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Systems Theory – Paper # 2

St. Mary’s College LDSH 210 David P.Walker – GLD 19


David Walker

St. Mary’s College – LDSH 210

Jan 26, 2009

Table of Contents SUMMARIZING THE IDEAS OF CAPRA AND MORGAN .................................................................................. 3 Capra - The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living .......................................................... 3 Morgan – Images of Organizations ........................................................................................................... 4 USE EXPERIENCES FROM YOUR OWN LIFE AND WORK TO ILLUSTRATE YOUR POINTS ............................... 6 Teaching Students Who Do Not “Fit In” ................................................................................................... 6 WORKS CITED ................................................................................................................................................ 9

Page 2 of 9 Systems Theory Paper # 1

Professor Ken Otter


David Walker

St. Mary’s College – LDSH 210

Jan 26, 2009

SUMMARIZING THE IDEAS OF CAPRA AND MORGAN Capra - The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living I plan on attending the Center for Ecoliteracy “Schooling for Sustainability Seminar” in Berkeley June 22-24, 2009. “Fritjof Capra is a cofounder and chair of the board of directors of the Center for Ecoliteracy [2528 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702, 510 845-4595]. In addition to his research in physics and systems theory, he has been engaged in a systematic examination of the philosophical and social implications of contemporary science for the past 30 years. His internationally acclaimed books include The Tao of Physics, The Turning Point, The Web of Life, and The Hidden Connections. He serves on the faculty of Schumacher College, and lectures widely to lay and professional audiences in Europe, Asia, and North and South America”. (Center for Ecoliteracy, 2009). The first three chapters of “The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living“ seem to provide a summary of various thinking about the nature of life, mind and world consciousness and an adverse social reality as an emergent property of social organization that is seen as a complex adaptive system. Capra suggests that in order to sustain life in the future, the principles underlying our social institutions must be consistent with the organization that nature has evolved to sustain the "web of life." In a lucid and convincing argument, Capra explains how the ideas of science can be applied to the practical concerns of our time. Covering many aspects of human nature and society, he discusses such vital matters as the management of human organizations, the

Page 3 of 9 Systems Theory Paper # 1

Professor Ken Otter


David Walker

St. Mary’s College – LDSH 210

Jan 26, 2009

challenges and dangers of economic globalization, and the nature and the problems of biotechnology. He concludes with an authoritative, often provocative plan for designing ecologically sustainable communities and technologies as alternatives to the current economic globalization. (Capra, 2004).

Morgan – Images of Organizations

In stark contrast to the work of Capra (Capra, 2004), in the first three chapters Gareth Morgan presents a pragmatic and inanimate mechanistic perspective of the nature of social construct and leadership in his book the Images of Organizations. Unfortunately, Morgan’s lucid and empirical explanation is the reality in which most organizations and leadership functions. In Morgan’s mechanistic view “images or metaphors only create partial ways of seeing, for in encouraging us to see and understand the world from one perspective they discourage us from seeing it from others”. (Morgan, 1997, p. 27) . In this construct one has to “fit in” and fill “a slot”. (Morgan, p. 26). I plan to expand on this theme in my personal discussion of my experiences in the providing education to those who do not “fit in”. Although some organizations have realized spectacular success using the mechanistic model as described by Morgan, this paradigm to organization structure has severe limitations. (Morgan, p. 28) “In particular they (a) can create organizational forms that have great difficulty in adapting to changing circumstances; (b) can result in mindless and unquestioning bureaucracy; (c) can have unanticipated and undesirable consequences as the interests of those

Page 4 of 9 Systems Theory Paper # 1

Professor Ken Otter


David Walker

St. Mary’s College – LDSH 210

Jan 26, 2009

working in the organization take precedence over the goals of the organization was designed to achieve; and [most importantly!] can have a dehumanizing effect ...” (Morgan, p. 28). Morgan’s observations are entirely congruent with an examination made by James MacGregor Burns in his Pulitzer Prize winning book “Leadership.” “Bureaucracy pursues goals that may as easily become separated from a hierarchy of original purposes and that may easily become separated from a hierarchy of original purposes and values as from [required] human needs . . . the personal characteristics of superior and subordinate and the virtue or good sense of the rules or decisions are held to be irrelevant” (Burns, 1978, p. 296). If I can be so bold as to offer a new definition of 21st century organizations and leadership, I would make sure the following eight words are prominent in this definition: (1) noncoercive; and (2) recognition of basic human dignity and needs.

