History: Critically Revised

From Beyond Social

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A critical, ludo didactic revision of the Dutch history.
“Becoming is better than being” (2006, p. 16)

Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

The initial inspiration for this project came from the essay I had written during the Minor Cultural Diversity at the WdKA. In this essay, I discuss the Dutch historical curriculum that is currently being taught in primary and secondary education in The Netherlands. In this essay called “How education is used to institute indoctrination,” I call attention to the dark pages that are not being discussed in the Dutch historical curriculum, such as, the existence of the concentration camp Boven-Digoel, where many nationalist and communist groups that were formed against the Dutch Colonists were imprisoned (Vijftien Jaar Boven-Digoel, 1980). I felt a sense of urgency to share this knowledge and these topics and decided to make it into a small pocket size book I could share with the people around me. I also showed this to my parents and asked them to read it. In my enthusiasm, I thought they would understand my point of view on this topic and would agree with me. However, this was not the case. They did not understand the urgency and also did not agree with some of the arguments I make in the essay. To understand this phenomena of my parents not understanding the urgency in my essay and me not fully understanding why they could not see what I saw, I decided to start research into the psychological aspect of what caused this in order to see what made them not see the urgency. To do so I decided to start reading work on how the mind works, how people form their opinions, and why they hold on to them in the face of evidence to the contrary.

In this thesis, I examine theories and related concepts that actively work towards developing a growth mindset (Dweck, 2006). I will do this by looking at the work of heuristics (Tversky, Kahneman, 1974), NFCC ( Need For Cognitive Closure), and seizing and freezing (Kruglanski, Webster, Klein, 1993) as a way to develop my ideas. I will be using the knowledge I gained in exploring the above scholars to create my practice project. Because the canon on Dutch history has not changed fundamentally in over 20 years I want to effectively design and implement a game for primary and secondary education. In order to stop this ongoing process of purposely withholding historical information to the majority of the students in primary and secondary education, I want to address this group first with the opportunity for the earlier generations to benefit from this as well. Using the tool of gamification as Hurka and Tasioulas (date) argue in “Games and the Good’’ I will discuss the intrinsic value of game-playing as connected to a growth mindset to affect change within this discourse on historical knowledge and how school pupils can work with it. My departure point is process not product.

“Game-playing is the paradigm modern (Marx, Nietzsche) as against classical (Aristotle) value: since its goal is intrinsically trivial, its value is entirely one of process rather than product, journey rather than the destination.” Hurka and Tasioulas (2006, p. 217)

Hurka and Tasioulas’s (2006) ideas on game-playing within an educational setting are important, because a lot of this work is based on looking at a growth mindset in these settings (Dweck,2006).

This document will be set up in three parts. I will start looking at the Growth mindset (Dweck, 2006) where Dweck discusses the difference between a Growth and Fixed mindset and the urgency in the implementation of this in education. The second part will focus on four concepts in psychology that allow me to reflect on why my parents reacted negatively or not according to the script I had in mind when I introduced my essay to them. The third and final part of this thesis will focus on the game element of my practice project where I look at the Ludic Century (Zimmerman, 2014) and Critical play (Flanagan, 2009). In doing this I will see if I can use Dweck’s growth mindset in ludo didactics. For the logic in Dweck’s work (2016) has many similarities with the concepts of Zimmerman’s (2014) and Flanagan’s (2009) work. Both discussing things such as keeping the mind open to opportunities, rewarding process over rewarding a moment and many more. Through looking at the works of Zimmerman and Flanagan there is a lot of speculation to the future. In Zimmerman’s manifesto about the ludic century, he speculates the coming century to be the century where we implement games and game-play even more in our daily life and most of us even become game-designers. Zimmerman (2014) states games are a way to create an attitude of a designer as thinking like a designer is essential to get a growth mindset. Creative thinking is something that opens the mind to embracing challenges, not to back down from changes and think about things in new ways. Therefore in order to give the next generation a more inclusive frame of reference the combination of a new Dutch history canon with a game element will create a growth mindset towards the historical curriculum.

Part 1: Growth and Fixed Mindsets (Dweck, 2006)

I started this study by reading various scholars on the subject of mental rigidity. “Reading intervention with a growth mindset approach improves children’s skills” (Simon Calmar Andersen & Helena Skyt Nielsen, May 18 2016). An experiment, where children who are fixed are being taught to read in a growth mindset way, praising the children’s effort rather than the performance. This resulted in supporting the notion that a reading intervention with a growth mindset has a large potential for supplementing school’s effort to get children to read well and express themselves better in writing. “Navigating the Future: Social Identity, Coping, and Life Tasks” (Geraldine Downey, Jacquelynne S. Eccles and Celina M. Chatman, January 12, 2006), A book written collaboratively by various psychologists on social identity who state that identity is not something fixed but rather something fluid. They explore multiple situations where identity is being tested and when and where negative stereotyping comes in play. The authors argue that these experiences? Can be mitigated by challenging these students educationally, expressing optimism in their abilities, and emphasizing that intelligence is not fixed, but can be developed.

