Communities of Learning Our Current General Social Transformation
A New Story of Education For a New Century
Our Current General Social Transformation
Our Current General Transformation in Social Architecture
Flight was the discovery of lift
- - not push.
- Buckminster Fuller (1)
"Come to the edge"
It's too high
"Come to the edge"
We might fall
"Come to the edge"
and they came
and he pushed them
and they flew
- Appolinaire (2)
The educational choices of the future will be much more varied, vital, and relevant in character, selection, and location than what is currently being offered.
Most people - - even in their wildest imaginations - - can hardly conceive of the abundant smorgasbord of opportunities looming just over the horizon. We need to set people free to create it.
- - Nobel Laureate in Economics Milton Friedman (paraphrased), 1998. (3)
(Insert image: Children’s mural with vibrant colors and images, Vancouver)
The future will consist of a matrix of organizations with common interests, densely interrelated
like the neurons in a brain.
- - Futurist Alvin Toffler, 1980. (4)
The future will consist of a matrix of organizations with common interests, densely interrelated like the neurons in a brain.
- - Futurist Alvin Toffler, 1980. (4)
We Are Our Stories, Forever in the Telling (5)
We human beings are storytellers. Across all eras of time and in every geographic locale, human cultures have developed the images and stories that form our mythologic truths about life. These truths are worldviews : the filtering structures of our inner worlds through which we take in and make sense of the outer world. These imaginal frameworks form the foundation for how we think about life - - what we think it means to be alive on this planet. In both our conscious and subconscious minds, we carry these powerful inner mythic images as the "invisible structures that secretly govern everything. “
“Every story is the working out of a premise.” Our images and stories are both reflections of the shape of our general premise about life, and also serve to further shape it. They serve as guides for behavior and for our assumptions about who should play what roles, and how, and when.
Every culture has its accompanying system to communicate its worldview to its members - - especially its impressionable, moldable younger members. This system is called “education.” The images, means, and style an education system employs in this communication are those of the culture’s worldview itself. In this way, the education system reinforces the culture’s worldview.
Cultures are not static, but rather change and evolve over the centuries and millennia. To continue being relevant guides for living, our inner images and stories about life have had to grow and change along with changing times. But these changes happen neither automatically nor immediately; sometimes these images and stories have significantly lagged behind the reality that life presents to us. (4)
From Where We Have Come : Our Old Story
Throughout the ages and continuing into the 19th Century’s Industrial Age until its end in mid-20th Century, most of the world’s cultures’ prevailing worldviews were grounded in the premise that there was one, single, central source somewhere "out there" dictating moral imperatives. This worldview legitimized a model of social organization described as a single-centered power-pyramid, with authoritarian command-and-control hierarchies. It was generally accepted that if one put ones trust in authority and followed traditional, established rules of behavior, then good and successful results would inevitably follow.
Examining the cultural worldview of our most recent Age - - the Industrial Age - - in the light of Complexity Science identifies a machine-thinking premise - - of life as a closed system : pre-determined input results in pre-determined output. (11)
Both the cultural and scientific worldviews of the Industrial Age held that life and the laws of nature were "about slow steady progress, factories and railroads, clockworks and mechanisms." (12) The Industrial Age scientific worldview took to the ultimate the dictums of 15th Century physicist Isaac Newton. Newtonian physics held that the dynamics holding the universe together worked like a fixed machine, marching in straight lines from one central dictating source. This view of nature held that there was a universal clock that measured the passage of time as being the same for all. The accompanying cultural worldview of people being, literally, cogs in the societal machine, supported this scientific worldview and offered people as fodder for the industrial machine. (13)
Cartoon drawing: tree, person sitting under, apple falling onto person’s head
Similarly, the Industrial Age’s accompanying educational system took a machine-thinking, closed-system approach : put pre-determined information into students’ minds to fulfill the objective of students containing this pre-determined, quantifiable information. The Industrial Age approach to education reinforced the Industrial Age worldview and provided human fodder for its factories. It all fit together very well. Or did it? Was something crucial being left out? What would future developments of the Industrial Age bring?
Where We Have Arrived : The Industrial Age Worldview Having Burst Its Seams
Then along came the 20th Century - - the transition time between all previous Ages
and our world today. In the 20th Century, the general pace of change picked up exponentially, bringing a time
of great revolution in both scientific and cultural worldviews. 20th century physicists probed more deeply into
how Nature operates, looking for principles that might hold true for a wider range of applications. What they found
was that previously "undeniable laws of nature" actually held for only a narrow range of possibilities.
Newly postulated was the concept that the universe's creativity and intelligence behave in complex, non-linear
dynamics, which offer varying appearances depending on the conditions of the observer. For example, according to the new physics,
the passage of time was no longer a universal invariant, but instead was experienced differently depending on how
fast one moved through space.
