Propagandizing the K‑12 Classroom to Create Desired Worldviews for Change: the New Anti-Bias Standards

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If we think of the Com­mon Core as a buck­et or a ban­ner instead of pre­tend­ing it is about the trans­mis­sion of knowl­edge, its func­tion becomes much clear­er. All the changes that would cause an out­cry if pur­sued sep­a­rate­ly, and in many cas­es already have cre­at­ed wide­spread pop­u­lar rejec­tion, get to Come on Down Any­way as the game show announc­er would say. A sci­ence fic­tion geek might explain the Com­mon Core as a cloak­ing device allow­ing con­tro­ver­sial shifts to be put into place with­out expo­sure. Espe­cial­ly if the new mate­ri­als are all “web-based” and just wait­ing to be downloaded.

We have already encoun­tered the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter and its social justice/Teaching Tol­er­ance cur­ricu­lum numer­ous times, most notably here.  SPLC has been even busier than we rec­og­nized though and has also cre­at­ed the US’s very first ABF–Anti-bias Frame­work-and Lit­er­a­cy-Based K‑12 Anti-bias Cur­ricu­lum called Per­spec­tives for a Diverse Amer­i­ca.

Now before I start rais­ing anyone’s blood pres­sure by describ­ing the ABF’s inten­tions, let’s go Down Under to a K‑12 pilot Glob­al Change Agent Michael Ful­lan was involved in about a decade ago. It was called the Dynam­ic Par­a­digm of Learn­ing and Change and it “iden­ti­fies key aspects of the need, nature, and means of changes in iden­ti­ty, dis­po­si­tions and ori­en­ta­tions to the world and oth­ers, to be required of edu­ca­tors [that’s the real rea­son why tenure is being tak­en away or great­ly restrict­ed now in the US], in order for them to be able to assist young peo­ple [that would be the chil­dren we entrust to adults and pay vast sums to actu­al­ly know some­thing] to achieve sim­i­lar trans­for­ma­tion­al out­comes.” Got that? Psy­cho­log­i­cal changes. Shifts in val­ues, atti­tudes, and how the world and oth­er peo­ple are now to be perceived.

Edu­ca­tion Queens­land came right out and phrased the kind of Learn­ing and Per­son­al Change being sought in the indi­vid­ual stu­dent through K‑12 edu­ca­tion as a “new way of being” to be “required” of teach­ers and stu­dents. Remem­ber Back­ward Map­ping from our pre­vi­ous post? Well, Per­spec­tives and the ABF offer “the oppor­tu­ni­ty to infuse CCSS imple­men­ta­tion with social jus­tice val­ues.” How? Well, remem­ber Lit­er­a­cy is now to be taught Across the Cur­ricu­lum and the ABF has 4 domains: Iden­ti­ty, Diver­si­ty, Jus­tice and Action. Does that sound alarm­ing­ly sim­i­lar to “iden­ti­ty, dis­po­si­tions and ori­en­ta­tions to the world and oth­ers” to any­one else?

Each teacher now gets to, or must if his or her prin­ci­pal insists, use the Anti-bias anchor stan­dards and “grade lev­el out­comes of the ABF for back­ward plan­ning” and “engage a spec­trum of social jus­tice top­ics and cul­tur­al and [ital­ics in orig­i­nal] social emo­tion­al competencies–critical in today’s diverse class­rooms.” Yes, that would be the real rea­son to elim­i­nate track­ing of the more aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly tal­ent­ed and to require a Whole Child Class­room focus. If you think this is an out­lier, remem­ber that the NEA worked with the SPLC on its CARE Guide.

The “rich text” avail­able for down­load high­lights and fos­ters the “explo­ration of iden­ti­ty, authen­tic accounts of real-life expe­ri­ences, inter­group under­stand­ing, his­tor­i­cal empa­thy, the aware­ness of prej­u­dice and injus­tice, indi­vid­ual and col­lec­tive strug­gles against injus­tice and–finally-action against injus­tice.” They do mean that lat­ter part about forc­ing action by the way as in “Stu­dents will plan and car­ry out col­lec­tive action against bias and injus­tice in the world and will eval­u­ate what strate­gies are effec­tive.” Hey, you didn’t think ‘engag­ing’ class­work was just going to be about video gam­ing, did you?

And we can all be relieved that the Per­spec­tives top­ics “will go beyond the more com­mon issues of race and eth­nic­i­ty to include wealth and pover­ty, dis­abil­i­ties, reli­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion and immi­gra­tion.” Plus, as an added bonus to make sure that the desired changes in con­scious­ness do occur, Per­spec­tives “encompasses…less cov­ered, equal­ly impor­tant themes like gen­der, sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion and class.”  It is sup­pos­ed­ly the first “cur­ricu­lum of its kind to offer an explic­it blue­print designed to move stu­dents into the posi­tion of advo­cate.” Not to wor­ry though. I can find no indi­ca­tion that the cur­ricu­lum includes a Che Gue­vara beret kit or Mao’s Lit­tle Red Book as a Graph­ic Nov­el to ham­mer home that these are required ori­en­ta­tions and dispositions.

