House of Tomorrow: Targeting Behavior Change Requires Move Away from Declarative Knowledge

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If you hang out in the dungeons and attics of the Transformation Blueprints like I do, one of the omnipresent confessions that is crucial, but not making it into the public domain YET, is that classroom activities and experiences are now “aims-based” or “goal-directed,” not “subject-matter based.” History, math, literature, or science course names still get used, but it hides the new broader purposes of social change. They have ceased to be, unfortunately, ends in themselves. The very phrase “standards-based” over the last two decades is also intended to hide what is indisputedly a shift to a personal behavior emphasis that is still too obscured.

This post is designed to remedy that and build on the facts and declarations laid out in the recently finished APUSH trilogy as well as particularly Chapter 7 of my book–“What if Common Core Actually Limits What Everyone Can Know or Do While Targeting Feelings, Beliefs, and Values Instead?” The Question that Grows in Pertinence on a Daily Basis. Often times the best way to illustrate what is being required in education is to consult a professor in another area, who is unlikely to mask his statements about what is intended. Do you remember the London School of Economics where that troubling Fabian Stained Glass window has now found a new home? As a symbol of reverence, not infamy, unfortunately.

Back in 1994, LSE’s then Director, sociologist Anthony Giddens, kindly explained the role of History to political radicals in a book called Beyond Left and Right. It matters because not enough of us appreciate that the Fall of the Berlin Wall, death of Mao, or dissolution of the USSR, never altered the widespread desire for History to be progressing somewhere. If facts get in the way, education becomes the preferred tool to get the process headed in the desired direction again. Tell me this quote is not behind the spirit of the activities I spelled out in the previous posts: “For socialists, the past is not comforting; it is valued at most because it has provided the means whereby we can actively move on to grasp and appropriate the future.”

If you make K-12 education about altering and creating desired feelings, values, beliefs, perceptions, and behaviors (performances or learning are the preferred K-12 euphemisms obscuring this reality), education can supposedly create the conditions for the House of Tomorrow. When I write posts explaining the NEA CARE Guide created with the Southern Poverty Law Center to use in the Common Core classroom or the Aspen Institute’s RETOC-Racial Equity Theory of Change, tie those intentions to highlight race, class, and ethnicity to create feelings of grievance or guilt to Giddens telling us that Marxism’s allure for so many is and was the “metaphysical idea that history, in its more consequential and revolutionary moments, is made by the oppressed.”

If that quote seems a bit too ‘metaphysical’ for anyone’s taste, let’s simply make real-world problem solving the focus of K-12 education, and see if the classroom over time doesn’t create a consciousness precisely as Uncle Karl would have wanted. In 2013 the Journal of Teacher Education for Sustainability published a helpful confession from Erin Redman complaining that traditional education and declarative knowledge like facts, lectures, and textbooks were too “value-free, didactic” and “one-way methods of communication” (instead of the now glorified classroom ‘Dialogue” among ‘Equals’). Education in the 21st Century is supposed to be about long-term behavior change from an unconscious basis at the level of each individual. Those Aims or Goals require “require real-world, experiential and problem-based learning.”

Thanks for the honesty even if it is tucked away. Keep in mind the calm assertion that “Behavioural scholars have, however, clearly established that the linear, information-deficit approach [aka Transmission of Knowledge of the Best that has Been Thought or Done by the Sages of the Past] to education is insufficient in promoting behaviour change.” Since we have been concentrating on what these Aims and Goals do to history coursework, let’s end with the recommendation that this Normative view of the purpose of curriculum results in a suggestion for “shifting away from scientific facts as the primary discourse in sustainability.” That ‘s why it’s so important to emphasize feelings and the Whole Child.

It is why Procedural Knowledge gets so hyped now in the form of the Skills Deficit. That is the needed action-related process knowledge and how-to skills useful for real-world transformations. Effectiveness Knowledge now gets hyped because Beliefs about the Need for transformations in the present to alter the future are very much influenced by “perceived consequences associated with different behaviours as well as beliefs about who is responsible for given outcomes.” That’s the Aim that really finds factual knowledge to be an obstacle since it might prevent viewing the assigned Villains as culpable or notice that local politicians will blow even more money if given ever more planning power.

