Opting Out as the Remedy May Mean Accidentally Accelerating Nonconsensual Transformations

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Did you notice that trans­for­ma­tions is plur­al? That added ‘s’ is  not a case of ear­ly morn­ing hyper typ­ing. As I have men­tioned numer­ous times with sub­stan­tial evi­dence in my book Cre­den­tialed to Destroy and this blog, we can­not sep­a­rate out the end goals in our real world from the inten­tion of using edu­ca­tion to change what “type of per­son” stu­dents will become as adults. That inex­tri­ca­ble real­i­ty of glob­al K‑12 edu­ca­tion reform that the Com­mon Core is tied to was brought painful­ly home this week when I came across this new report from Knowl­edge­Works.  http://www.knowledgeworks.org/sites/default/files/Improving-Student-Outcomes-Through-Collective-Impact.pdf

In case you are not famil­iar with Knowl­edge­Works, it is a well-con­nect­ed non­prof­it that has Clinton’s Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary and Carnegie Vice Chair Richard Riley on its Board. It gets financ­ing from the Gates, Carnegie, and Hewlett Foun­da­tions and push­es the Edu­ca­tion reforms that were con­tro­ver­sial in the 90s. This time though “There will be no Notice so There can be no Choice” could be the mot­to. So when KW cre­ates a Pol­i­cy Guide for Fed­er­al Pol­i­cy­mak­ers (aka DC bureau­crats) that says that only those com­mu­ni­ties push­ing a shared vision ground­ed in Uncle Karl’s vision of “from each accord­ing to his abil­i­ties, to each accord­ing to his needs” will be get­ting “fed­er­al place-based edu­ca­tion grants,” we are about to have a prob­lem. Espe­cial­ly if the local may­or or city coun­cil or school board wants to tout the dis­guised com­mu­ni­tar­i­an man­date as a ‘local’ idea.

Com­mit­ting to trans­form­ing work­places, the built envi­ron­ment, economies, and all the things gov­ern­ments will now do for all cit­i­zens is rather a large trans­for­ma­tion. Every­where in the world that is push­ing this, which unfor­tu­nate­ly amounts to every­where ordi­nary peo­ple have ever been free to make their own choic­es, sees edu­ca­tion as the means for forc­ing this change, like it or not. Here is as suc­cinct a descrip­tion of the end game per­son to be carved out by all these reforms as I can find. It is as if peo­ple now are to be treat­ed as a block of ice to be pro­duced into a form ready for a tony recep­tion cen­ter­piece on demand. Apt snark in brackets.

Indi­vid­u­als who: (1) are con­stant­ly authen­ti­cat­ing or recon­struct­ing their beliefs through expe­ri­ence and reflec­tion [Dweck­’s Growth Mind­set]; (2) are capa­ble of crit­i­cal­ly analysing and tran­scend­ing giv­en texts, con­texts, sys­tems and struc­tures [ready to jet­ti­son the world as it is for a world that might be and may work even worse]; (3) are able to pros­per in change­able social, cul­tur­al and eco­nom­ic envi­ron­ments [all those oth­er trans­for­ma­tions to be pur­sued above as col­lec­tive impact part­ner­ships to get fed­er­al funds like the WIOA I despise]; (4) have recog­nised and devel­oped pas­sions, tal­ents, and capac­i­ties which they will­ing­ly con­tribute to pro­duc­tive and coop­er­a­tive pur­pos­es [that would explain why putting oth­ers first end­ed up as a require­ment of the Career Ready Stan­dards and all the ref­er­ences to col­lab­o­ra­tion]; (5) have a strong sense of iden­ti­ty, auton­o­my and self-effi­ca­cy [pre­cise­ly what Fac­ing His­to­ry and the Anti-bias Stan­dards are deter­mined to cre­ate]; and (6) have a gen­uine respect for them­selves and oth­ers [remem­ber the Affir­ma­tive Code of Stu­dent Con­duct now mis­chie­vous­ly required in all classrooms?]”

