Friday, May 05, 2006

Dynamism as an approach to change

Change is inevitable: only growth is an option. This aphorism accurately conveys the dilemma facing both individuals and societies at the onset of a new millennium. Lately, it appears as if both the scale and pace of change have been increasing. Individually and collectively, people have found this change to be problematical. For many there is a profound sense of unease stemming from a lack of control, an absence of suitable guidelines and an apparent erosion of stability. Widespread fear of the unknown and the undiscovered has become the lifeblood of populist culture. Almost imperceptibly, the future has been transformed into society’s biggest nightmare. Rather than embrace the future with optimism, hope and ambition, most now have acquiesced to an overwhelming barrage of bad news and pessimism about the future.
This division of perspective has been excellently characterized by
Postrel (1998) as the difference between stasis and dynamism. Stasis implies a regulated, controlled balance that originates with a command and control, technocratic approach to governance and the desire to implement a prescribed, reactionary sense of stability. In contrast, dynamism reflects a belief in the possible, in constant creativity, fluidity and a balance that is characterized by a freely-evolving equilibrium. Primary criteria under dynamism are resiliency and adaptability.
Stasis and dynamism define contrasting belief systems that differentiate widely different paths regarding the determination of wisdom. They offer radically different definitions of (a) the need for change, (b) the nature of that change, and (c) the barriers/constraints to change. Stasists envision change as a prescribed, stable balance. Thus, stasist social criticism presents a critique that censures on the presumption that the failure to realize an equitable outcome is the fundamental failing of the defined crisis. In contrast, dynamists recognize change as an adaptive, evolving equilibrium. Consequently, a dynamist perspective focusses on the development of new options based on the application of value-based questions that emphasize equity in opportunity.
By default, the dominant paradigm in education (especially in areas of public policy) is stasist in both construct and method. Lectures, intellectual hegemony and political correctness are all characteristics of stasist conformity. Students are tested and succeed in proportion to their ability to memorize and repeat the dominant litany of the professoriate, whose primary task is to impart information.
Dynamism offers an intellectual alternative wherein the educational emphasis is on active learning and individual empowerment. Students are neither required nor examined on their ability to accept pre-conceived prescriptions. Rather they are encouraged to develop their own understanding and creativity. They are evaluated on their ability to successfully comprehend, articulate and communicate their knowledge. The educational challenge posed by dynamism is the effective facilitation of the skills and understanding necessary for the students to realize their creativity.