reading The Axemaker’s Gift on wanting to prevent what the talented mind was capable of creating.

      In earlier posts I have run through some of the reports coming out of various international groups envisioning a radically different view of the 21st century. These changes in education are the road to trying to get there. I say let’s have this discussion now in the daylight.

      I never would let my kids have a gameboy and driving a 15 year old SUV I bought new means there has never been a video system in any car we owned. We listened to Jim Weiss story tapes driving to and from Florida when kids were little so they all use words to visualize in their heads. Reading Jane Healy’s classic book Endangered Minds when my kids were little changed how I raised them. TV was occasional. It’s not why I wrote these posts. This technology is desired to make vendors rich and to limit the functioning of malleable minds. The research is just as unambiguous as can be if it is actually read.

      Parents and taxpayers have every right to know what it says. And there’s a reason ATT sponsored Fulton’s rollout of its Strategic Plan at the Fox. They are the broadband vendor and would like even more business as they are a partner in Amplify. And they still tend to think like the regulated entity they were for so long that prefers politically directed revenue from school districts to providing good service to cell phone customers.

    • Mom-Just got the chance to look at your flocabulary link. Stunning.

      We really are moving away from print and assaulting other senses to “engage” the kids.

      You know alliteration and onomatopoeia can be easily taught as they were for years with a blackboard and examples like a game. But that would call attention to words and the examples offered might vary classroom to classroom. Then there wouldn’t be common experiences for all.

      I remember being bored in 5th grade but that is mind numbing. I suppose that is the point.

      • Mom to Many,

        I did a radio podcast this week talking about the Common Core that is now up on you tube.

        You can check out my native Southern accent while I try to put what’s really going on with Common Core into historical perspective.

    • Thanks mad mommy. I am working this morning on just how consistent the future economic vision tied to these global ed reforms is. Unfortunately it is an area I have worked on before so I know the tribal societies being pointed to as examples of how equality can work also had no surplus or much innovation. In fact innovators got accused of sorcery and it really took the rise of cities where there was both some anonymity and an exchange of ideas from all over for innovation and the surplus wealth beyond hand to mouth to break out.

      Anyway to remind myself of why they keep mentioning the need for new values and a new vision I just reread the Honk Kong Moral Development Vision based on the work of the American profs. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/using-education-to-shut-down-free-choices-and-then-redefining-as-personal-autonomy-orwell-lives/

      It is so clear that it is Hutchins vision being pushed all over the world in every country where the government is not already the dominant employer. The part I left out of that post is what good friends Hutchins was with so many of the key players in our story like Ralph Tyler or Benjamin Bloom. Or his connection to the Ford Foundation in the 50s. The next post is yet another prof in a chair created by the Ford Foundation. They seem to create chairs at prestigious school to push their social, economic, and political vision of Transformation.

  3. and this is the hutchins/bloom distilled soup du jour in the classroom combat zone courtesy of common core

    its a retread from atlanta last year, right? same hoo ha, it must be ready for prime time… ” oh yes we will reprimand those responsible.”…. yeah call arne duncan and bill gates on the carpet, nope just fire a 26 YEAR OLD TEACHER, problem soved.


    • Think of the emotions of outrage and shame that were fostered.

      Math is just an excuse. Never forget the 10 Cs involving race and oppression.

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