Both works referenced above refer to Carol Dweck as their main source supporting their arguments. However there is also criticism of Dweck’s work due to lack of replicability. Many scholars such as psychology professor Timothy Bates have tried to replicate Dweck’s thesis without success due to the fragility of her experiment and the fact that it has to happen under strictly controlled conditions. Even due to these criticisms that are made for her work I am not interested in mimicking the circumstances of her experiment but my interest lies in the implications of the logic of Dweck’s work (2006).

Her work explores two mindsets: the Growth mindset and the Fixed mindset. These mindsets reflect how humans structure the self and guide their behaviour.

If we look at figure 1 we see a schematic on the two mindsets discussed by Dweck. The two mindsets were tested on Dweck’s students via a variety of challenges, obstacles, effort, criticism and the success of others. It became clear that through her research Dweck could recognize these traits and how they fit into the mindset traits shown on figure 1. As Dweck studied her students she could see that the ones with a more fixed mindset have a desire to look smart and therefore would more likely avoid challenges, give up easily, see effort as fruitless or worse, ignore useful feedback and would feel threatened by the success of others. As a result, they may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential (Dweck, 2016). This - the fixed mindset - is often called OR Dweck calls this a deterministic view of the world. This, Dweck argues, is different to the students who have a growth mindset who would have a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to embrace challenge, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as a path to mastery, learn from criticism and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. As a result they reach ever-higher levels of achievement (Dweck, 2016).

As modern societal values such as intelligence, personality and character are something that are culturally desirable it is normal for a human to have this fixed mindset. However, as Dweck writes.

“There’s another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand you’re dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.”(2016, p. 6/7)

This other mindset, the growth mindset is something that Dweck saw at a high school in Chicago. This high school actively tried to encourage the students in creating a growth mindset. Instead of giving the students grades for individual courses the students had to pass a number of courses to graduate. However, when a student would “fail” a course they would get a bad grade but they would get the grade “not yet”. This is what Dweck refers to as “The Power of Yet”.

The power of yet makes a student understand that they are on a learning curve with a path into the future instead of failing a student and making them think they are stuck in this moment of failure. The growth mindset Dweck could also see represented in some younger children that she gave the challenge of solving mathematical problems that were slightly too difficult for their educational level. Where some of them reclined in thinking they were never able to solve these equations. Some of the children said they loved a challenge and even posed they were hoping the questions would be informative. Making them understand that their abilities were something that could be improved.

To get a better understanding of the psychological aspects that induce and strengthen the fixed mindset I will, in chapter 2, explore the following work on: heuristics (Tversky, Kahneman, 1974), the Need For Cognitive Closure (NFCC) (Baban, 2014), and seizing and freezing (Kruglanski, Webster, Klein, 1993)

Part 2:

Herbert A. Simon, an American economist, political scientist and cognitive psychologist formulated the first concept similar to heuristics called “satisficing”. He first introduced this concept in his 1947 publication “Administrative Behaviour”. He uses the term satisficing to explain how human beings make decisions under circumstances in which the optimal solution cannot be easily determined. Tversky and Kahneman’s 1974 thesis “Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases” developed Simon’s concept of satisficing and introduced the term “heuristics”. Tversky and Kahneman (1974) introduce three basic heuristic categories (i) representativeness, which is usually employed when people are asked to judge the probability that an object or event A belongs to class or process B; (ii) availability of instances or scenarios, which is often employed when people are asked to assess the frequency of a class or the plausibility of a particular development; and (iii) adjustment from an anchor, which is usually employed in numerical prediction when a relevant value is available.

Going back to the situation that prompted this research, my parents’ negative reaction to the sense of urgency expressed in my minor project, one can start to see that the second heuristic, the availability heuristic as a frame for their response. It is possible that my parents did not understand or realize that the urgency of making the Dutch historical curriculum more inclusive was based on the information available to them at a specific time. They had not received the correct information or not the full extent of the information so they had trouble understanding that the current history curriculum is not inclusive. But whereas heuristics are more specific categories on human decision making, need for closure by Kruglanski and Webster, is a concept on the knowledge-construction process of a human. As Kruglanski and Webster discuss in the start of their 1996 thesis “Motivated Closing of the Mind: “Seizing” and “Freezing”, the need for closure is a trigger of the mind that is based on heuristics that make the mind search for this closure.

