The Math Forum

Search All of the Math Forum:

Views expressed in these public forums are not endorsed by NCTM or The Math Forum.

Math Forum » Discussions » Education » math-teach

Notice: We are no longer accepting new posts, but the forums will continue to be readable.

Topic: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
Replies: 21   Last Post: Feb 25, 2017 11:15 AM

Advanced Search

Back to Topic List Back to Topic List Jump to Tree View Jump to Tree View   Messages: [ Previous | Next ]
GS Chandy

Posts: 8,307
From: Hyderabad, Mumbai/Bangalore, India
Registered: 9/29/05
Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
Posted: Oct 4, 2013 2:12 AM
  Click to see the message monospaced in plain text Plain Text   Click to reply to this topic Reply

Responding to Kirby Urner's post dt. Oct 3, 2013 9:12 AM ( - GSC's response interspersed):
> On Wed, Oct 2, 2013 at 6:52 PM, GS Chandy
> <> wrote:

> > I've been through your "An Introduction to
> Synergetics" as well as the
> > Wikipedia entry to Synergetics provided there. I
> believe it might be more
> > appropriately called 'An Introduction to An
> Introduction to Synergetics'.
> > I've also been through the 'Synergetics Figure
> Index', and I'm currently
> > wading through (whenever I have the energy) the
> 'Synergetics Dictionary
> > Online'
> >

> If you've visited 'Synergetics Figure Index' on the
> web then you've been to
> the web site containing the full text of Synergetics,
> nothing you'd need to
> buy or get from a library.

Thanks - that's a great relief to know! Which means I may be able to get to the BIG job of 'revisiting Synergetics' sooner than I had anticipated. (I believe I found both that and Applewhite's name when I linked to something you had posted).
> When it was published in hard copy, it was too
> voluminous to fit between
> the covers of one book. However the sections and
> passages are numbered and
> the two on-line are shuffled together like the two
> halves of a deck of
> cards.

This is probably going to make my visit fairly arduous (alas)!
> Fuller waited until almost the end of his life to get
> this work in a
> publishable form. Mostly he was about designing
> artifacts and spreading
> the idea that the science of design was a more
> effective change agent (for
> better or for worse -- we hope for the better) than
> politics.

I fully realise that Bucky Fuller was all about developing a truly new way of 'looking at the world' - and that therefore his work is sometimes incomprehensible to beginners. I do hope I may be able to use OPMS a bit in trying the very ambitious Mission "To help make Buckminster Fuller's Synergetics easily accessible (and usable) by beginners" (or "To try to write a beginner's manual for Synergetics"), which I believe is a very important Mission to help us (humankind) arrive at a better understanding of how the world is 'engineered', so to speak, and how our impact on it could be 'better engineered' (for the future of the planet [as well as for us humans]). As noted, I don't believe Professor Applewhite has quite succeeded in doing that though such may have been his intention.
> Both left and right wing fanatics use the iPhone and
> the Internet.
> Artifacts, in being more apolitical, are also more
> revolutionary /
> evolutionary.
> Language itself is an artifact and in Synergetics he
> was crafting a kind of
> custom-made "universal language" that for him was a
> kind of Esperanto or
> common language for decoding the communications of
> others. I'd say it was
> experimental but also experience-tested.
> We're all in principle free to, and in some sense
> responsible for, doing
> the same thing: constructing our own sense of
> reality and what's going on.

We are, indeed thus free (in principle [though not in practice, as explained]); every *normal* infant and every child does that successfully. HOWEVER, once we get into school, our existing 'systems' often prevent us from doing what should come naturally to us (see Churchill quote below).

The difficulty arises when we try to communicate our 'mental models' to others via a layperson's language. To try to use a math terminology (perhaps not very accurately):

A layperson's language for communication with others is not isomorphic to his/her mental models. [In fact, NO language - including mathematics, I believe - is isomorphic to the mental models it tries to describe].

Warfield's approach to systems science could help us create or evolve needed isomorphisms to enable more effective communication. [One difficulty is that conventional 'modeling theory' is not adequate for the needs of the world. I believe I have in various earlier postings referred to a document "What is modeling?" which provides some hints of an adequate and *effective* way to do our modeling (developed from something that Warfield had written) - the OPMS is a tool to enable precisely that].
> E.J. Applewhite was especially keen to have Fuller
> leave some essential or
> distilled version of his language for the ages.
> Applewhite knew, more than most (having been a fan of
> Fuller's from his
> teen years on), that Fuller considered crafting his
> own language an
> exercise in personal integrity. Fuller had become
> highly distrustful of
> the language he'd inherited and resolved in the late
> 1920s to more boldly
> resist standard patterns of thought, starting over
> from scratch with
> whatever info he most trusted. He stopped speaking,
> except to his wife, for almost three years.

