SYSTEMS THINKING -- WHAT IT IS; WHAT IT HOPES TO ACCOMPLISH
Lynn M. Stuter
January 23, 2003
NewsWithViews.comPick up most any book today, concerning education reform, land use planning, growth management, or environmental issues, and you will see reference made to "systemic change" or "systems thinking" as an integral part of the process. In this same vein, we hear people speak of "reinventing government." What is this? What does it mean? How does it fit in with what we are seeing happen in America today?What does this look like? Imagine a circle of circles of circles (this can continue to the infinite level). Now imagine each circle working to maintain its size and mass, in order to keep the larger circle (the next level up toward the world system) in balance.
Systems thinking arose from the writings of Alfred North Whitehead. The science of systems thinking is credited to Ludwig von Bertalanffy and his associates, one of whom is Ervin Laszlo, born in Budapest, Hungary, author of several works on general systems theory and currently a consultant to the United Nations. Bertalanffy came to the United States from Germany on a Rockefeller grant, returning to German-occupied Vienna, Austria, in 1938. His biology textbooks were used by Hitler. He returned to the United States after World War II.
The philosophy of systems theory is really quite simple. Systems theory operates on the premise that the world is a system of subsystems (also called systems), all interdependent and interconnected to form a wholistic or holistic system; that within any one system is a infrastructure that is analogous (the same) across systems, irrespective of physical appearance.
Under this premise, the world is a system. Within the world system are systems, and within each of those systems are further systems, all subsystems of the larger system at the next higher level, but systems unto themselves, each with an infrastructure that is the same as the infrastructure of every other system, whether animate (living) or inanimate (non-living), whether large or small.
According to systems theory, all systems are interdependent and interconnected; no system stands alone or can stand alone, each system depending on all other systems, to keep the whole system in balance. Remember Al Gore's book, "Earth in Balance"?
Now imagine that a radical mass pierces the perimeter of a circle like a comet or meteorite, forcing the circle to do one of two things: compensate for the added mass, increasing in size, or finding a way to dispose of the mass to maintain size.If the circle compensates, the circle increases in size, requiring all the circles in the circle to increase in size in order to keep the larger circle in balance. This results in a domino effect clear to the highest level ... the world system. As the circles continue to increase in size to compensate for one or a number of radical masses, the systems at each level become more unstable until the whole system implodes on itself.
If the circle disposes of the mass, such requires eliminating the radical mass such that it will not affect the system or create a domino effect in the larger systems.
Systems thinking requires that all systems be kept in balance, small and large, animate and inanimate. People are seeing full-blown transformation everywhere, whether they are looking at education, gun control, property rights, water rights, health care, land use planning, growth management, ecology, economy ... Why? Because each is a system that MUST be kept in balance with every other system. The ultimate goal: the sustainable global environment.
How will that be achieved? Via a five step process: Step one is Awareness -- seeing the need for improvement at any level of the system. Step two is Assessment -- identifying the gap between where you are now as opposed to where you want to be (the gap analysis). Step three is Preparation -- developing strategy, assembling resources, going through steps to prepare for change (such as strategic planning, public/private partnerships, advisory committees). Step four is the Action Plan -- establishing specific goals, time sensitive steps and measurements to implement improvement. Step five is Evaluation -- reviewing the goals established in the action plan and making adjustments as needed to achieve the action plan (assessment). Using the assessment, we then start the cycle (or process) all over again, determining where the problem areas are and making the necessary adjustments to ensure that the goals established under the action plan are achieved. This is a never-ending, always evolving, cyclical process in which we are said to be "creating the future." This process is applied to every system, small and large, animate and inanimate, aligning all systems to achieve and maintain the sustainable global environment.
Each one of the steps in this five step process may be called something different, depending on the system being addressed. In education reform, the action plan phase is where parents and citizens see the establishing of exit outcomes at the local and state level, and benchmarks to those exit outcomes. Evaluation, then, is accomplished through various types of assessment and the state assessment. The assessment is the method for determining whether students are demonstrating proficiency of the exit outcomes. If the majority of students demonstrate proficiency, those who do not are remediated until they do. If a minority of students demonstrate proficiency, adjustments are made to the process to more closely align it to the wanted outcomes.
Again, under systems thinking, all systems must be kept in balance. By its very construct, systems thinking must be ALL inclusive ... everyone, everything.
This is where the "all children can learn" ... "all children ready to learn" ... all, all, all comes from. The system, in order to remain in balance, without enlarging in size to the point of imploding, MUST include ALL -- inclusive of every man, woman and child in the world. No one can be excluded, exempted, or opted out. This is why home schools and private schools delude themselves in thinking they won't be affected by this system.
Under systems thinking, all systems have an infrastructure analogous across systems, irrespective of physical appearance. No one system is more important or more sophisticated than the next. This includes humans, explaining why humans are considered to be just one system of many, no more important than a tree, a flower or a rock, and why some supporters of this concept have called for measures to forcibly reduce Earth's population.
Computers are an integral part of this system. Via computers with software capable of systems interface, data (including personally identifiable data) can be accessed, and brought together to form massive dossiers of information. A dossier on an individual, for example, might contain all information relevant to education; training; attitudes, values, and beliefs; physical, mental and emotional health; driving records; court records; birth records, credit cards owned and balances; type, plate number, and VIN number of vehicle owned; property owned; type and policy numbers of insurance policies; loans and balances; bank accounts and balances; investments and value; even where individuals shop and for what ... All this information can be used to determine if people are demonstrating proficiency of the outcomes determined necessary to achieve the ultimate goal ... the sustainable global environment. The amassing of this kind of information also provides a tool of coercion in the hands of unscrupulous people.
