Friday, December 9, 2011

Visualizing School Reform & School Redesign

In 1958, Thomas Pynchon wrote "Entropy," a short story published in his book, Slow Learner.

"Nevertheless," continued Callisto, "he found in entropy or the measure of disorganization for a closed system an adequate metaphor to apply to a certain phenomena in his own world. He saw, for example, the younger generation responding to Madison Avenue with the same spleen his own had once reserved for Wall Street: and in American 'consumerism' discovered a similar tendency from the least to most probable, from differentiation to sameness, from ordered individuality to a kind of chaos. He found himself, in short, restating Gibbs' prediction in social terms, and envisioned a heat-death for his culture in which ideas, like heat-energy, would no longer be transferred, since each point in it would ultimately have the same quantity of energy; and intellectual motion would, accordingly, cease." (Slow Learner, 88-89)
I wonder about this heat-death of ideas when I think about school reform.  I was thinking about energy it takes to fuel school reform and how top-down methods simply do not produce enough energy to even sustain themselves, let alone fuel 'other' interests, approaches. Just visually the design of top-down reform for complex matters seems an odd match--perhaps a hold over based on the idea of input-output systems where the mater at hand is at best, complicated, but never complex.

Visualizing School Reform

Humans mess up such simple systems.

We are inherently unpredictable.

Rhizomatic redesign methods allow for the potential of far more energy to be produced as simultaneous actions can and often do occur as a rhizomatic system is one without a beginning or end, but exists intermezzo: in the middle of things.

Visualizing Rhizomatic Redesign

Hmm.  A bit of playing about on my part.
Wondering what you think.


  1. Looks just like the "maps" the intel community produces to track transnational criminal and terrorist organizations, and I mean that as a compliment. Those who are pushing against a failed hierarchical system have already learned to learn this way because they can't compete from the bottom of the heap. If we don't stop describing this kind of thinking as "evil" anti-statism and start learning to use it to transform our institutions for the 21st century, we're as good as done for! Thanks, Mary Ann

  2. The rhizome is neutral. How it is engendered can be for any range of realities. Recently read an essay that linked rhizomatic orientation to military operations (going through the wall). Agree, we need to get off the top-down ladder. It does not serve us well.

  3. Two issues jump out at is the hierarchy of rules that exists outside of school systems in the laws/regs etc. that 'govern' them. This environment creates enormous tension/fear on the part of bosses that whatever change is created by those out and about in the organization will bring them into conflict with the outside world. The second is that those who engage most enthusiastically in the thinking that leads to change MUST recognize that they have to remain open to new ideas consistently over ways of doing things can become entrenched and ossified quite easily.

  4. @Nancy, Couldn't agree more. Remaining open to change is challneging to do inside hierarchical structures as they often don't allow a lot of freedom, randomness, or error. Alos, the juxtaposition of ideas is limited as there is some forms of segregation of people by level.