Indeed. I myself for a long time found myself unable to communicate with people on issues I deeply cared about - till Warfield's approach to systems showed me a way to do that, which then led to OPMS as a simple tool that could help very significantly. (At one stage, I even did 'Vipasana', the first bit of which demands that one stops speaking for 10 days - not a single word to escape one's mouth!)
> Applewhite (later a friend of mine, after a mutual
> assessment phase) wasn't
> a university professor.

I've been planning to look up Applewhite - shall do that soon.
> That was Arthur Loeb, who taught at MIT and
> Harvard and who wrote an appendix to Synergetics.

I had heard about Arthur Loeb - though did not know much about him.
> > The Wikipedia article does tell me plenty of
> >interesting (and useful)
> > things about Synergetics; it does NOT show me how
> >to understand
> > Synergetics in such a way that I can start using it
> >myself. As you've
> > implied (I think), Synergetics is DIFFICULT stuff
> > (for beginners, at least).

> In some ways it's of more historical than
> contemporary interest. In other
> ways it may be ahead of its time (a time capsule for
> the future to better
> appreciate).

It was way ahead of its time when it appeared; I believe it is STILL ahead of its time, though nowadays we have become a *little* more aware that it is important for us to understand how 'nature engineers the world' (if the metaphor I'm using is the right one).
> Like there's a lot of source material on geodesic
> spheres, but you can get
> the same information in less cryptic / strange
> language from other sources.

I'd be delighted to receive some suggestions about where I might find those other sources as well. (That goal of mine "To make Synergetics readily understandable - and usable - by anyone at all" is very, VERY ambitious, and I'm not certain I have the abilities [or time] to accomplish it alone!)
> When you say "system" which you do a lot (as do I)
> what do you imagine?
> Maybe nothing in particular.

'System' to me means something very, VERY specific indeed. To begin with, the definition in Wikipedia is *fairly* adequate (though not quite sufficient):

"A system is a set of interacting or interdependent components forming an integrated whole[1] or a set of elements (often called 'components' ) and relationships which are different from relationships of the set or its elements to other elements or sets." (The last bit of this ["which are different..."] is not clear - the rest is OK).

Even more, MUCH MORE, it means to me that we need to be able to understand - and PRACTICALLY work on - the systems within which we are embedded. We need to be able to construct systems to help us do various things:

- -- "To write this post at Math-teach"

- -- "To create the OPMS s/w"

- -- "To create a sound PowerPoint presentation about OPMS (for a specified audience)"

- -- "To understand all topics of my math syllabus, and THEREBY to improve, very significantly, my results in my math exam, tests, quizzes" (Successfully done by a college fresher)

- -- "To get myself an interesting and satisfying job on graduation" (successfully done by a fair number of people)

- -- "To become a first-rate s/w developer within 1/3/5/... years" (successfully done by most of my s/w developers in my company Interactive LogicWare [ILW], which developed the prototype OPMS s/w).

- -- "To convince my co-directors in ILW to use OPMS in their day to day work" (FAILURE!)

- -- "To conduct an effective workshop for Orgn. X" (Done, with greater or lesser success, for a number of organisations)

- -- "To ensure that our Indian children do not any longer suffer malnutrition" (Have not yet got a government orgn. or a voluntary orgn. to take this up!) [You probably know that roughly 40% of Indian children are suffering from malnutrition because of parental poverty - at the same time several hundreds of thousands of tons of foodgrain are wasted in India - going rotten; being eaten or destroyed by insects and rats - as our systems of storing and distributing foodgrains are ineffective)

- -- "To ensure effective governance in India" (not taken up yet)

- -- "To develop an effective educational system (in India; in the USA)" (Not taken up yet).

- -- "To convince Haim, Wayne Bishop, Robert Hansen (and others) that sloganeering is futile" (By and large, OPMS has not successfully enabled me to succeed AT ALL with this kind of Mission. I surmise that 'sloganeers' are generally unable to do the kind of systematic thinking and intellectual work that OPMS demands for even minimal success)

- -- etc, etc, etc (unendingly).

The 'sufficiency' most easily develops when one actually develops a representation of a 'system' via OPMS - this is when one actually *starts understanding* the way systems in the world (our constructed world/the 'natural' world) are interlinked. [Remember that any OPMS constructed is, in fact, a 'representation' of the person's mental models on the chosen 'Mission'].
> In the language of Synergetics, there's a strong
> etymological tie between
> the word "system" and the Platonic wire frame of six
> edges and four nodes
> we call "the tetrahedron".
> The idea that "systems" might sometimes consist of
> edges (connections) and
> nodes (dots) is not all that far fetched. The
> tetrahedron happens to be
> the simplest node + edge diagram that implies an
> inside versus an outside
> i.e. it's the first "cage" or "space divider" or
> "inside outside divider".
> You might say "no, that's a sphere" but no matter, we
> have a shared
> concept, of something with an inside, concave
> interior and an outside
> convex exterior.
> So even when we say "criminal justice system",
> there's that sense of
> insider and outsider views. Having geometric
> metaphors in the background
> adds structure to thought.

