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Topic: Democracy - how to achieve it?
Replies: 9   Last Post: Dec 20, 2012 9:03 AM

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GS Chandy

Posts: 8,307
From: Hyderabad, Mumbai/Bangalore, India
Registered: 9/29/05
Re: Democracy - how to achieve it?
Posted: Dec 19, 2012 10:31 PM
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Dominico Rosa posted Dec 20, 2012 2:42 AM (GSC's remarks at end):
> On 17 Dec 2012, GS Chandy wrote:

> > Domenico Rosa posted Dec 17, 2012 5:03 AM:
> > >
> > > GS Chandy, Are you familiar with the Iron Law of
> > > Oligarchy?
> > >
> > >

> > >
> > I am. It happens to be more a 'wooden rule' than it
> > is an 'iron rule'

> The Iron Law of Oligarchy applies not only to
> government, but also to all sorts of
> organizations--in particular it applies to the
> National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).
> Based on my observations during the past 23 years,
> there is overwhelming evidence demonstrating that the
> "elites" who control the NCTM operate this
> organization for their own benefit--and not for the
> improvement of K-12 mathematics education in the U.S.

It does(/did) indeed. No question at all that NCTM needs to improve significantly in order to meet the demands of education. No doubt whatsoever there is huge need for the improvement of K-12 math education in the US (and elsewhere in the world). However:

When these 'iron laws' relating to institutions and instruments within society are proposed by followers without an adequate understanding of 'societal systems' they can only be described as 'wooden laws', I'm afraid.

Robert Michels formulated his 'Iron Law of Oligarchy' in 1911 or so, long before Ludwig von Bertalanffy and others articulated the modern concepts of 'general systems theory' (GST).

"Systems theory was proposed in the 1940's by the biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy and furthered by Ross Ashby. von Bertalanffy was reacting agaInst both reductionism and attempting to revive the unity of science" -

I for one am in no doubt that Robert Michels would have understood (or would have tried to understand) the implications of GST and would have tried to find out how he could modify his "Iron Law" in the light of the insights of systems theory.

Even later than von Bertalanffy, John N. Warfield (1925-2009) demonstrated - from the early 1970s onwards - practical means to understand and use 'systems' in a scientific way ('systems science'). Check out:; ;;query=; .

I believe Michels would have realized that his one-time 'Iron Law' (in its original form) had now become somewhat 'wooden' and would have tried to reformulate it. Would that his followers gain such insights!

[Undoubtedly there is plenty of room for modern insights into how society and its instruments (including the NCTM, the K-12 math education system, etc, etc) will continue failing us, due to structures inherent in them, due to characteristics inherent in us human beings who design, maintain and operate those systems. However, one will now need systems science to develop such insights].

As to how to design effective 'systems for the improvement of K-12 mathematics (or other) education in the US' (or anywhere else), check out the tools described at the attachments to my message at

On the other hand, one could also hark back to, for example, Aristotle's profound insights (384 BC-322 BC) ( - and claim there is no way forward after those foundational advances.


Message was edited by: GS Chandy

Message was edited by: GS Chandy

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