The Aus­tralians call that the Key Abil­i­ties Mod­el cre­at­ed by Glob­al Change Agent Michael Fullan’s New The­o­ry of Edu­ca­tion and we sim­ply can­not get there via a fact-based, lec­ture cur­ricu­lum that is about con­tent knowl­edge in the tra­di­tion­al sense. I men­tioned Opt-Out because that is the rem­e­dy I kept hear­ing about while I was out in Cal­i­for­nia. If the mod­el of Next Gen­er­a­tion Learn­ing and Com­pe­ten­cy-based is to get rid of tra­di­tion­al tests alto­geth­er, opt­ing out may be the prover­bial jump from the fry­ing skil­let into the fire itself. Let’s quote an April 2013 Next Gen­er­a­tion Learn­ing Chal­lenges (NGLC) doc­u­ment called “The Path­way to Pos­si­bil­i­ty” on the new type of “mea­sures of learn­ing” desired. Please remem­ber that Knowl­edge­Works is close­ly tied to NGLC.

Dif­fer­ent approach­es to learn­ing and revised def­i­n­i­tions of suc­cess require new met­rics that accu­rate­ly reflect both the process [of per­son­al change] and the prod­uct [the changes in the stu­dent] of learn­ing and attain­ment. Such a shift would mean enor­mous changes in mea­sure­ment design by itself, but that lev­el of change is com­pound­ed by new think­ing about the role of assess­ment in learn­ing, both in the Unit­ed States and inter­na­tion­al­ly. Rather than being used pri­mar­i­ly (often sole­ly) for sum­ma­tive purposes–e.g., an on-demand final exam–assessment is increas­ing­ly under­stood to be an essen­tial, ongo­ing, high­ly inte­grat­ed com­po­nent of the learn­ing process.”

Embed­ded then in class­work like gam­ing or the online soft­ware increas­ing­ly ubiq­ui­tous in class­rooms, this change the stu­dent capa­bil­i­ty goes by the names “assess­ing for learn­ing” and “for­ma­tive assess­ment.” If par­ents are unaware that chang­ing how the stu­dent per­ceives the world from the inside out is the new pur­pose of cur­ric­u­la and what hap­pens in the class­room, they may miss that the Opt Out hype aids this always intend­ed tran­si­tion. I per­son­al­ly believe that the pain of con­stant test­ing has been delib­er­ate­ly height­ened pre­cise­ly so that frus­trat­ed par­ents will pro­claim no more objec­tive mea­sur­ing of what is hap­pen­ing in the class­room. It’s too frus­trat­ing for the kids. Then the real extent of the psy­cho­log­i­cal shifts and the lack of real fac­tu­al knowl­edge will be easy to miss. At least until the trans­for­ma­tion is irreversible.

That’s the hope any­way. Let’s go back to Aus­tralia then to once again appre­ci­ate that the student’s basic assump­tions about the nature of real­i­ty are what these reforms are real­ly tar­get­ing. http://www.aare.edu.au/data/publications/2004/sea04954.pdf lays out the New Glob­al Edu­ca­tion­al Par­a­digm. It’s just a mat­ter of social sci­ence the­o­ry and our chil­dren and soci­ety itself are the intend­ed guinea pigs for real-world test­ing. Wish we could opt out of this. Maybe we can if enough peo­ple are aware in time. These are the 15 Con­structs of the desired changes in iden­ti­ty, dis­po­si­tions and ori­en­ta­tions to the world K‑12 edu­ca­tion is to be cre­at­ing in stu­dents. These are the “trans­for­ma­tion­al out­comes” desired.

Con­struct 1 is “Real­i­ty is not dis­cov­ered, but con­struct­ed.” The world is what a per­son per­ceives and believes and there is no objec­tive real­i­ty. That would cer­tain­ly explain the dis­dain for lec­tures, text­books, and pho­net­ic read­ing to allow a dia­logue with the past.

Con­struct 2 is “Human life tran­scends the appear­ance of dual­i­ty.” That stun­ner insists we are not in fact sep­a­rate from the world we inhab­it and this his­toric dual­i­ty gets bridged by mak­ing action and expe­ri­ence the class­room focus.

