The Oppressive Educational System

Advanced Psychology Research Center inTiburon

As a result of a tragic event at a Denver school where two teenagers killed 13 people and themselves, the nation’s attention has been focused on factors influencing depression, anger and violence particularly by male teenagers.

I have read in the newspaper and heard on radio and TV many debates about the problem and its solutions.  I have heard far less discussion about the root cause of the problem and a search for its solution.  Yes, there has been a recognition that students who are lower performers, not athletic and who are bullied by their schoolmates are more likely to suffer depression, anger and to react violently.  I suggest that the search for the root of the problem has not been exhaustive and that this search will find that the roots of the problem lay in our culture and our views about how to conduct ourselves in the workplace and in the schools that help prepare students for the workplace.

John Cleese has suggested that 90% of business organizations manage predominantly by fear, ie: there are consequences that threaten a person’s security and well-being if they do not act consistent with the organization’s expectations and culture.  My personal experience in the workplace and the research that I have undertaken over the past ten years have convinced me that we have got it wrong.  We have designed an autocratic and mechanistic workplace that has been successful in achieving material goals and blatantly unsuccessful in creating a quality of life in the workplace, an opportunity for people to work with joy.

W. Edwards Demming stresses that the underlying objective of his philosophy outlined by his fourteen points is to provide an opportunity for people to work with joy. The inference is that this is not the case. A parallel exists in the educational system, our children are not learning with joy or in many cases are teachers instructing with joy.  Rather, we have adopted a structured and uncreative approach in which we teach our children to memorize facts rather than facilitate their ability to explore, discover and learn.

I suggest that the root cause of the depression faced by many teenagers is that they are being forced to meet the expectations of an unhealthy educational system.  This struggle is far more difficult for the student who’s underlying personality is one that wishes to foster creativity, exploration, discovery and learning.  It can be understood that students with this inclination are not as successful within the current educational system as those who are willing to follow the rules and suppress their needs in order to be successful in an unhealthy educational system.  Our society is suffering the pains from having chosen a mechanistic and materialistic root to survival.  We urgently need leaders within our community who can help us find the pathway to a successful and meaningful lifestyle which also yields sufficient material success to satisfy the needs of all.

I personally believe this way is awaiting discovery and that many have discovered it but are unable to be heard within what has become a largely self-serving and competititve struggle to gain financial security no matter what the means.

What is our primary challenge?  I suggest it is that those who lead us today have succeeded within a system that has been driven by material terms for the few who have capital, unsuccessful from a material viewpoint for the majority for those who rely on their wages for survival and unsuccessful and in fact corrupt for the spiritual life of the whole community.  Not too many years ago, people who spoke out against the existing power structure in China were executed.  There was no freedom of speech.  Fortunately, our society is open to dialogue and I believe it is now time to challenge the ways of the past and work together to build a healthy and meaningful future for all.

Agile Organizations and World Peace

Agile organizations are partnership organizations that achieve agility through excellence in process management, self organization, and multidisciplinary teamwork.

At first glance, there may seem to be little connection between creating agile organizations and influencing world peace. The connection lies in establishing values that enable effective partnerships with others.

One of the programs on TV I found fascinating was the series, “Connections,” by James Burke that illustrated how events that occurred in history created turning points, which dramatically influenced civilization and created new possibilities, which were widely embraced.

The way we perceive the world influences our actions. In an earlier work Darwin performed on the Galapagos Islands, he observed that birds with longer beaks were better able to obtain food than birds with shorter beaks. The way he perceived the world led him to see this as supportive of the view that life involved competition for survival, and the development of attributes that enhanced survival such as long beaks, enabled one species to win the evolutionary competition. However, later studies with different observers perceived the situation with the same birds differently. These more in-depth studies indicated that when food was plentiful the birds with longer beaks fed freely on all available food. However, when food was scarce, the birds with longer beaks went for the food that was accessible only to them, leaving the food that could be reached by the birds with shorter beaks for them so they could survive. It illustrated cooperation in nature rather than competition.

The predominant paradigm upon which corporate success is based has been founded upon the atomistic view of the world, which stresses competition at the corporate level and at the personal level. This paradigm has been very successful; the fittest survive very well and many are barely surviving.

In her book, The Chalice and the Blade, Riane Eisier documents that there are only two prevalent models upon which social structures have been based: one she refers to as the “domineering model,” and the other the “partnership model”. In the domineering model, a hierarchy of power was established and individuals jockeyed for prestige and position within the power structure. However, to do so, they had to demonstrate allegiance to organizational leaders with positional power. To a large degree, people had specific roles within the domineering organization and specialized at these roles, and as a result, the system worked well in handling increasingly complex technology and products. Peter Drucker gave the name “command and control” to this type of organization. It worked well in relatively stable times.

