As someone who spent much of the 90s writing about technological revolution, I was thinking about how that revolution was just the tip of the iceberg. So much attention was focused on that while all the structures of our society and how we think were being reconfigured.
I began to think about the ideas of the scientist Ilya Prigogine who many may remember was cited in Margaret J. Wheatley’s Leadership and the New Science: Learning About Organization from an Orderly Universe (1992, Berrett-Koehler). I pulled out my copy and read that while it makes sense to stabilize machines and structures as a way to prevent deterioration, living systems (organizations) need non-equilibrium to change and grow because they exchange energy with their environments. Prigogine said living systems are “dissipative structures.” As Wheatley, t explains it, they “dissipate their energy in order to recreate themselves into new forms of organizations” (88).
In ecosystems, for example, external fluctuations in the environment exert great pressure on the system and the system uses its energy very inefficiently, but “as the ecosystem matures, it develops an internal stability, a resiliency to the environment that, in turn, creates conditions that support more efficient use of energy and protection from environmental demands”(92).
Wheatley applies these ideas to organizations. In the factory model, she says, “managers watched for departures from the norm so they could “make corrections and preserve the system at its current levels of activity”(78). Systems that are organized around core competencies but open to information from outside are less vulnerable to environmental disturbances. Their more fluid structure ultimately leads to an internal stability. As expressed by one scientist she quotes (Jantsch), “the more freedom in self-organization, the more order.”
On other words, there is much more happening in education than a change in tools. Trying to impose the old factory model using new tools will not work. Openness, creativity and freedom to innovate are the system of learning that is being born as the old system of education dies.