Sunday, April 03, 2005

Nobody in Charge

by Harlan Cleveland

Jossey-Bass, 2002

computers as prosthetic extensions of our brainpower, are replacing much of the reptitious drudgery people have always had to ensure.

Modeling vast systems sensitives us to the consequences of what we the people are doing to our natural environment.

An emerging ethic of ecology is producing a revolution in human self-control--based not on "limits to growth," but on limits to thoughtlessness, unfairness, and conflict. The resulting international cooperation is producing, here and there, a "growth of limits."

The Role of Intuition

Most of what we learn in organized systems--in families, in schools and colleges, in professional training, even in education for leadership roles -- has to do with the uniquely human capacity to reason. But much of what we actually accomplish results from the application of wisdom, which is a mysterious fusion of rational thinking with nonrational thinking. So it's worth more than a few moments to think hard about how we think to achieve the wisdom to act.

Some observations on chaos:
The academy's students, and its outside critics, too, notice that the vertical academic disciplines, built around clusters of related research methods, are not in themselves very helpful in solving problems. It's all too noticeably true -- no real-world problem can be fitted into the jurisdiction of any single academic department.

But doesn't the new knowledge environment place a much greater premium on integrative thought? Won't we have to take a new look at educational systems that award the highest credentials for wisdom to those who master the narrowest slices of knowledge?

Chopping up the study of physical reality into vertically sliced puzzles, each to be separately deciphered by a different analytical chain of reasoning, made possible the division of specialization and of labor.

Cleveland proposes a new core curriculum for American citizenship that draws on elements such as:

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