Oh yes, it does indeed!
> That's what Synergetics is about in many ways:
> wiring up your associations
> such that when you think of A, you also tend to think
> of B. That's what
> any language does. Languages are memory management
> tools more than we appreciate sometimes.
> Language helps us dredge up the most relevant
> information when confronted
> with a situation.

A heartfelt 'YES' to everything in the paragraphs above.
> Synergetics is "reprogramming" for those who immerse
> themselves in it, but
> then so is any great work in the humanities.

Well, yes. My understanding is that, in order to avert our (humanity's) slide into *the abyss ahead* it is ESSENTIAL to enable a great many of us humans to understand (AND APPLY) the wisdom contained in the *great works* of the humanities. Perhaps then we can start undoing the severe damage done by 'civilisation' and its demands to the planet.

I claim that this is something that the OPMS can enable, quite significantly indeed.
> > Yes, Professor (?) EJ Applewhite DOES imply that
> his 90-page Index at the
> > end of Synergetics 2 along with his dictionary
> constitute an effective
> > 'learning guide' to Synergetics. This is not a
> justifiable claim (I
> > believe, from my own experience with these
> documents). However, I shall
> > continue my 'wading' in the hope that I shall one
> day learn to swim. [I
> > must note that I currently do not have access to
> the 2 volumes of
> > 'Synergetics]. All said and done, I believe the
> world still awaits (in my
> > case, most eagerly indeed) an effective
> "Introduction to Synergetics" that
> > can encourage and enable people to take up the
> study of both the
> > Synergetics volumes.
> >

> If you're that committed to wading, then may I
> recommend my own little
> tract, published in the early 1990s:
> ml

I shall certainly STUDY it with very keen interest - it may well render my own 'wading' unnecessary. Thanks - I've already opened it on another screen.
> The font is kinda tiny but you no doubt know how to
> tell your browser to
> bump it up.

I do (and have done that!)
> > I've also been through "Leveraging Python" and a
> few other of your 'Grain
> > of Sand' entries. Shall do more later.
> >

> I appreciate your visiting my blogs. Many of my
> postings link back to
> threads here on math-teach.

Yes, I've seen that.
> > I've not yet been able to look at/hear 'Cabin in
> the Woods' - shall try to
> > do that in due course.
> > >
> >
> Don't worry about it. I realize that when we post to
> a public archive, we
> have an opportunity to leave bread crumb trails to
> interesting resources.
> I can't expect any given reader to follow all of them
> or any of them really.

Well, I do *try* to follow as many of your bread crumb trails as I have time and energy for - both in shortish supply these days as I'm getting older, and my own major 'Mission', "To propagate OPMS in India and worldwide" not having 'taken off' as it should have.
> Our household is a fan of Joss Whedon (TV and movie
> director /
> screenwriter). If you follow his career, you get to
> a lot in our shared
> popular culture, but not necessarily parts that
> interest you.

> >
> > >
> > I've been looking at the TerraServer and Google
> Earth - and I can see the
> > potential of these constructs.
> > >
> >
> Yes. The ability to have a globe that allows you to
> zoom in, that shows
> global data, is one of the dreams-come-true in the
> Fuller syllabus.
> He was always writing about something he called a
> Geoscope which would let
> you see global data in a dynamic and animated way.
> Google Earth is a huge
> step towards that.

Fascinating, that Fuller was able to see so VERY far ahead of his time!! But not really surprising, considering his works on 'geodesic domes', 'tensegrity', 'doing more with less', and (I have no doubt) 'Synergetics'.
> He was mindful of the fact that a globe doesn't show
> the whole surface at
> once, and there's the whole cartographic science of
> map projections
> designed to give us whole surface views that aren't
> too misleading.
> As you know, the prevalent Mercator Projection shows
> Greenland as way
> overblown in size and has no good way of dealing with
> the poles.

That brings to mind my 'foncusions' when first in school I encountered these representations in geography classes: it took years and years and years before I even began to understand!
> One of
> Fuller's artifacts is another projection that uses
> the same geometry behind geodesic spheres.

Fascinating - I've just opened it and shall look forward to studying it more carefully in due course.
> The Geoscope and his world map went together as two
> artifacts to use while
> playing World Game, a third artifact (people would
> come together with
> Fuller to play these "World Games" which were like
> workshops for people who
> need to integrate data and help drive policy
> formulation, perhaps using
> simulations or just simple models).
> World Game often happens in a kind of "situation
> room" where you have world
> maps updating on monitors, showing various trends and
> events.
> Anyway, he'd fantasize about such things a lot. A
> Geoscope in the East
> River, facing the UN. A globe that folded out into
> his projection as an
> Expo Pavilion.
> These were the forms the dream took before the
> Internet.

