Good Solution #3

Continuing this theme and wishing I had more time to go into it, here is the third of Berry’s “Good Solutions”:

“A good solution improves the balances, symmetries, or harmonies within a pattern–it is a qualitative solution–rather than enlarging or complicating some part of a pattern at the expense or in neglect of the rest.”

This might be the core idea of all the good solutions. Because we are anti-structure and anti-form in our artistic habits and because in our business habits we apply the patterns to limited domains (only including what we can measure), we are unable to think about “balances, symmetries, or harmonies within a pattern.” We dismiss these as vestiges of an outdated, pre-Darwinian world, if we think about them in context, or we simply regard them as impactical and too hard to think about.

Here’s an intellectual exercise: list three or four problems with American education. Now read three articles on each (or just choose one). Analyze the solutions proposed in each, looking for the following: non-quantitative solutions, recognition of the wider patterns within which the specific problem being discussed is contained (how far out do those patterns go?), use of words like harmony, balance, and symmetry.

You’ll probably read about “balance” because it is the easiest to see and the most external of the principles of order. You can balance something within itself without any regard at all for the wider patterns within which the thing subsists. Balance doesn’t ensure the health of an organism, though it is necessary.

I hope I can write more on this principle. I also hope others will comment, especially school leaders. I truly believe that Berry has put his finger on the fatal flaw in the implicit organizational theory of our society.

Here are the first two solutions:

Solution 1

Solution 2

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Good solutions II

A good solution accepts also the limitations of discipline. Agricultural problems should receive solutions that are agricultural, not technological or economic.

This second of 14 entries listing Berry’s good solutions that allow for “solving for pattern” probably provokes controversy. We want to solve every problem using technology or economics. But if the problem is pedagogical (i.e. having to do with teaching), then to solve it technologically isn’t possible. The problem in America’s schools is not that we don’t have the means to get information into children’s hands. It is that we don’t know the purpose of education. And we don’t know the purpose of education because we don’t know what a human being is. Until we figure that out, no amount of technology can solve our education problems.

I would recommend a close reading of the Protagoras and The Gorgias and a little more critical approach to the way Nietzsche intimidates the half-educated that govern our philosophy departments and from them our school administration. Our half-baked nihilism is neither necessary nor a good idea. And it isn’t very compelling to people who can read The Bully Anti-philosopher with a spine.