“The need for cognitive closure refers to individuals’ desire for a firm answer to a question and an aversion toward ambiguity. As used here, the term need is meant to denote a motivated tendency or proclivity rather than a tissue deficit (for a similar usage, see Cacioppo & Petty, 1982). We assume that the need for cognitive closure is akin to a person’s goal (Pervin, 1989). As such, it may prompt activities aimed at the attainment of closure, bias the individual’s choices and preferences toward closure-bound pursuits, and induce negative affect when closure is threatened or undermined and positive affect when it is facilitated or attained.” (Kruglanski, Webster, 1996, p 264)

Looking at these concepts on growth and fixed mindsets, cognitive closure and heuristics that discuss the psychological aspects of decision making of the mind one has to look at contexts? where these decision making moments are being contested. Game-playing and gamification are ways to provoke and challenge new ways of evaluating normalized standards and ideas. Through looking at the work of Eric Zimmerman (2014) who characterizes the coming century as the “ludic century” or the century of games and states the importance of why this is a necessity and introducing Mary Flanagan’s work on “radical game design” I will continue to examine the value of game playing in different settings.

Part 3: Ludic Century and Game-Playing

To show the importance of game-playing I want to refer to Eric Zimmerman’s Ludic Century Manifesto, first published in Steffen P. Walz and Sebastian Deterding’s 2013 “The Gameful World: Approaches, issues and applications”. Zimmerman refers to the upcoming century as the Ludic Century due to the influence of games and game-playing in life. He states that games have been around for centuries, one could even say they are ancient. Games come in many shapes and sizes. It is a characteristic feature of human societies. Games may perhaps be the first interactive system the human kind invented. Due to the rise of technology and the century of information. We live in a world of systems. There are many complex systems of information at play nowadays. These systems have an influence on the way we communicate, research, learn, socialize, romance, conduct our finances and communicate with our governments. If one would look at this, one could state that for such a society controlled by systems, games would make a perfect fit. The attitude we need to inhabit in this world of systems has to be an active one. The attitude of a designer. Which is a way to engage with the world around us. Games are a literacy. Literacy is about creating and understanding meaning, which allows people to write (create) and read (understand). Game literacy can address our problems. Social issues such as the institutional racism that is still in every layer of our society refusing human beings the most basic human rights. Or the way human kind is effectively destroying the earth with their way of being. These are just two examples of the problems the world has these days. This is something that requires a type of thinking that gaming literacy can provide. It can provide this complex systemic society with a playful, innovative, trans-disciplinary way of thinking where the systems can be analyzed, redesigned and transformed into something better.

In the ludic century, everyone is going to be a game designer. For game design provides a logic of systems, social psychology, and culture hacking. To really deeply play a game is to be critical of something and think more like a game designer. Thinking of new ways to modify it and keep evolving. The many facets games offer, as shown by Zimmerman, are what will make the next century the Ludic Century. He concludes that games are something beautiful and as such they do not necessarily need to be justified and be much more important. Like many other forms of cultural expression, game-play is also important because it is beautiful.

“Appreciating the aesthetics of games — how dynamic interactive systems create beauty and meaning — is one of the delightful and daunting challenges we face in this dawning Ludic Century.”(2014, p. 22)

Flanagan’s (2009) work is different from Zimmerman’s in that she focuses on the value of game-play. Where Zimmerman’s work focuses on the importance of gaming in today’s and tomorrow’s society. Flanagan focuses on how to create valuable moments in designing games. And so is a useful addition to the development of my thinking in how to implement changes within an educational setting etc. Flanagan’s (2013) work on Critical Play in the context of radical game design is important for many reasons that I will discuss in the next section.

Mary Flanagan: artist, author, educator, designer and pioneer in the field of game research and critical play. Flanagan’s work on critical play in the context of radical game play is based on her PhD dissertation and describes how artist and activists have used games to facilitate social critique. Most games are used as a vehicle for distraction, enjoyment, relaxation and imagination. Flanagan wants to use this vehicle that most people love and are interested in and show how it has been used for creative expression, conceptual thinking and can serve social change. Flanagan (2009) examines games that challenge the norms of gaming and thus the norms of a society.

In the book “Radical Game Design”, she provides a critical play method based on the needs of game design and the importance of iteration. Flanagan states that iterative design in the context of game design is essential in creating valuable game-play and was based on ideas from artists’ games over the last century. The steps for this iterative design are as follows.