Using this system, transformation is occurring in every facet and branch of government, from the local level to the national level, to the international level. What is happening here, to like degree, is happening in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan ... world-wide. Why? Again, to achieve the sustainable global environment.
Having read this, no doubt many questions have come to mind along the way.
What about the guy who won't voluntarily opt in, won't be included, stays outside the system? That individual is synonymous to the "radical mass" spoken of earlier. In the interests of keeping the system in balance, the radical mass must be eliminated. This is achieved in one of several ways ... the radical mass 1) voluntarily opts in; 2) disagrees but will not sabotage (tactic approval); or 3) a way is found to isolate the radical mass -- the unrepentant dissenter. Because no one can be excluded from this system, if the system is to be kept in balance, number three necessitates coercive measures, incarceration or elimination. Coercive measures could include harassment, denial of driving privileges, inability to get or keep a job, inability to go on to higher education, inability to obtain health care, inability to obtain housing ... In the U.S.S.R., one of the first experiments in systems governance, dissenters were incarcerated under the guise of being mentally defective (insane) until they realized the error of their ways and conformed, or, if they absolutely refused to conform, they were executed. One world futurist made it very clear: We are all atoms in a molecule; radical atoms must be exterminated in the greater good of the collective whole.
Who decides what the world is going to look like in x number of years? Good question. Who does decide? It isn't you or me, that's for certain. And obviously, it isn't Bill Clinton or George Bush, Jr., they are mere puppets like we, just further up the food chain. Is it the United Nations? No, they are mere puppets, too. Who is it, then? Who is the "they" that has decided all this? Fingers have been pointed at a lot of different people and groups. Who all is included in the group of puppetmasters isn't known. What is known is that all of this evolves from a world view that, by its very construct and nature, cannot tolerate the existence of world views that believe in a Higher Authority. That world view, that religion, is humanism.
In the words of Humanist Manifesto II: "... we can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species. While there is much that we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are or will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves." We must save ourselves. We must create our future. And in creating our future, all must get with the program in order for success to be realized.
The U.S.S.R., as one of the first experiments in systems governance, was mentioned. Does this mean that systems governance is communist? To quote Gus Hall, General Secretary; United States Communist Party, "I represent another Humanist Association—the Communist Party. For we who are Communist definitely believe in Humanism."
If humanism is the religion that undergirds systems governance, where does the New Age religious belief and practices we hear so much about fit in? The New Age religion believes in self-divination: God is man, the god within, the inner self. Many will recognize this in the motivational, team building and leadership building courses encouraged by business under Total Quality Management, or systems management. This brings us back to the Humanist Manifesto II: "No deity will save us, we must save ourselves." The New Age premise, the Gaia Hypothesis, is worded a bit differently, but to the same effect as the premise of systems theory: the world is a living, breathing organism, irreducible to its parts; what affects one part affects all parts; that in the name of saving spaceship Earth, we must change our society. The Gaia Hypothesis is the driving force behind the radical environmental movement, having a direct and adverse effect on education, land use planning, property rights, growth management, water rights, resource management, even business and industrial operation and management.
But isn't communism achieved by violent overthrow? It was in the Bolshevik Revolution. In World War II, Mussolini imprisoned Antonio Gramsci because Gramsci was a Transformational Marxist, believing not in violent overthrow by force but in gradual transformation to the Marxist state. Many Transformational Marxists fled Europe prior to and during World War II, finding refuge in the West, many in the United States. Most coming to the United States remained here, lending their knowledge and energy to the systems movement.
That movement is now in full implementation. Will it work? No, it won't, any more than it worked in the U.S.S.R.
Whether implemented via force or via gradualism, somewhere along the line force will have to be applied against those who refuse to conform to the system. When that happens, civil unrest, chaos and anarchy will follow.
Transformation is about the system, not the people it affects. The system, by nature, is top heavy, inefficient, and unstable. Money is always in short supply and poorly managed. The system, once in place, is kept in place by force, coercion, and tyranny, becoming more unstable until it implodes.
Beyond this, computers are being used to project world scenarios, future trends, based on data provided. One of the reasons the U.S.S.R. became unstable, say systems advocates, is because of the lack of computer technology. Advances in that field in the past two decades, lead those supporting systems governance to believe that computers are now sophisticated enough to be able to accurately project future trends using accumulated data. Such, however, is not now, nor will it ever be, true for the simple reason that computer programs are only capable of doing what programmers tell them to do, making them subject to the fallacies of human nature and the constraints of human knowledge.
Systems governance has several weak points, three of which are more apparent. One is the accumulation of data. The less data the system has, the less accurate ... the less accurate, the more frustrated the system becomes in trying to reach sustainability. Another weakness is dissension. Dissension cannot be tolerated. ALL must conform. Those who refuse to conform can cause system overload and imbalance. Yet another weak point is natural disasters: floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, extreme heat or cold, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions ... Systems governance is incapable of dealing effectively with the level of chaos created by a natural disaster. Remember Chernobyl?
Systems governance can be defeated, but to do that we must know what it is and what it is intended to accomplish.
© 2003 Lynn M. Stuter - All Rights Reserved
Mother and wife, Stuter has spent the past ten years researching systems theory with a particular emphasis on education. She home schooled two daughters, now grown and on their own. She has worked with legislators, both state and federal, on issues pertaining to systems governance and education reform. She networks nation-wide with other researchers and citizens concerned with the transformation of our nation. She has traveled the United States and lived overseas. Web site: http://www.icehouse.net/lmstuter E-Mail: [email protected]