(Note: We need to find English information on Verne, and start a Wikipedia entry).
Following are what I think are significant excerpts, relating mostly to my interest in a critique of education today.
The 56 pages begin with:
I'm not sure if evidence is needed to make such a claim today (I would certainly want to make it!), or how I would go about gathering evidence for it? It seems to me however, that this opening paragraph relates to Susan Awbrey's paper on academic capitalism, were she makes the reference to the problem of mental models not matching action:
Research has shown that the theories, or mental models, people use in practice are, for the most part, tacit. Few people are consciously aware of them. It is these unquestioned theories-in-use that often guide our actions and strategies not our espoused theories. (Argyris and Schon, 1974, Argyris, 1980, Argyris, 1987, and cited in Smith, 2001) Thus, quite often the world-view and values we espouse are not the world-view and values implied by our behavior. This is not just a difference between what we say and what we do (between theory and action) but between two different theories of action—-one we profess and one we actually use.So far this point should be obvious to most, we all have used rhetoric for the importance of "critical thinking" and "diversity in opinion" and how valuing that somehow leads to counter measures against group think and closed mindedness, but how many of us have witnessed our own inability to accommodate those values in practice, let alone the groups we participate in? When I consider my interactions with various management and policy initiatives, I'd have to say the clear majority don't know how to effectively accommodate criticism and diversity, especially considering a perhaps more emboldened class, gaining strength and confidence through online social media and networks. Of course the reverse is also true, where the new critic lacks the cultural capital to effectively engage the groups in power.
Either way, this problem of closed mindedness leads to significant problems in that we are not able to hear or properly consider the feedback to our strategies and actions. Obviously this is a problem not just for education, but the depth of the problem becomes even more alarming if we also consider Cass Sunstein's recent book Infotopia, where he outlines many examples of the causes and consequences of group think and an organisation's inability to question the consequences and values of its own actions.
And its at this point where the opening paragraph hits the truth of the matter. Action is not possible because over time the agencies to which the proposals are made, have developed defence mechanisms such as departments and procedures, that both intentionally and non intentionally inoculate them from the intrusion, and so the realisation of a need to take action or review mental models.
In other words, the likely criticisms are absorbed by the institution, and the diversity is lost in the group identity and its unique power dynamics.
But this blockage is not true for all change proposals of course, some very significant proposals do get through: academic capitalism, investment in 'eLearning', adoption of IT, but these three especially have been silent revolutions, where critical discourse seems to have been a long way from those who decide on the actions.
So how do proposals get through while others don't? There's an elephant in the room isn't there?...
The "they" here are the deschooling reformers that Illich and Verne call out as the unsuccessful change agents. They were too focused on the action - consequence loop, and not reflecting enough on the underlying values. Again, Susan's investigation relates here, where she points to Kurt Lewin's work around the notion of unfreezing, which it just so happens - relates to action research.
‘Unfreezing’ (Lewin, 1951) is an organizational term that has come to mean many things. First, it means that for change to take place members of the organization must see not only a need for change but also an urgent reason to change. Slaughter and Leslie have made the case for urgency by showing us that, out of financial necessity, higher education is already undergoing a quiet revolution that is having some unintended consequences. Second, Lewin’s concept of unfreezing warns us that attempts to change without addressing an organization’s cultures and values will fail in the long run.The important thing to highlight in this quote is the warning of that if we don't engage in discussion around cultures and values, changes will be unsuccessful in the long term.. I need to find out what long term means here, and find an answer to my concerns about action paralysis if we gaze over that abyss of values too much..
How would attention to a "hidden curriculum and social ethos" arouse a need for action? Perhaps it would by making explicit the unacknowledged truth of the matter - that our rhetoric does not match our actions. That our actions and the processes that enable them are more fundamentally corrupted. Such attention takes decades on social scale, years in small groups, and months for individuals (in my experience) - which must be why we experience change in networks so much faster than in groups... note to revisit The Wealth of Networks for any mention of this idea.
Depressing indeed! A conscious "latent" conspiracy?..
What I think is meant by this is that the notion of "life long learning", and its unfortunate appropriation by education institutes, dilutes the possibility of focused change by spreading the load and institutionalised corruption across a wider social gathering. Illich and Verne argue that notions of life long learning are sinister in relation to the latent corruption of the groups who appropriate responsibility for it.
And all that out of only 10 pages! I'll leave it there because the day is almost over here.. but I'll post again on the next 10 pages tomorrow.