I ask the question, why was the domineering approach more successful in our increasingly complex technological society than the partnership alternative that had worked in other times and other places? I answer this question by saying that the work environment in early twentieth century organizations favored this approach. Organizational managers were given the opportunity to understand the big picture and to integrate daily work. Also, societal culture encouraged people to develop specialized competencies and compete with each other to succeed. Many professionals lacked the people skills to work effectively together to a common purpose without the command-and-control direction of superiors. Another problem in successfully implanting the partnership organization was the availability of current, relevant and accurate information upon which to base decisions and actions. These were some of the factors that resulted in the dominance of the command-and-control model in business and industry, and this paradigm has influenced our actions in other areas, including education, politics, and international relationships.

It has become increasingly apparent that factors such as an increasingly competitive marketplace and rapid changes in technology require 21st century organizations to adapt continually to changing circumstances. The ability to achieve this adaptation is not built into the specialty-based command-and-control organizational structures that served us well in the past. What is needed to be competitive in today’s marketplace is often referred to as organizational agility, which is the ability to adapt the way work is done to changing circumstances so as to increase the organization’s performance.

The competencies required for organizational agility are those that are required for partnership. Individuals need to be able to see the big picture, so any changes are undertaken with an awareness of the impact on the whole. People need skills to work together effectively for the benefit of the organization as a whole and they need relevant current and accurate information to support decision making. Agile organizations require the individual organizational habits advocated by Stephen Covey, the competencies advocated by Peter Senge, and the adaptation of the new philosophy advocated by W. Edwards Deming. Agile organizations are partnership organizations and their culture and way of being are radically different than the traditional command-and-control organizations of the twentieth century.

Agile organizations rely on process management to provide the framework for achieving agility. Process management and self-organization require current, relevant and valid information. Information technology has been used in the past to enable top-down command and control processes to constrain self-organization, a strategy that supports the domineering model but inhibits the partnership model. Information technology’s future lies in enabling organizing agility.

Building agile organizations requires a shift of thinking from competition to cooperation for the common good. I suggest this shift in thinking as it pervades our educational system and our political system will influence the way we view the world and in doing so enable us to be proactive contributors to areas that influence peace and harmony at a local level and a global level.

Let There Be Peace on Earth

And Let It Begin With Me

I can’t remember a time when I was not asking myself the question, how do I live as an active participant in society and experience an organic and harmonious life?

One important answer to this question came from reading Scott Peck’s book, “The Road Less Travelled”.  In the opening of his book, he shares the thought that “life is difficult”, and once one accepts that  life is difficult, one can view the difficulties one faces as part of life.

As I have thought about this issue, I have seen the view that life’s difficulties should be viewed as the grist in the mill that helps facilitate our personal learning and growth as human beings.  I learned to see that what is important is not avoiding difficulties in life, but rather, how you choose to act in meeting the challenges those difficulties present.

Life is not fair.  When I look out of a world that is not perfect I feel despair in the harm that is inflicted on innocent people by the actions of others and the calamities of nature.

However I think that calamities can provide opportunities for people to care.  A recent example I saw in the Press was that a community was devastated by flood, and as the residents dealt with the aftermath of their flood,  people from neighboring villages turned up to help.

The term “balance” comes to mind as we need to face the challenges of our own lives as well as selectively choose ways in which we can contribute to the well being of others.

These introductory notes are provided to help place in context some personal thoughts that may be helpful in us building a more peaceful world together.  I recognize my notes cover only a small fraction of the ways we can work together to make a positive difference in the world.  I’ll try and state my thinking as simply as possible by using a series of statements.

  1. The building blocks of peace on Earth and well being for all are the changes each one of us chooses to make in the way we live our lives and particularly, the way in which we choose to behave in relationship to others and our environment.
  2. People do not choose to change unless they have a personal experience from which they learn and which provides the foundation for their choice to change.
  3. The characteristics of the environment in which people live their lives can enable or constrain their efforts to gain the experiences they need to learn and change.  Thus, helping build an environment that facilitates learning and growth is a useful contribution to building a peaceful world.
  4. A cultural environment in which people dominate each other and in which people are expected to do what others say, rather than what they think is right is a major constraint on human learning and becoming.
  5. Elaine Isley, in her book, “The Chalice and the Blade” made a valuable contribution to understanding the two primary organizational forms mankind has used to survive.  She referred to these as the domineering model and the partnership model.
  6. In human history, particularly in Western culture, I assert the domineering model has prevailed.  Whether or not this is true and if so, why it has prevailed, is open to an interesting debate.  My view is that it has prevailed in many different forms, whether it be in the work place or in the family.
  7. Early in the Industrial Revolution, the ideas of Tailor and Scientific Management prevailed.  Scientific Management involved breaking work down into simple and mechanistic tasks and workers being instructed on how to do them repeatedly.
  8. Traditional management is a “top down” domineering management approach and, in general, those who are better cogs in the wheels of the organization gained promotion and dominance, and sustain work places that are graveyards for the soul.  
  9. Traditional management fostered a mechanistic rather than experiential educational system.
  10. As the rate of change and international competition has accelerated, the traditional domineering form of management has been resistant to change.  The associated rigor mortis has and is being the death nell for many companies.
  11. The Management methods approach that is adaptable to change is based upon the partnership model.  It’s known by many names, one of which is Process Management.  To be successful in partnerships, people need to understand the work processes that they contribute to, and in particular, the needs of those within the work place with whom they interface.
  12. The implementation of Process Management is thus an important contribution to establishing work environments in which people can affectively learn and grow, and in this growth, help incrementally to build a more peaceful world for themselves and others.