Cartoon drawing: Einstein with thought bubble: e = mc 2
A significant tenant of this new science was that the center of the laws of nature was no longer thought to emanate from one, single source somewhere "out there." Instead, the laws of nature governing the dynamics of creativity and intelligence were thought to be equally dispersed throughout the universe : the "center" is actually everywhere. (13)
The Emerging Model of Social Organization : Multi-Centered Networks of Voluntarily-Affiliated, Self-Organized Communities With Global Connections
By mid-20th Century, the Industrial Age worldview had stretched to its maximum, had stretched out of its original shape. The character of daily life had progressed significantly beyond this Age’s 19th Century beginnings. Along with the revolution in scientific worldview, there emerged an accompanying revolution in cultural worldview, with corresponding societal implications. This new cultural worldview - - still functioning today - - holds that no longer does social authority emanate from a single, powerful, central entity somewhere “out there,” but rather is found within each person.
A casualty of this transformation in worldview was the strength
and legitimacy of mediating roles between an ultimate "out there" authority and individual peoples' lives.
People began to view themselves as independent entities capable of taking personal responsibility for creating
the quality and direction of their own lives. (13)
Aiding and abetting the 20th century's revolutions in scientific and cultural worldview was the development in the last half of that century of rapid electronic communications technologies. This phenenenon has removed previous constraints of access to information and to other people, and now interconnects all corners of our planet. Even if not personally linked, the dynamic of fluid communication affects everyone with some aspect of its reach. Virtually unfettered access to communications technology is precipitating the rapid evaporation (vaporizing) of old boundaries jealously guarded by the fitting titled "Old Guard." This Old Guard’s protected its turf through its hierarchic, power pyramids and institutionalized protective barriers to entry. (14)
The Old Guard's model of social organization had reigned in nearly all former eras of human endeavor. But now, after all these millennia, despite its longevity, stability, and tenacity of focus, this model is losing legitimacy and is collapsing. The dynamic driving this dismantling of old power structures is the sweeping away of barriers to free exchange. There is a melting of the long-held assumption that a rigidly controlled, centralized decision-making structure is the best model for organizing human endeavor. Today, that control model is increasingly being recognized as an obsolete artifact antithetical to the human spirit. As it is bringing diminishing returns, it is being deconstructed, and will soon be a thing of the past. (14)
It is an irony of history that the explosion in communications technology is a major spawn of the Industrial Age, but one which scarcely resembles its parent. A further irony is in this explosion being example of the Law of Unintended Consequences: (15) rather than the Industrial Age creating a spawn which furthers its own worldview, it created the tools to power a worldview in revolt away from it.
Illustration: Photo-montage of person with laptop, globe in background -- I saw this recently on Duncan’s desk - - either in print form or on his screen
As the authoritarian, hierarchical pyramid model dissolves due to open communication, the quality driving the growth of a new model of social organization is open, free choice. The character of the emerging social model is voluntary affiliation in self-organizing communities loosely linked together in a network structure.
"Digital technology has enormous potential to bring communities together in absolutely unheard-of ways. It is the solvent leaching the glue out of our economic structures.... We [are] creating a whole renegotiation of culture, forging new systems, ... and, above all, new relationships." (16) This new model is being driven by the key values of connectivity, peer-to-peer exchange and allegiance; and the speed, turmoil, complexity, and fluidity of constant, self-organizing flux. (14)
Lipnack and Stamps of NetAge in Boston define networks in
this way: "A network is a web of free-standing participants cohering through shared values and interests.
Networks are composed of self-reliant people and of independent groups. …What is old about networking is rooted
in the human pre-history of person-to-person contact that formed cooperative groups and made possible tools and
language. What is new about networking is its promise as a global form of organization with roots in individual
participation, a form that recognizes
independence while supporting interdependence." (17)
Nearly two decades ago in the early 1980's, two prominent American futurists cited the then-beginning shift in social organization from hierarchy to networks as being of prime importance in shaping the character of the 21st Century. John Naisbitt considered this shift to be one of the 10 major future “megatrends” : "For centuries, the pyramid structure was the way we organized and managed ourselves. …The vertical to horizontal power shift that networks bring about will be enormously liberating for individuals." (18) Buckminster Fuller agreed : "The new human networks emergence represents the natural evolutionary expansion into the…physical communications network. … As networking accelerates humanity into a … spontaneous union, … trying to arrest networking is like trying to arrest the waves of the ocean." (19)
The vital role of interpersonal relationships is now being recognized in the arena of economics : "The central economic imperative of the network economy is to amplify relationships." (8)
Roger and Birute, The
Soul at Work (20)
Gifford and Elizabeth Pinchot, The End of Bureaucracy and the Rise of the Intelligent Organization (21) - - "freedom and community"
The Science of Complexity offers insights into why the voluntary-community model of social organization is proving to be so successful at unleashing human creativity and productivity. Complexity Science holds that the behavior of communities follows the fundamental organizing dynamic of nature and evolution : chaordic organization.(9) This principle of natural law harmoniously blends the qualities of chaos and order - - flexibility and stability; creativity and intelligence - - with neither ever dominating to de-stabilize the system.
In a complex adaptive system, the qualities of chaos and order are not antagonists, but rather are allies. A self-organizing system maintains its health and viability over time by making maximum use of both of these qualities. In the dynamic dance of Life, a healthy system continually rides the "sweet spot" on the crest of the wave, the place akin to riding a bike, where - - in one of life's deliciously ironic twists - - stability relies on continual forward motion.
Next Section : The American Education System : Lagging Behind in the Current General Transformation
Our Current General Social Transformation