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Early childhood “Tools of the Mind” education more like “Mind Control”

Early childhood “Tools of the Mind” education more like “Mind Control”

Navigate to the Hoboken, NJ, public schools website –a town just across the Hudson from New York City — and you’ll find a front-page announcement that since 2008, Hoboken has based its pre-school and kindergarten curriculum on “Tools of the Mind,” also known as “Cultural-Historical Theory.”

Based on the work of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, the Tools of the Mind website proclaims that it is “rooted in cutting edge neuropsychological research on the development of self-regulation/execution functions in children.” Dig a little deeper on your site, and they describe how regulation of the child is accomplished:

  • Children practice delayed gratification.
  • Children learn to suppress their impulsive behavior because to stay in the play, they have to abide by the rules.
  • Children practice regulating each other’s behavior.

The site describes the role of parents in encouraging their children to be regulated with tips like playing “stop and go” and “freeze” games:

Parents can encourage children to practice self-regulation at home by establishing routines. For example, they can help their child to set an alarm clock that will ring when it is time to go to bed, so the child can “regulate” his or her own bedtime. Now it’s the child, not the parent, saying, “It’s time.”


A good way to have children practice physical self-regulation is to involve them in “stop and go” or “freeze” games, in which children stop and start different actions, as directed by the leader. Parents can play these games with their children on the playground or while they are in the supermarket. This practice is a fun way to develop better emotional control as well.

I’m certainly not the first person to question whether Vygotskian theory sounds appropriate for educating the next generation of American children.

One parent, writing on Yahoo! voices, described it as more focused on socialization than on reading and writing, and experimental trials do not appear to affirm its academic success. Others find it has even more troubling aspects.

Chuck Roger, writing in 2011 in the American Thinker, provides excellent analysis of Vygotsky and his broader goals:

Vygotsky intended to “create the new Soviet Man, the kind of being that would be needed in the Soviet society of the future.” The psychologist conceived the “Zone of Proximal Development” (ZPD), a tool for reconditioning young minds and forming a new society from the old. Vygotsky aimed to deliver young collectivists to ruling class elites intent on “societal reconstruction….”

….In kindergarten and preschool classrooms all over America, tiny young humans are being taught to regiment each other’s behavior. Obedient little collectivists are learning to submit to group wishes in order to be judged “correct” — politically correct. Resistance is futile.

An article in the Wall Street Journal refers to “Tools of the Mind” as a “fast-growing curriculum that builds deliberate training in self-control right into the daily routine.”

Count the Hoboken Board of Education as part of that bandwagon. Its website states that the implementation of Tools of the Mind is part of a larger curriculum overhaul, overseen by assistant to the superintendent Dr. Anthony Petrosino:

The Hoboken Public Schools began using a new curriculum model in September 2008.  The decision to make this change involved various teachers and administrators, included visits to other districts and was followed by many discussions.   This change coincided with the work of the curriculum committee headed by Dr. Petrosino and will assist our district in providing a seamless educational program, preschool through 12th grade.

Hoboken is not alone; other school districts have been implementing it across the country.

Many of us have been awakened to the Common Core threat to public and private education. It is helpful to understand it’s not just Common Core; other curricula such as Tools of the Mind accompany a broader movement to reshape the children we ship off to school each day.


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This will be successful because it involves parents, most of whom were themselves conditioned to think as their teachers told them. This is just a continuation of the education they received, which they think was just fine. And those promoting it (teachers and authors) were most likely conditioned the same way. Much of our education system is now set on automatic where thinking is no longer required, or desired.

Perfect robotic Stepford children, soon to become slaves to the state.

Oh my goodness.

Thank goodness for homeschooling!

9thDistrictNeighbor | October 22, 2013 at 8:56 am

Guaranteed that the kindergarten enrollment of the Hoboken public schools is not made up of the children of hipsters and yuppies who live there because they can hop the PATH train to Wall Street. These programs are everywhere…if it’s not outright Vigotsky, then it’s the use of applied behavioral analysis techniques to turn a five-year-old boy into the perfect six-year-old girl: a compliant, quiet, worksheet-completer. All against a background of family disintegration and cultural degradation that places a priority on “comprehensive” sex education and common-core-inspired study materials designed to shape the next generation of community organizer. The only difference between Hoboken and Chatham/Ridgewood/insert-affluent-suburb-here is that the parents in Hoboken largely are not involved (despite what the program stresses) and the affluent are on the bandwagon “for the children.”

It’s very Chinese. I’ve seen it in action in China. Program them as kids, and even when they are adult professionals (doctors, teachers, etc.) they will look to their leader to talk for the group.

High voltage/low amperage tasers work just as well.

As a parent to little kids, the goals, as outlined, don’t really seem that bad. Little kids are born, by necessity, totally self-centered, and as they grow up that outlook needs to change.

However, there is a huge difference between pushing “compliance” as the goal as opposed to teaching kids morals, judgement, and good behavior. Of course, when kids are being taught that all value systems are necessarily equal, that morality thing just doesn’t work, and all that’s left is compliance.

The title should explain it all. Tools is what they as anyone else is thought of. Again no respect for the beauty of life or mind.