“I. Set a design goal (also known as a mission statement). The designer sets the goals necessary for the project. Ii. Develop the minimum rules necessary for the goal. The game designers rough out a framework for play, including the types of tokens, characters, props, and so on. Iii. Develop a playable prototype. The game idea is mocked up. This is most efficiently done on paper or by acting it out during the early stages of design. Iv. Play test. Various players try the game and evaluate it, finding dead ends and boring sections, and exploring the types of difficulty associated with the various tasks. V. Revise. Revising or elaborating on the goal, the players offer feedback, and the designers revamp the game system to improve it. Vi. Repeat. The preceding steps in the process are repeated to make sure the game is engrossing and playable before it “ships” or is posted to a website.”(Flanagan, 2013, p. 289-299)

This way of circular design that keeps on improving and changing the game is essential to creating meaning in a game for it uses the “not yet” method by Dweck. By making use of this iterative design method you not only make the players, but also the designers conscious of the fact that something set in time and a result measured from one moment is not beneficial to growth. Using this iterative design method in the practical part of the game I have developed will make sure that the game will continue to evolve and grow over time and not be a product of a moment. This also reflects on the situation the Dutch educational curriculum is in right now in terms of history - where the history that is taught has not changed in over 30 years.

Reflexive Summary

In the beginning of this thesis I asked the question. Why did my parents not fully understand the urgency of having a more inclusive Dutch historical curriculum? Why did they respond to my earlier essay the way they did? I had written about the faultiness of the Dutch historical canon. Which is faulty in the way it tells a white western colonist view of the Dutch history. Leaving out the dark pages. In writing about that subject, an understanding of the urgency rose up with me that this had to change. When talking about this with my parents they did not match this same feeling of urgency. Looking for the understanding why they did not share this feeling the research split in several interests to get the understanding of why my parents reacted the way they did. Starting my research I looked at cognitive research on growth and fixed mindsets (Dweck, 2016). Followed by heuristics (Tversky, Kahneman, 1974), the Need For Cognitive Closure (NFCC) (Baban, 2014), and seizing and freezing (Kruglanski, Webster, Klein, 1993). With a final consideration of games and game-play I examined work on the Ludic century (Zimmerman, 2014) and radical game design (Flanagan, 2009). All these works including the research I have done in my previous essay on “The Dutch Historical Curriculum: How education is used to institute indoctrination enabled me to see that there is a connectivity throughout these theories that empower not only Dweck’s ideas of a growth mindset and how the power of yet can help an audience to work and make decisions in a more meaningful way with an eye to the future.

Going back to my original question I now understand that the Dutch historical curriculum is enabling fixed mindsets on the topic of Dutch history. By using information that has been set in time for many years, information that is not open to change or open to additional information. Where the Dutch history is still privileging a white western mono-cultural perspective stuck in time - there is a need for change. This is also something the Black Archives have drawn attention to in their proposal for a new history canon in Dutch schools. This need to create a more inclusive Dutch canon on history is one that I want to embed in my practice project. Due to the research on game-play and games I can say that creating meaningful interaction between parties is easily accomplished. Which is the reason the project will have a game element. The root of the problem I am working on is the Dutch educational system and how the history canon is set up and I want to tackle the issues at the epicenter. Implementing this theory so that the children who just received the first part of information on the Dutch history in class, will reveal the rest of the history that is not being told by Dutch historical schoolbooks. In this I follow Dweck: always leaving room for growth.


As I discuss in my 2019 essay “How education is used to institute indoctrination”. The Dutch history book is outdated in an age that is often referred to as the “Information Age” (J.D. Bernal, 1939). In order to give the teaching of Dutch history more context and make it more inclusive I decided to look at the articles/archive of The Correspondent in collaboration with the Black Archives. The latter have published multiple articles on “de verzwegen geschiedenis van Nederland” or the withheld history of the Netherlands. In a collaboration with the Black Archives we have decided to work on a game that teaches the audience to create a growth mindset when it comes to learning history. This is essential in learning connectivity through time in order to understand what is going on in the world right now. What, led to what. As a base for this I will be using the new Dutch history canon proposed by the Black Archives “10 times more history”. This proposal is a canon that cancels the mono-cultural white western one that is at place at the moment and replaces this with a more culturally diverse version. One with more than the white Dutch perspective and an inclusive history. In doing this and knowing that even this information is not all of the information one must keep the game open to change. Open to even more perspectives so that the Dutch Historical curriculum can become something that teaches all of the inhabitants of the Netherlands the history of all of the inhabitants of the Netherlands.

“...the Netherlands looks at its post-colonial citizens: “still not taken seriously, not their past of slavery, nor their present presence in this country” (De Swaan 2013, 6).” (Wekker, 2016, 14)


In a 2014 TED Talk, Dweck talks about the power of Yet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_X0mgOOSpLU&t=337s

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