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I've started and discarded about 4 hours of posts in reply along the
way--I'm not sure any more. It's pointless. The exercise did, however, get
me thinking about institutions in general.
Essentially this has (in the context of the larger public debate and over
the years) become an essentially religious argument. Most of what is tossed
about is fervent belief approaching dogmatism and even fanaticism. What is
is really about is fear of the unknown. That's not a problem unique to
education. Every major public institution comes equipped with a dogma contra
cambiare, dokein anti-skambos, an established opinion, based on assumption
and appearances, which is absolutely certain where the edge of the earth
lies and at what point we will fall into nothingness, chaos, and anarchy.
Institutions are inherently self-centered, self-serving, and
self-perpetuating. Institutions tend to see things exclusively in terms of
the old and failing EITHER/OR paradigm and ignore the rising paraigm of life
and ecology: BOTH/AND. "It's them or us" not "There's always room at the
A fundamental aspect of living systems is change. A stable ecology is one
that is also slowly evolving. Not evolving as in the 19th century, modern,
understanding of rising in the heirarchy and getting better, but evolving in
the current, postmodern, sense of developing responding to and accomodating
a spectrum of differences changing at different rates.
Maybe its an argument about the speed of change. Even in ecologies, change
is not always slow. There are no borders and no Immigration and
Naturalization Services in an ecology. A climate change somewhaere sends
species flooding into new but occupied spaces and previously stable
ecologies. What happens as a result, is a process of accomodation and
change; drawnolut in some situations brutally short in others. Invading
species are wiped out almost as easily as native species. The inflexible on
both sides take the hit the hardest. and ultimately accomodation WILL take
place and a new stability rises in a plethora of small niches and the rise
of biological hegemony begins again....only to fall in another distant era.
With the exception of humans, there are no institutions, no politics in
Nature. Politics seem to be an artificial technology of control; a
quasi-rational expediency for preserving or wresting control of inherently
repressive and hide-bound institutions. With one small exception I've pretty
much given up on political solutions. Institutions are repositories of
conservative values. Even when dysfunctional they are valid bulwarks against
destructive changes. But, ultimately, they are only redoubts for fighting a
holding action... to delay significant change for as long as possible; to
cause sufficient stress to force some agents of change to prove unfit and
There is honor in being a champion of the institution but --- inevitably ---
loss. There is equal honor in being part of the revolutionary assault force
and even the small possibility of winning in the shorter term. But, in the
long term, of course, the victors... no THE SURVIVORS are subsumed into a
new institution to fight the good fight and lose in their turn (or more
likely their descendants) when the time comes.
The die is cast and the outcome has become to one degree or another
predictable. There will be lamentable losses and surprising gains.
Institutions will topple and be reborn.
As for institutions and politics? I'm an orbital outsider. I think that
Ecology makes a better model for an institution. I think that Economics and
the Physics of energy have more to contribute than zero-sum political
If we must bring education into the discussion<VBG>, I'm a kid who fell
through all the cracks and managed to walk back in on his own terms. (Not
that I really had much choice, as far as I can tell, about which cracks I
fell through, or in giving up the struggle to stay outside and instead
submit to becoming a certified teacher) Education as she is writ is pretty
good for the median kids whether in public or private sector. The metaphor
of the old mechanistic industrial revolution lives on. The median production
line isn't tooled up to produce Rolls Royces (though the occasional cherry
is as common as the occasional lemon) and components and assemblys which
dont fit the benchmark are discarded or, if they cause no problem, left
lying where they fall.
I'm for the kids who fall through the cracks. The ones who clearly need
customized education even if the don't look too messed up. Really though, I
think EVERY kid deserves a detailed IEP or ILP and a unique path through the
system. Total Quality--Zero Deffect (You can see I've been an IE in the
computer industry and keep up with the trend of producing a unique
customized/optimized "product" if I'm going to use that old assembly line
metaphor). NO MORE CRACKS! Every little beastie gets it's unique
developmental, cognitive, needs AND DESIRES met or handed off to someone who
will pursue the process to completion--and not to some standardized-normed
benchmark but to the point where a functional auto-didact emerges ready and
enthusiastic to successfully pursue the learning they most need, from day to
day, on their own initiative.
With the current rate of change thats the condition sought at the heart of
the economy and in the boardrooms: A Learning Society, a place where the
people who come to work are prepared for the next big kinky deviation coming
down the line. The want to know how to train these employees, The problem
is, by then its too late. We've learned (falsely) what a pain in the butt
learning is and are prepared to resist the human resources trainers. (A few
of the "cutting-edge" Gen-Xers seem to have already caught on to the
importance of continual learning and are making an effort to insure ongoing
education as a condition of employment BTW)
Actually, I' love to see myself put out of a job as a teacher so I could
move on to other art/culture related stuff. The end to schools both public
and private. The birth of people who don't lose that little 3 year-olds
burning need to emulate learn to do real things in the real world to become
mature and the owner and caretaker and practitioner of skill and knowledge;
not just to be a better 18 year old playboy or playgirl. And it's actually
begining to happen I think. So I have reason to be optimistic.
Well enough of the rant <VBG>
maybe this is full circle...