Authoritarian FantasyLand: A Place With Required Habits of Mind but Disdain for Facts

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Back from my jaunt this week to Orange Coun­ty, Cal­i­for­nia to talk about all the things com­ing into K-12 class­rooms under the cloak­ing ban­ner of the Com­mon Core. Since I was tak­ing notes on Mon­day night and the pro-CC side zeal­ous­ly con­ced­ed a great deal in their pre­pared pre­sen­ta­tions, I thought we would talk about what was admit­ted upfront and what the impli­ca­tions are for all of us. It is safe to say that Cal­i­for­nia is fur­ther along than many states so this will fit with what is or will soon be going on every­where. If author­i­tar­i­an seems awful­ly strong, it is part­ly a reac­tion to the num­ber of speak­ers who insist­ed that the Com­mon Core was now “the law” and there was thus no rea­son for fur­ther dis­cus­sion. Now no one actu­al­ly uttered the phrase “resis­tance is futile” or “sub­mis­sion is manda­to­ry,” but that was the drift of the argu­ments.

Gone is any con­cept that the Unit­ed States is a coun­try con­ceived on a premise that the indi­vid­ual is ulti­mate­ly so sacro­sanct that even a king needs to ask per­mis­sion to cross his thresh­old. No, if a school board, leg­is­la­ture, or city or region­al coun­cil adopts a law or enacts a reg­u­la­tion, appar­ent­ly obe­di­ence is now manda­to­ry with­out fur­ther dis­cus­sion. That cru­cial shift is one rea­son the author­i­tar­i­an descrip­tion seems apt. The oth­er is the num­ber of times I heard speak­ers, espe­cial­ly one who was a for­mer Cal­i­for­nia 4th Dis­trict PTA Pres­i­dent and a cur­rent Hunt­ing­ton Beach school board mem­ber utter phras­es in sup­port of the Com­mon Core like “its pur­pose is to cre­ate habits of mind” and dic­tate “con­cepts to be absorbed” by the stu­dent. Anoth­er speak­er spoke of “inter­nal­iz­ing” knowl­edge.

All of those ref­er­ences, whether the speak­ers know this or not, are to what Sovi­et psy­chol­o­gist Piotr Galperin called the­o­ret­i­cal instruc­tion to guide future behav­ior. We cov­ered it here­scend­ing-the-indi­vid­ual-mind-as-the-ana­lyt­i­cal-unit-of-learn­ing-while-still-guid­ing-how-we-will-act/ . My dic­tio­nary defines author­i­tar­i­an as “unques­tion­ing obe­di­ence to author­i­ty rather than indi­vid­ual free­dom of judg­ment and action.” Now let’s face it, if con­cepts have been implant­ed in student’s psy­che at an uncon­scious lev­el, which all these speak­ers are admit­ting and I have been warn­ing about, there’s not even any oppor­tu­ni­ty to ques­tion. Is there any­body out there that denies our def­i­n­i­tion is being more than met with these open­ly declared inten­tions?

One of the Board mem­bers read two pas­sages from my book. One is that we are look­ing at the “Marx­ist the­o­ry of edu­ca­tion.” I sup­pose he was try­ing to paint me as some kind of 21st Cen­tu­ry McCarthy threat­en­ing to name names. As the book lays out in detail, Uncle Karl want­ed edu­ca­tion to be all about con­trol­ling con­scious­ness. Let’s face it, the pro-CC speak­ers them­selves admit­ted that aim sev­er­al times. If edu­ca­tion­al the­o­rists and pro­fes­sors use the M word among them­selves for what they advo­cate, we get to use the term as well. That’s me–factual, not rav­ing. The 2nd quote had to do with the asser­tion in the book that Com­mon Core actu­al­ly wants to lim­it knowl­edge. I explained quick­ly about how a con­cept-based edu­ca­tion worked, but I have a bet­ter exam­ple to actu­al­ly quote now that I am home with access to all my mate­ri­als.

The term “rig­or” and “cog­ni­tive­ly demand­ing” both got used a lot as rea­sons for the shift to the Com­mon Core. No one men­tioned though that the pur­pose of this kind of class­room work was to fos­ter a “tol­er­ance for ambi­gu­i­ty” in the stu­dent. More psy­che in the class­room crosshairs then. I men­tioned in my tes­ti­mo­ny that to work the prob­lem MUST be ambigu­ous, be pre­vi­ous­ly untaught, or have no sin­gle cor­rect answer.­li­ca­tion­s/e­d­u­ca­tion­al-leadership/oct08/vol66/num02/Rigor-Redefined.aspx is a 2008 arti­cle by Har­vard prof Tony Wag­n­er elab­o­rat­ing just that–“a com­plex, mul­ti-step prob­lem that is dif­fer­ent from any they’ve seen in the past.”

The pro-side did not care for my point­ing out that when they stat­ed that CC were “learn­ing stan­dards” they were say­ing it was about “social and emo­tion­al changes in the stu­dent” and “goals” for chang­ing a student’s val­ues, atti­tudes, beliefs, or behav­iors.  That came out on rebut­tal even though our for­mer PTA Pres­i­dent and Board mem­ber had cit­ed “engag­ing expe­ri­ences” as one of her rea­sons to sup­port the CC trans­for­ma­tion of the class­room. What pre­cise­ly does she believe the “expe­ri­ences” are get­ting at? Plus, I now have access to the stan­dard def­i­n­i­tion of ‘rig­or’ which is “the goal of help­ing all stu­dents devel­op the capac­i­ty to under­stand con­tent that is com­plex, ambigu­ous, provoca­tive, and per­son­al­ly or emo­tion­al­ly chal­leng­ing.” I took that from an SREB pow­er­point, but plen­ty of school dis­tricts use that quot­ed def­i­n­i­tion ver­ba­tim too.