Teaching them to do what they’re told. Yeah. That’s what makes good citizens (and students). Obedience. /sarcasm

No more radicals … they need zombies, to hate the tea party, and spew their venom on Pavlovian command from the likes of Chris Matthews. Zealotry in action, demonizing the non-comformist activity that was so groovy in the 60’s.

This quote is from a critique of “Teaching as a Subversive Activity”.

“Get rid of tests, the notions of “the right answer” and “the wrong answer,” the memorization of facts, the ascendency of teachers, and so forth; instead, make education an ungraded process of learning how to think and how to criticize, respecting the opinions and ideas of the students themselves.

Of course, this being 1969, it was presumed that the establishment status quo with its facts and rules was rigid and conservative, while the students were radical and transgressive, so all one had to do to foment a revolution was simply to put the kids in charge of their own education, and they’ll naturally overthrow society without even being specifically instructed to do so.

Without some structure, students often flounder aimlessly. Furthermore, the “authority figures” controlling academia are no longer uptight conservatives, but are instead now liberals, progressives and radicals themselves, so when students are encouraged to ignore those in charge, then they may very well ignore the progressive messages as well.

I’m almost 50. While I can’t classify myself as any party, I am a believer in small government. I live in teh midwest. I’m a veteran.

I can rememebr as a child playing “stop and go” and “freeze” in Kindergarten. Am I a product of Soviet brainwashing because I learned delayed gratification and impulse control?

Seems to me that leftists are all about instant gratification and a lack of impulse control witness this in the inability of a younger generation to save money for a house because they just have to have the new iphone. They can’t live with serviceable furniture for 20 years raising a family to get something nice later in life (and save for retirement along the way), no they have to have the best now, jsut like Gwyneth, or Kim, or whatever celebrity is hawking hand painted wallpaper, or 10,000 dining room chairs, bacause why should you have to wait? If it feels good, do it.

And regulating others’ behavior? I have embarassed my family several times in state parks when I see other picnickers packing up to leave without picking up after themselves. I generally walk over to them and say, “You’re going to pick up that trash, aren’t you?” (I haven’t had to do this Tea Party rallies, wonder why). Maybe it is the 1st Sergeant in me coming out.

My family jokes that I need to buy a green Gran Torino and change my name to Walt, but it’s all stuff I learned as a kid. By playing the games that you deride. And learning the concepts that you think are “indoctrination”, although no one ever explained that we were being taught anything, we were just having fun. Alot like any number of other activities that prepare children for living in a somewhat orderly society.

I think you need to be more selective, unless you are just looking for page views. And, Get. Off. My. Lawn.

    9thDistrictNeighbor in reply to J. Locke. | October 22, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    The issue isn’t one of deriding schoolyard games, but one of taking what should be a game played on the playground or in gym and transforming it into a test—one where the child’s ability or inability to perform the task “appropriately” will be monitored, recorded, and preserved on what will truly be the “permanent record” your fifth-grade teacher warned you about (how long does Bitsy wait for the bus? What is her pulse rate when she takes a test on the computer? What is her blood type? How does she behave when frustrated?) That information will be compiled, codified, sold to companies, used to determine your educational and vocational future. This is not an exaggeration: look into the Common Core curriculum information protocol and mandated databases.

      yes actually it is: “Dig a little deeper on your site, and they describe how regulation of the child is accomplished:

      •Children practice delayed gratification.
      •Children learn to suppress their impulsive behavior because to stay in the play, they have to abide by the rules.
      •Children practice regulating each other’s behavior.”

      This article presents the above bullet points as if they are a bad thing.

      And to that I reply, tinfoil is on sale, aisle 6. There are a lot of problems in this country. As to the other aspects of tools of the mind, I haven’t made up my mind, but if you want to get to people on your side, why attack a teaching method, that has been used for years, to achieve behaviors that are desirable, and were desirable. You need to separate the wheat from the chaff. Are you telling me that you don’t want kids to learn impulse control? You don’t want them to learn learn delayed gratification? And teaching them those skills through the games mentioned has been accomplished for at least 50 years. But this article presents those games and those behaviors right up front, as if they are bad.

      The child’s ability or inability to perform a task as instructed will determine the child’s ability to learn.
      That’s how we teach our children.
      You tell them what to do, they do it and learn. You point their mistakes and they have to correct them.
      I don’t think any children will learn to read if you let them pick what sounds they want for each letter, or if they are allowed to make up their own arithmetic rules.


So glad you called attention to tools of the mind. It is perception that these psychologists are ultimately going after and much of the mandated pedagogy to be used in Common Core classrooms does track back to Vygotsky by name. is based on a quote from Vygotsky’s student, Leontiev, on what these types of psychological programs are intended to do.

I talk a good bit about the links to Vygotsky in my new book Credentialed to Destroy: How and Why Education Became a Weapon. CHAT now is centered at UC-San Diego under Professor Michael Cole. It is based on a belief you can use education to change the prevailing values, attitudes, and beliefs and thus change culture which alters the course of history’s progress.

Another widely used similar curriculum in elementary schools is PATHS-Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies. Many of these social and emotional curriculum come in under the Positive School Climate Executive Order from July 2012 or poorly understood definitions of student achievement in NCLB state waivers.