The Sandy Beach

I’d like to imagine that you are floating in the air, you’re floating above the ocean and looking towards the shore where there is a beautiful sandy cove surrounded by cliffs.  There is a pathway down from the top of the cliffs.  You realize it is morning and you notice that there are some people going down the pathway to enjoy the beach.  It’s a beautiful, warm, sunny day.  The children start building sand castles, and as the morning passes, more and more people come down the pathway to find a space on the sandy beach and their children start to build sand castles.  However, as the day goes by, the beach gets more and more crowded.  There is less space for building sand castles, and soon, children start to tread on other children’s sand castles as they take a step back to look at their own. Arguing starts between the children.  Some adults join in, and all over the beach the tranquility that started the day has been transformed into frustration and anger and stress.  As you observe the chaos on the beach, you notice that the Sun is starting to set and people start to leave.  The beach is empty once more, and you see that the tide comes in.  It washes down all the sand castles and when it retreats, there is a nice, smooth, peaceful, sandy beach.  In the morning, the Sun comes up, and you see people and children starting to come down to the beach and start building sand castles.  It is a new day fertile with new possibilities.

Vicarious Pearl

Vicarious Relationships and how they can enrich the spirit and reduce stress

Art is the expression of the spirit moving through people who created the art examples include a composer creating music a painter creating a portrait and similarly with many of the forms of art created by the human spirit.  Art leaves an imprint of its creation in the outer world which can be vicariously experienced and valued by others.

This also applies to the creation of art in the moment by a group of people whether it be ballet dancers, an orchestra, a choir and even a sports team as it works together in a way which is just beyond mechanistic corporation but also involves a sort of a sense of co-creation.  Art is an expression of the human spirit. Examples of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture come to mind and the image of my wife sitting looking at the Taj Mahal and tears streaming down her face. These vicarious experiences can help people enrich the spirit and reduce stress.

The key to gaining the potential value from a vicarious connection with an art form created by others in the past or in the present lies within the observer. Is the observer just seeing the outer physical form or is the observer listening and connecting at an inner level to the spiritual force that has or is creating the art.

Some forms of art come naturally to those who are performing the art others the harvest of the grist in the mill of learning and a dedication to their form of art. The choir has practiced singing in harmony and feeling the connection with the of the singers as they perform. It is important to have an awareness that those who are creating the art in the moment have a symbiotic relationship with those who are sensing and precariously experiencing they are being shared. It is a symbiotic relationship.

As one considers the potential value of learning how to enrich one’s own spirit by connecting with the artistic creation of others I believe it’s important to ask the question on how we learn to do this and also to ask how this is this learning is implicit in the way we educate our children. My experience in gaining my qualifications as an engineer in teaching engineering at University is how much of our education tends to focus on the mental analytical side of knowledge and not on the artistic form of learning by creating. In grade school the emphasis is on reading writing and arithmetic and the scores been achieved and not upon the enrichment from music and art which is difficult to quantify and measure. I do remember times in my education which now I recognize as important to learning how to fall how to live and enrich life, a music teacher who had us listen and experience Beethoven’s fifth Symphony and as an apprentice spending half a day practicing art. I believe it’s important for us young or old to recognize that gaining the ability to enrich our spirits and reduce the stress requires us to learn how to experience the artist expression of the human spirit by others

Another dimension of art is the art that exists in nature.  I can see in my mind’s eye a picture of Yosemite National Park in spring and sense it’s wonders and beauty. I know the enrichment of my spirit I feel when I walk in a park and achieve a sense of presence in my being that enables me to connect the wonder of nature around me

Why do people go to art galleries and museums, stream to the countryside of the weekend all listen with others to a symphony.  There is an opportunity to enrich one’s spirit and reduce one’s stress by connecting to and experiencing the creative energy that produced or produces art in its many forms.. The nurturing potential of art is available to everyone and provides each of us with an opportunity to draw on it to enrich our spirit and reduce stress of everyday life.


Thoughts implicit in this bobtail

  1. Whether art is created in the present or in the past it provides an opportunity for the observer to connect to the creative energy that is or has produced the art and connect in a way that enriches the observers spirit and reduces stress.
  2. Each person has the opportunity is to identify the form of art that provides them with the best opportunity to connect to the creative spirit of the artist.
  3. Harvesting the benefit from experiencing the creative spirit of the artist depends upon the ability of the observer to connected at another level to that creative energy. The challenge is to move beyond the physical form even when observing it and feel the connection to the creative spirit that produced it.
  4. Western culture is challenged to provide educational opportunities at all ages that foster the ability to experience and personally create art. One opportunity to help learn this is to learn by doing. Identify an art form that speaks to your spirit and practice yourself the ability to create art and to share it with others.
  5. Nature creates art in many forms and provides us with the opportunity to experience it. There is a difference between chalk and cheese just as there is a difference between being in nature and experiencing being in nature and really knowing the difference.