Anoth­er rea­son cit­ed in sup­port of CC was it “pro­motes Equi­ty.” As we say in the South “Yee­haw.” Dis­sim­i­lar treat­ment of stu­dents in order to get them to the same out­comes is not like­ly to be a pop­u­lar sell­ing point, at least until we get a gen­er­a­tion trained with those Anti-bias Stan­dards from the last post. So we get Equi­ty imposed invis­i­bly by Supers and Civ­il Rights edicts and local city coun­cils. Alarm­ing­ly, Brook­ings’ Met­ro­pol­i­tanism guru, Bruce Katz (see tags)  announced this week­pa­per­s/2014/10/22-metro-growth-uk-us-katz  that  “it’s time we rewrote our own fed­er­al­ist con­tract [that would be the US Con­sti­tu­tion] and realign pow­er and respon­si­bil­i­ty for the mod­ern era in which cities and met­ro­pol­i­tan areas, rather than nations and states, dri­ve economies and progress.”

Right into a ditch in all like­li­hood, but this is the polit­i­cal vision all these edu­ca­tion reforms embod­ied in the full CC imple­men­ta­tion are rely­ing on as the future they are prepar­ing our stu­dents for. In that link, you will find a link to a UK report that makes it clear that geog­ra­phy is being used to dis­guise the shift to the needs-based, eco­nom­ic jus­tice vision that Uncle Karl lust­ed about achiev­ing at some point in the future. As the report said “the scale of met­ros means they are best placed to dri­ve the strate­gic inte­gra­tion of pub­lic ser­vices and eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment.”

That’s the vision for Man­ches­ter in the UK and the greater LA area, my neck of the woods in Geor­gia, and every­where else as well. Every­thing I have read sug­gests a Fol­ly of mon­u­men­tal pro­por­tions is planned, but it will be quite lucra­tive for a while to those con­nect­ed ven­dors who form pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships to receive tax­pay­er mon­ey for meet­ing ‘needs’ like hous­ing, edu­ca­tion, or health­care.

I want to close this dis­cus­sion with a Keynote Address not­ed Change Agent Shirley McCune gave back in 1981 called “The Future of Edu­ca­tion­al Equi­ty.” She saw “strug­gles for equi­ty” as the “whole ratio­nale for the for­ma­tion of the Unit­ed States” which tells us what can hap­pen when we let grad­u­ate degrees in social work dic­tate how we edu­cate our kids. What I found fas­ci­nat­ing since I had always seen the Rea­gan Block Grants to state and local gov­ern­ments as a ‘con­ser­v­a­tive’ shift was how A-OK she was with this plan. So some­one who want­ed to see com­pa­ra­ble eco­nom­ic and social out­comes among groups and “groups of peo­ple rep­re­sent­ed through­out soci­ety in pro­por­tion to their rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the pop­u­la­tion” viewed state and local gov­ern­ments as the place to achieve that.

Some­thing to think about as com­men­ta­tors assume that the Com­mon Core is an accept­able dic­tate if a local school board requires it. That the only prob­lem with the Com­mon Core is the fed­er­al fin­ger­prints all over it from Arne Duncan’s actions. Real­ly? Author­i­tar­i­an­ism that goes so far as to dic­tate per­son­al­i­ty traits at an uncon­scious lev­el to dri­ve future behav­ior is not a prob­lem now as long as it is not fed­er­al author­i­ties man­dat­ing it? McCune believed that the “only way that per­sons would be will­ing to ‘buy equi­ty con­cerns’ is if it is demon­strat­ed that it is an innate part of qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion.” That of course is pre­cise­ly what embed­ding Racial Equi­ty Out­comes in course­work or those Anti-Bias Frame­work do.

It’s McCune and oth­ers view of how to use a mis­lead­ing term like qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion for “build­ing a new con­sen­sus on equi­ty.” She also viewed qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion for equi­ty as about equip­ping stu­dents with the “high­est lev­el basic ver­bal and math­e­mat­i­cal skills con­sis­tent with their indi­vid­ual abil­i­ty.” The only way to read that lan­guage is that slow­er stu­dents will get a vari­ety of ways to show their skills, but able stu­dents still can­not go beyond basic. They can just go faster through the basics.

Just as we are see­ing with all the cur­rent empha­sis on Career Path­ways, where Cal­i­for­nia is one of the lead pilots­li­ca­tion­s/files/aqcp-frame­work-ver­sion-1–0/AQCP-Framework.pdf McCune’s plan for equi­ty relied on ALL stu­dents now receiv­ing a com­bined aca­d­e­m­ic and voca­tion­al edu­ca­tion where every­one would obtain “the skills and atti­tudes nec­es­sary for work­ing coop­er­a­tive­ly with both the same sex and oppo­site sex in the paid work­force and in the home.”

Final­ly McCune’s ver­sion of qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion “would equip stu­dents with the flex­i­bil­i­ty and self-con­fi­dence that would enable them to cope with the rapid­ly chang­ing soci­ety through con­tin­u­ing adult learn­ing and growth.” Doesn’t that sound just like what the Com­mon Core is tout­ing as hav­ing a Growth Mind­set? Every­thing old is new again appar­ent­ly until total trans­for­ma­tion is final­ly achieved.

Appar­ent­ly the prod­ucts of a “qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion” ground­ed in ‘rig­or’ will not object to the fun­da­men­tal rewrite of our “fed­er­al­ist con­tract” and in the mean time, gov­ern­ments at all lev­els seem to be pur­su­ing this Equi­ty vision with­out any gen­uine dis­clo­sure or con­sent. Leav­ing it to the lady who reads too much and has for a very long time to lay it all out.

Hope­ful­ly Just In Time as the slo­gan goes.