Stability and Change:

Some remarks on  "Why School Reform is Impossible" By Seymour Papert
reprinted on the Korakora website

       (I Quote)
Unless I am missing Tyack and Cuban's point, this account is in the spirit of Tinkering Towards Utopia and in fact, exemplifies one of the major principles in its presentation of the generic life-cycle of reforms: The reform sets out to change School but in the end School changes the reform. One may at first blush see a tautology in using this proposition to explain failures of reform. But to say that School changes the reform is very different from simply saying that School resists or rejects the reform. It resists the reform in a particular way -- by appropriating or assimilating it to its own structures. By doing so, it defuses the reformers and sometimes manages to take in something of what they are proposing.
        (end Quote)

This is indeed a fascinating and important study on how the various sociological and individual psychological cognitive and emotional "dependencies" interact with each other.

In fact, I'm sure that the basic mechanisms explicated here -are actually fundamental processes that operate outside the general school environment -and may indeed prove to be the most fundamental of forces in society in general.

Certainly, it seems obvious to me, that the underlying proceses described above are indeed responsible, not only for the "dis-empowerment" of the "computational paradigm" in school -they are also responsible for the general "dis-empowerment" of the "computational paradigm" that has taken place in society in general.

It is the manifestation of these forces that have lead me to complain that the very institutions responsible for the destruction of knowledge and understanding are those that should have been responsible for nurturing and disseminating it....

However, perhaps one should not be too gloomy about these things. In order to understand the process fully, one should perhaps also be more aware of the need for "stability" within a functioning system. I'm sure that "dynamic simulation" could demonstrate the many problems created when a system changes too fast (especially a result of external forces). I'm sure that many current "global" problems are in fact caused by too great a change imposed from outside on both individuals, societies and institutions.

In this sense, the "reactionary forces" may not always be entirely "evil" but perhaps also have their positive side too (as indeed most things seem to have within an ecology of processes).

Indeed, the process of "assimilation" may well be a general creative principle, by which dynamic systems sustain themselves -so (once again) it inot the "absolute" qualities of something that is important -but the more "relative" dynamics of how these "qualities" (qualia?) interact with other components of the system. Presumably, it is this "dynamic and reletivistic" nature of things that requires an approach to "control systems" which is based on dynamic "intelligence" and not "static" knowledge.

     (second quote)
My own view is that education activists can be effective in fostering radical change by rejecting the concept of a planned reform and concentrating on creating the obvious conditions for Darwinian evolution: Allow rich diversity to play itself out. Of course, neither of us can prove the other is wrong. That's what I mean by diversity.
     (end quote)

Unfortunately, I suspect that the reactionary forces may already know about manipulating "the obvious conditions for Darwinian evolution" -which is why they often seem to focus on destroying the natural (social, conceptual and physical "environment") -so that people are forced to adapt their behaviour in ways that (pragmatically) support the new situation...

However, I agree that "diversity" is almost certainly an essential part of the (social, economic and cultural) "fuzzy computational process" -able to operate on a sets of inderminate "truth" values.

So, on one level, the prognosis is good -because "dictators" tend to destroy diversity and therefore eventually create the conditions that lead to their own destruction. The bad news is that this process also tends to destroy much that was valuable before the final collapse comes. This is why societies have such great problems in recovering from these disasters -with the process of recovery often taking decades, generations or even centuries.

At the moment, it seems that the whole world is involved in a complex internal interaction between periods of (local) recovery and a general (global) collapse. However, even this is not a cause for too much pessimism -if one can understand the underlying processes -then every period of crisis is a (perhaps short lived)  window of oportunity for change (before the forces of reaction recover and re-establish an unsustainable form of stability -paradoxal as that may sound)....

Indeed, in this context, it is essential to understand the difference between "static"and "dynamic" systems -as well as the function of non-binary logic in "real-world" situtions.

Unfortunately, this apparently requires a complete rethinking of the globally dominant western cultural paradigm..... and if one thinks educational reform is difficult -then how on earth are we to deal with cultural (and economic) reform on a global scale (in a way that preserves diversity)?

Trevor Batten
Manila, August 2006