Backward Mapping: Bundling Human and Social Engineering While Trumpeting International Competition

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Some­times peo­ple feel deeply shak­en by the things I write about. Me too, except there is no ambi­gu­i­ty in what is being sought by the time I am will­ing to dis­cuss it in pub­lic. If the dec­la­ra­tions appear to be Trag­ic or even just a hor­rif­i­cal­ly waste­ful idea, some­one needs to be bring­ing these inten­tions into the sun­light of pub­lic scruti­ny in time. So after an admit­ted­ly need­ed rest to watch the sand and surf and mull over the enor­mi­ty of the mate­ri­als I have, here we go again.

I must say though I was relieved to learn as I pon­dered the impli­ca­tions of today’s dis­clo­sures that the late UK econ­o­mist, Ken­neth Minogue, had also been dis­tressed by what was being inten­tion­al­ly done to the minds and per­son­al­i­ties of peo­ple in order to force the accep­tance of the wel­fare state and equal­i­ty for all. His 2010 book The Servile Mind not­ed that in the 21st cen­tu­ry “large areas of what were pre­vi­ous­ly of pri­vate con­cern have become sub­ject to polit­i­cal reg­u­la­tion.” Amen to that from this side of the Atlantic pond. He point­ed out that “new pieties have arisen accord­ing to which indi­vid­u­als are able to demon­strate their decen­cy by the polit­i­cal atti­tudes they adopt.”

Hav­ing just fin­ished read­ing released two days ago, I would word that much more strong­ly than Minogue did. Glob­al­ly those desired atti­tudes are sim­ply being declared a nec­es­sary Com­pe­ten­cy or dis­po­si­tion. Then learn­ing expe­ri­ences are cre­at­ed to make sure the desired changes in per­son­al out­looks occur. Minogue not­ed a “coer­cive cen­tral­ism of atti­tude and pol­i­cy.” I agree, but how few rec­og­nize that has become the new pur­pose of K‑12 cur­ricu­lum and what is actu­al­ly being assessed? Minogue remind­ed us that his­tor­i­cal­ly in the US and the else­where in the West indi­vid­u­als “con­struct­ed their own iden­ti­ty in terms of per­son­al­ly cho­sen commitments.”

Not in the Com­pe­ten­cy vision. It is pure­ly ground­ed in a belief that in the 21st Cen­tu­ry, all over the world, gov­ern­ment offi­cials at all lev­els get to pick out the desired “sen­ti­ment and belief [that] can be ade­quate­ly entrenched in the human mind” in order to “deter­mine con­duct” in the man­ner desired for the new vision of soci­ety and the econ­o­my laid out. Polit­i­cal pow­er is now man­dat­ing in advance what is to be accept­able indi­vid­ual behav­ior, beliefs, and val­ues. Since that sounds unabashed­ly author­i­tar­i­an to any­one with a mod­icum of his­to­ry knowl­edge, the same goals get hid­den under an invis­i­bil­i­ty cloak with terms like stan­dards, learn­ing, or Competency.

Or ‘entre­pre­neur­ship’ in UNESCO’s recent report called Toward an Entre­pre­neur­ial Cul­ture for the Twen­ty-First Cen­tu­ry. Back­ward Map­ping is a term used to describe the desired qual­i­ty, attribute, sen­ti­ment, or behav­ior to be instilled through school expe­ri­ences in a stu­dent. It sounds much bet­ter than polit­i­cal engi­neer­ing of a per­son­’s per­son­al­i­ty and behav­ior, but those are the true aims if we can just be blunt and hon­est. Saves time and waste­ful use of tax­pay­er dol­lars. Here’s a sam­ple of what I mean from that UNESCO report:

Across nations, what is need­ed [in K‑12 and all approach­es to eco­nom­ic and social devel­op­ment] are pro­grammes that show young peo­ple how they can direct­ly con­tribute to rais­ing lev­els of well-being and pros­per­i­ty in their com­mu­ni­ties. Prepa­ra­tion starts in the class­room where stu­dents, future work­ers, busi­ness own­ers and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers must learn how to be respon­si­ble cit­i­zens.”

That’s the vision that K‑12 edu­ca­tion must now engi­neer, which would cer­tain­ly explain the need for a stu­dent-cen­tered behav­ioral approach instead of the tra­di­tion­al sub­ject-mat­ter empha­sis. It also explains why we just keep run­ning into a required com­mu­ni­tar­i­an ori­en­ta­tion that stu­dents are to demon­strate dai­ly. Again UNESCO reminds us that “edu­ca­tion is not only acquir­ing aca­d­e­m­ic knowl­edge but the way to pre­pare young peo­ple for work and liv­ing in the soci­ety.” Of course that would be the new view of soci­ety so we are Back­ward Map­ping twice. Desired Soci­ety needs a cer­tain kind of cit­i­zen with a stip­u­lat­ed Out­look on what is desir­able for the future. That type of cit­i­zen then gets sculpt­ed via K‑12 Whole Child focused edu­ca­tion. No inten­tion though to con­fess all this to the par­ents or taxpayers.