Good to know then that the curriculum’s “mar­riage to the Com­mon Core will allow it to be wide­ly imple­ment­ed.” The ‘back­wards design’ approach of ABF and Per­spec­tives does sound bet­ter than the List of Twen­ty Things Your Child Must Now Believe and Be Will­ing To Do, but it mere­ly masks the nature of the sought change through the K‑12 class­room. We can just imag­ine all the hate­ful things stu­dents will hear about the “dom­i­nant cul­ture” and how they will just blos­som as they are told repeat­ed­ly to “devel­op pos­i­tive social iden­ti­ties based on their mem­ber­ship in mul­ti­ple groups in soci­ety.” Stu­dents may not be able to iden­ti­fy pre­cise­ly why the US pushed to sep­a­rate from Britain and form a new coun­try, but they will now learn to “rec­og­nize that pow­er and priv­i­lege influ­ence rela­tion­ships on inter­per­son­al, inter­group and insti­tu­tion­al lev­els and con­sid­er how they have been affect­ed by those dynamics.”

Feel the Out­rage! is such a use­ful tool if trans­for­ma­tive action is the End Game being sought. The out­rage might be mis­placed. It may be destruc­tive, but those are mere details. I can just imag­ine how stu­dents who have been pilot­ing this frame­work and thus get­ting to use the class­room over years to “iden­ti­fy fig­ures, groups, events and a vari­ety of strate­gies and philoso­phies rel­e­vant to the his­to­ry of social jus­tice around the world” would feel if a School Board then felt empow­ered to step in and tell them to remem­ber the parts of Amer­i­can His­to­ry that encour­age patri­o­tism. Walk­out maybe? To com­mem­o­rate what Gand­hi would have done? Any oth­er par­ent think they might slam the door in the face of a child “inspired to go home and talk to their par­ents about pur­chas­ing clothes from com­pa­nies that prac­tice eth­i­cal manufacturing”?

Of course that con­fronta­tion may be the first alert to the nature of the fun­da­men­tal psy­cho­log­i­cal changes going to the core of a child’s ‘being’ occur­ring in the class­room. By then it may well be hard to reverse, which is, I sus­pect, a big part of why the Com­mon Core label makes such a fine cloak­ing device. “Web-based” means even the School Board may not know. I want to close with some relat­ed con­fes­sions that fit with the desired changes being sought that is prob­a­bly not on your radar either. In 2004, a book by Seat­tle edu­ca­tor Bar­bara Ray Gilles called Nur­tur­ing Civ­i­liza­tion Builders: Birthing the Best Schools in the World.

Gilles was kind enough to admit why we are hear­ing so much about col­lab­o­ra­tion as a neces­si­ty and the need for schools to cre­ate Com­mu­ni­ties of Learn­ers with a sin­gle shared under­stand­ing after per­spec­tives have been shared. She point­ed out that “school class­rooms encom­pass the largest com­mu­ni­ty that young peo­ple expe­ri­ence.” If changes in “iden­ti­ty, ori­en­ta­tions and dis­po­si­tions” are sought, and glob­al­ly that is in fact what the new pur­pose of K‑12 edu­ca­tion has qui­et­ly become, then the behav­ioral psy­chol­o­gists have come to rec­og­nize that the herd effect is need­ed. It both forces the change ini­tial­ly and then reen­forces it over time.

Gilles again: “when you com­bine the indi­vid­ual wills of each per­son in a group focused on a uni­fied goal, a ‘group will’ occurs that is greater than any indi­vid­ual. This col­lab­o­ra­tion is nec­es­sary to bring about a mas­sive trans­for­ma­tion in con­scious­ness.” Gilles called the End Game she was back­ward map­ping from Liv­ing Democ­ra­cy. It fits with the vision of a New Kind of World we keep encoun­ter­ing as an End Game. Her mot­to of “Nur­tur­ing the com­pas­sion­ate genius with­in while co-cre­at­ing a world that works for all” also fits with what SPLC claims is pos­si­ble and the new goals of edu­ca­tion change.

Gilles not­ed that “our val­ues deter­mine what we pay atten­tion to, which in turn deter­mine our behav­ior and cre­ate our habits.” That is true and there can be no ques­tion (going back to Mil­ton Rokeach and his def­i­n­i­tion of Com­pe­ten­cy) that chang­ing val­ues is the fun­da­men­tal pur­pose of all these planned class­room shifts.

The ques­tion becomes whether the World actu­al­ly will change if this becomes the pur­pose of K‑12 edu­ca­tion glob­al­ly or whether we are sim­ply dis­arm­ing our young peo­ple men­tal­ly and psychologically.

Will they be capa­ble of deal­ing with the Evil and Bul­lies of the World?

With all our talk of hon­or­ing diver­si­ty and chal­leng­ing oppres­sion and injus­tice, aren’t we push­ing an edu­ca­tion­al tem­plate that sim­ply makes it eas­i­er to oppress and dom­i­nate most people?

If the indi­vid­ual mind is dis­armed, what will be our real recourse?