Con­struct 3 is “Human life is pur­pose­ful.” How a per­son inter­prets “objects, con­cepts, ideas, speech, events, actions and con­texts depends on the individual’s pur­pos­es or per­cep­tions of a prob­lem.” So facts gets min­imised and val­ues and beliefs get all the atten­tion so that pur­pos­es and per­cep­tions can be use­ful­ly manipulated.

Con­struc­tive 4 is “Human Con­scious­ness is evo­lu­tion­ary.” Not in a way that has any­thing to do with apes. Here the brain must be con­stant­ly will­ing to adapt how it inter­prets that real world. This the­o­ry calls for delib­er­ate­ly intro­duc­ing con­flict [aka rig­or] so that the frus­trat­ing incon­sis­ten­cy will force a revi­sion of our “inter­nal schemes or inter­nal ref­er­ence stan­dards (the expe­ri­en­tial goals which dri­ve our behav­ior)”. That would be the author­i­tar­i­an goals I men­tioned in the pre­vi­ous post that are sup­posed to be supe­ri­or to mere rote learn­ing of facts.

Con­struct 5 is “Human indi­vid­u­als are autonomous agents.” This trans­lates into a per­son will fight exter­nal demands or lim­its imposed by arbi­trary author­i­ty. So of course the answer is to make the con­trol invis­i­ble and inter­nal via education.

Con­struct 6 is that “Human beings need to be famil­iar with the world around them.” That one blunt­ly boils down to how peo­ple orga­nize their expe­ri­ence impacts their will­ing­ness to act to trans­form the world.

Con­struct 7 is that “Human beings are vul­ner­a­ble to con­di­tion­ing.” Exploit­ing that has become the entire basis for grad­u­ate edu­ca­tion degrees.

Con­struct 8 is “Par­tic­u­lar forms of expe­ri­ence alien­ate human beings from our selves and the world.” Book knowl­edge gets in the way of trans­form­ing cur­rent real­i­ty is the concern.

Con­struct 9 is “Authen­tic human beings can help oth­ers to become authen­tic.” Authen­tic means tran­scend­ing cur­rent def­i­n­i­tions and giv­en sys­tems and chang­ing every­thing that cur­rent­ly exists. No, there’s noth­ing about col­lec­tive impact but it fits.

Con­struct 10 is “Intel­li­gence is adap­tive action.” Begin­ning to see a pat­tern? A per­son should be will­ing to change how they see the world to fit with their aims. Yes, this is a con­struct only a tenured prof would come up with, not some­one spend­ing their own money.

Con­struct 11 is “Life is change.” So is drown­ing, but that’s no rea­son to active­ly pur­sue it.

Con­struct 12 is “Par­tic­u­lar forms of expe­ri­ence cre­ate a dis­po­si­tion to intel­li­gent action.” Of course those types of expe­ri­ences must become the vir­tu­al real­i­ty of gam­ing or appren­tice­ships in the new design of high schools.

Con­struct 13 is “A human being’s iden­ti­ty can tran­scend def­i­n­i­tions.” That is par­tic­u­lar­ly easy if the edu­ca­tion par­a­digm pro­claims the Death of the Guten­berg Era in order to deem­pha­size the mag­i­cal effects on the mind of print.

Con­struct 14 is “Every human being is a con­scious and autonomous process of becom­ing.” That is almost pre­cise­ly what the NEA, Abra­ham Maslow, and Carl Rogers want­ed to make the new focus of K‑12 edu­ca­tion back in 1962. Every­thing old is new again for the 21st Cen­tu­ry as Next Gen­er­a­tion Learn­ing. Sounds bet­ter than Human­ist Psy­chol­o­gy, doesn’t it?

Final­ly, Con­struct 15 is “Human beings change our­selves and our world.” Edu­ca­tion here seeks to cre­ate an “aware­ness that texts, con­texts, sys­tems, and struc­tures are not unal­ter­able givens, but things that chal­lenge us.”

That sounds pre­cise­ly like the goal of that Col­lec­tive Impact report we start­ed with.

What’s the cor­rect word to describe the inten­tions of these 15 constructs?

What hap­pens when all these sought changes are invol­un­tary and undis­closed to the peo­ple being changed and the tax­pay­ers fund­ing it all?