What’s impor­tant is the Goal of Equi­ty and “a decent qual­i­ty of growth for all.” Now I think all this is delu­sion­al, but this is in fact what Com­pe­ten­cy glob­al­ly is tied to as well as those Com­mon Core stan­dards when right­ful­ly under­stood in the sup­port­ers’ own words. If this social and eco­nom­ic vision is deranged, then we are imple­ment­ing a trag­ic form of behav­ioral engi­neer­ing for ridicu­lous ends in our schools, and nobody is sup­posed to have a veto pow­er to stop the shift in time. Please read the End Game while men­tal­ly hum­ming “To Dream the Impos­si­ble Dream” to add to the con­text. To give our may­ors, city coun­cils, and com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­ers, not to men­tion dis­trict School Supers, ever more pow­er over peo­ple and places, this is all to occur at the lev­el of “local governments.”

…rests on find­ing a bal­ance between eco­nom­ic, social and envi­ron­men­tal goals. This requires dia­logue and part­ner­ships through which dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers work togeth­er for their broad range of con­cerns. [Won’t the new real world prob­lem-based focus for high school come in handy?] And while this may not always be as effec­tive as desired [that’s OK because tax­pay­er dol­lars can always be levied again since they come from a mag­ic tree sur­round­ed by uni­corns], there are at least greater civ­il soci­ety inputs into strate­gies to main­tain social cohe­sion to pro­tect cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty and to pro­mote envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly behav­iours in local com­mu­ni­ties. Putting the future of the com­mu­ni­ty in the hands of its own mem­bers reduces depen­den­cy on out­side forces and reju­ve­nates the eco­nom­ic and social fabric.”

Now would be a good time to tran­si­tion to the song “Sun­shine, Lol­lipops, and Rain­bows” because, as I said, that’s a ridicu­lous vision. A ratio­nal mind filled with facts and attuned to mak­ing its own deci­sions and set­ting its own goals would grasp that eas­i­ly, which is pre­cise­ly why such minds are being dis­al­lowed all over the globe. They are in the way of the desired all-encom­pass­ing exer­cise of polit­i­cal pow­er in the 21st Cen­tu­ry. That real­i­ty again would nev­er be some­thing most peo­ple would vol­un­tar­i­ly acqui­esce to so we get nam­by-pam­by visions for 21st cen­tu­ry edu­ca­tion like this from the same document:

We learn from a young age that the devel­op­ment of pos­i­tive, engag­ing and equi­table rela­tion­ships is crit­i­cal to our suc­cess as human beings. Basic social skills enable us to inter­act in the com­mu­ni­ty, as well as to under­stand the mean­ing of cit­i­zen­ship. Sound social skills allow us to under­stand both social rights and claims, as well as oblig­a­tions and respon­si­bil­i­ties. But imag­i­na­tion and emo­tion­al engage­ment are as impor­tant as social skills. More than ever, there is a need to engage young peo­ple in find­ing cre­ative solu­tions to improv­ing the wel­fare of their com­mu­ni­ties, while con­tribut­ing to col­lec­tive pros­per­i­ty in ways that do not dam­age nat­ur­al resources. Intel­li­gence should include the abil­i­ty to envis­age alter­na­tive futures, to resolve open-end­ed prob­lems with more than one way of doing things.”

That’s the vision of soci­ety and the econ­o­my and our new future that all the edu­ca­tion reforms going on glob­al­ly in both pub­lic and pri­vate schools are dri­ving towards. There is absolute­ly no ambi­gu­i­ty what­so­ev­er in what is being sought and why. The only fluc­tu­a­tion seems to be where in the pro­gres­sion a giv­en school, dis­trict, or coun­try is.

I am going to close this post with the open dec­la­ra­tion of one of the insid­ers who brags about her access and tutor­ing of For­tune 100 CEOs and Pen­ta­gon offi­cials and her desire to use edu­ca­tion to gain new kinds of non­lin­ear minds to get a new kind of soci­ety. In her 2010 book Rebec­ca Cos­ta wrote that “we have to chal­lenge [the human brain] in very spe­cif­ic ways. And we are get­ting very close to under­stand­ing exact­ly what those ways are. Word by word, we are now con­struct­ing a user’s man­u­al to the human brain–ground zero for every­thing we do, know, think, and feel–and the sus­tain­abil­i­ty of human progress.”

Told you there was no ambi­gu­i­ty and no, we are appar­ent­ly not sup­posed to get a copy of that user’s man­u­al. For­tu­nate­ly for all of us, I found it any­way and laid it out in my book orig­i­nal­ly. I con­tin­ue to explore it on this blog.

We can only stop what we know exists. The cre­ators of that user’s man­u­al and these visions of the future nev­er want­ed us to link K‑12 reforms to what was real­ly the End Game in time.

Tough luck I say.