But then I am no teenager and we have already concluded I would be on the first shipment to Perception Re-education Camps to extinguish Factual Knowledge as an Impediment to Fundamental Change. The typical adolescent will be easy prey though for classrooms built around: “One of the central ways for enhancing effectiveness knowledge is by focusing on problems that are locally relevant and at a scale with which students feel empowered to act, while also examining the positive impact of individual and collective change.” Lack of much factual knowledge, unless the parents have stepped in or the child is the rare fluent, voracious reader, means that a capacity or willingness to conceive of any negative impact is unlikely happen in most classrooms anymore.

Finally, “social knowledge (i.e. norms) encompasses subjective and local knowledge including the motives, intentions and actions of other people. In order to enhance social knowledge, it is critical that sustainable behaviours are positioned as the normal and the desired way to act.” Objective, norm-referenced tests of knowledge have to go away quietly in this sought scenario for the future since they center on Declarative Knowledge. Radicals always needed alternative assessments to examine whether the desired behavior and attitude changes were occurring and what strategies and concepts are used when there is no correct answer and not enough information is given. Today’s Rigorous Assessments merely build on what was known as the New Standards Reference Examination in the 90s Created again by the Mother of both Higher Order Thinking Skills as well as the related term Rigor, Professor Lauren Resnick.

We should simply view them correctly as Cultural Activity Research on our kids with our tax dollars. Remember the ISCAR 2011 Conference in Rome, Italy? It’s all about Aims-Based Education too. Transformational Aims with Political and Social Purposes. Just like the Common Core or 21st Century Learning or Competency-Based Instruction now. It’s all about Behavior Change if we climb down to the dungeons or up to the attics or just trace back to the footnotes in the typical Aspen Institute Report.

Those interested in fundamental transformations in the political and social spheres that is the Progressive View of the Role of History now need the tool of K-12 education, if not preschool as well, to reach those same Aims and Goals. It’s why so many education graduate degrees today openly trumpet their grounding in Change Agent Theories. To make students the mass carriers of new cultural memes and behaviors without most parents or the typical taxpayer even being aware of the shift. That’s the purpose of all the Orwellian language that has me climbing down, then up, and flipping back to those footnotes again and again.

I may have to understand all this at a very nerdy level just bursting with facts and wordy declarations of intent to once again try out notorious theories in the real world, but that is not the level where most people live. When I explain what is intended in order to get real traction in the real world, I always have to find ways to bring these intentions into the everyday lives of my readers. Unfortunately, though, I am not the only one who understands that crucial point.

In fact, the shift away from Declarative Knowledge to granting parity to subjective ways of knowing and interpreting, along with that targeting of Procedural, Effectiveness, and Social Knowledge we have just talked about, is all about meeting people and students at the level of knowledge that “guides conduct in everyday life.” Just the arena, in other words, if long-term behavior change is the admitted (if only quietly shared among insiders), new Goal or Aim of K-12 education.

Behavior Change Architects intent on Political and Social Transformations to kick History Back into Gear on the Planned Pathway of Change would need to appreciate each person’s “subjective experience of reality.” To get at the perception of reality held by the “common-sense of the ordinary members of society.”

That’s what alternative ‘high-quality’ assessments like the NSRE above got at and what the Common Core and formative assessments get at now. It’s what adaptive software gets at as well.

Then we have performance standards under their variety of masking names like College and Career Ready or Next Generation Learning to capture and then remediate over time behaviors, values, and attitudes that are not desirable for transitioning to the Planned Pathway for History.

Not to mention what all the social and emotional programs being sold as Character Education or Bullying Prevention or Positive Behaviors for the Whole Child do.

Am I finally reaching the everyday recognition of what is coming at all of us?