Page 5 of 9 Systems Theory Paper # 1

Professor Ken Otter


David Walker

St. Mary’s College – LDSH 210

Jan 26, 2009

USE EXPERIENCES FROM YOUR OWN LIFE AND WORK TO ILLUSTRATE YOUR POINTS Teaching Students Who Do Not “Fit In”

One day in December 2008, three middle school girls arrived at the West Oakland Lasallian Educational Opportunity (LEO) Center and called my attention to the suffering of one of their friends – a young Nigerian girl named Uchechi who was withdrawn and her eyes were red and swollen with tears. When I privately spoke with the young middle school student Uchechi I observed the remnants of a still visible first mark on her face. Another student at school had punched her in the face with a closed fist in what other student witness credibly described as an unprovoked fight. From my experience and direct work and observations of Uchechi I would describe her as an outstanding student possessive of an exceptionally calm and emotionally mature demeanor. This incident of schoolyard violence is nothing new. Smart students (a.k.a. nerds) have always been singled out and bullied since time immemorial. Yet, this violence is symptomatic of a larger problem facing student in an urban setting. For example, I have one young student named “Ioshi” who has great difficulty with vocabulary. Instead of sending her to the dictionary to look up the meaning of her vocabulary words I try and use the Socratic Method with her. One day, Ioshi asked me what the meaning of the word “prostrate” meant. My response was, “Ioshi I will use the word prostrate in a sentence and you tell me what it means. The man was lying prostrate. He was face down on the ground.” Ioshi’s response was, “Oh! I know what that means!” I asked her to use the word in a sentence. She responded, “My uncle was lying

Page 6 of 9 Systems Theory Paper # 1

Professor Ken Otter


David Walker

St. Mary’s College – LDSH 210

Jan 26, 2009

prostrate in the middle of the street.” When I asked her what this meant, she communicated that she had witnessed her dead uncle lying in the middle of the street after being shot in the back of the head. I have a dozen other stories of extreme acts of violence, which students I work with have to face and have nonchalantly communicated to me. These young children seem to accept this as a normal and acceptable social state. Nothing is out of the ordinary for them because this is the reality of their existence. When I was a young child, my father would regularly inflict horrific physical beatings upon myself and my mother. I am not talking about the occasional whipping with a belt or the occasional closed fist punch in anger. On many occasions I was beaten unconscious and would wake up in a hospital with broken bones. I have been thrown through plate glass patio doors and my mother has had her right cheek bone shattered and right ear drum ruptured by repeated and violent closed fist pummeling. As shocking as this may seem to me now, at the time I was a child I accept this as a normal state of existence. My belief was that all fathers beat their children and their wives. This is all I knew and nobody was ever supposed to talk about their family problems. There was great social pressure to act normal and “fit in”. The collateral effect of this physically abusive family environment would manifest itself in personal cognitive and emotional difficulties that would affect my behavior and performance in school. I have difficulty concentrating and would on many occasions actually be in a clinical state of emotional shock while trying to attend school. I believe that students who fail completing their education or perform poorly due to emotional development or cognitive issues need to be recognized and compassionately Page 7 of 9 Systems Theory Paper # 1

Professor Ken Otter


David Walker

St. Mary’s College – LDSH 210

Jan 26, 2009

supported. Expecting students to “fit in” or fill a “slot” when there are substantial underlying emotional and cognitive issues is a bureaucratic and uncompassionate paradigm. The issue of the effects of extreme violence affects not only children but also adults, especially in certain professions like: police officers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, firefighters, emergency rescue personnel, victims of violent crimes and accidents, and solider in the military. One recent report indicated that over 40% of the soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq suffer from clinically significant Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). (citation omitted). Because of the inability of our current system to recognize or take care of our people who have suffered great physical or emotional trauma, a social symptom rises where out of desperation these people turn to substance abuse or exhibit neurotic and violent emotional outbursts, depression or hopelessness, and become disconnected and unproductive member of the social fabric.

Page 8 of 9 Systems Theory Paper # 1

Professor Ken Otter


David Walker

St. Mary’s College – LDSH 210

Jan 26, 2009

WORKS CITED Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership. New York: Harper & Row Publishers. Capra, F. (2004). The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living. New York: Knopf Publishing Group. Center for Ecoliteracy. (2009, January 26). About - Board. Retrieved January 26, 2009, from Center for Ecoliteracy: http://www.ecoliteracy.org/about/board.html Morgan, G. (1997). Images of Orginizations. Thousand Oaks, California 91320: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Page 9 of 9 Systems Theory Paper # 1

Professor Ken Otter

System Theory 2  

leadership, system theory

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