How VERY sad that he passed on before the Internet came around! I believe he would have done wonders with it.
> Science Museums are also starting to sprout
> "geoscopes". You can bet
> they're used in situation rooms to which the public
> has less access:
> new-visitors-center/article/145584

Thanks for that link - looks most interesting indeed.
> >
> > The question is, how to stimulate *us* (i.e., human

> beings at large - this
> > I'm sure is essential) into doing the hard work of
> 'becoming smart' (or, at
> > least, *somewhat smarter* than we have been showing
> ourselves to be since
> > the age of Newton)???
> >

> Smartphones? Netbooks?
> Artifacts have entered our lives to amplify our
> access to the thinking of
> others, to information.

Well, Smartphones (though I've never used one yet), Netbooks, Internet as a whole, Google, etc, etc, are indeed useful artifacts *to enable* us become smarter.

However, I claim that we really need to relearn how to look on the world as we did when we were infants and children (before our minds were 'shaped' by our existing very ineffective societal systems - see paraphrase below of Churchill saying).

See, for instance, "How a Child Learns", which I have uploaded as one one of the attachments to my post heading the thread "Democracy: how to achieve it?" (

See also my paraphrase of Churchill's famous saying:

"First we shape our buildings; then our buildings shape us"

(My version: substitute the word "systems" for "buildings" - and we have a very useful guide for a long, LONG time to come, perhaps generations and centuries! That may, in fact, be one of the most important of ideas that could help save ourselves from *the abyss*).
> We have tools like Google, for searching. These
> revolutionary artifacts
> are collectively changing the consciousness of
> humanity, for better or for
> worse (or neither, or both).

The underlying issue is (I strongly believe): How "to ensure that these artifacts collectively change the consciousness for the better (instead of 'for the worse', which is too often the case in so many real life instances we see featured in the news these days)" ???
> > I'd suspect that this is the real issue of this
> era. We do have
> > practically all the needed tools - but I do despair
> sometimes that we'll
> > ever do the needed hard work to *escape the abyss*
> lying just ahead of us.
> >
> > And yes, as you've noted below, in many schools,

> the 'prevalent culture'
> > is to set the kids up to succumb to Malthusian
> despair. Once that's more
> > or less *ingrained in a person's thinking*, it's
> well-nigh impossible - at
> > least it's EXTREMELY, SUPREMELY difficult - to get
> him/her out of that way
> > of thought. (And then not to forget that we do
> have the relatively less
> > dangerous problem of the 'sloganeers' around us!!!
> Yes, they're rather
> > less dangerous, but they are definitely sizable
> barriers to be overcome).
> >
> > GSC
> >

> It's important to talk about in what ways Malthus was
> right too.
> From his point of view, there would be no physical
> way to support even the
> 7 billion humans on Planet Earth today.

Well, yes. But we cannot deny that things are rather 'dire', to put it mild1y!
> Malthus worked for the London College of Economics
> and was tasked with
> assembling a big picture view of the world's
> resources, in service of his
> Empire. He did not anticipate canning, or
> refrigeration on a massive
> scale, ways of preserving food that have kept its
> nutritional value way
> beyond what was possible in his day.

I agree. But we should not expect that such advances will happen forever. And I am ALWAYS conscious of the fact that 'human advance' seems to be so often at the cost of other life on earth - animals, plants, etc. Right now, here is one very depressing instance:

Environmental activists here are concerned that our government of Karnataka is being pressed by commercial to open up night traffic through the Bandipur Game Sanctuary - which they had banned a couple of years ago because of the unending slaughter of animals (elephants, tigers, bison, deer etc) by cargo trucks speeding through the roads there at night. Such instances multiply almost unendingly in India: animals are losing thousands on thousands of hectares of their habitat each year due to encroachment by 'civilisation' and its 'requirements': how to resolve this problem is something I cannot see (even using OPMS!)
> The ability to do more with less has also been an
> exponential growth curve,
> in addition to population.

The underlying problem is that we cannot do "more (or anything at all) with nothing" if we reach that stage - and we ARE in grave danger of that. Here is one depressing statistic that is ALWAYS in the front of my mind:

When we in India achieved Independence from the Brits, we had:

- -- a human population of less than 350 million;
- -- more than 40% of our land areas under (thick) forest cover;
- -- more than 40,000 tigers in the wild.

Today, in just 65-odd years, we have:

- -- a human population of over 1.2 billion (and counting, AND COUNTING!);
- -- less than 10% of our land area under (degraded) forest cover (and counting);
- -- rather less than 1200 tigers in the wild.
(The 'tigers' represent only one very visible symbol of the total 'loss of diversity' in India).
> In schools, we should clue students that humans are
> not in a completely hopeless situation and they should
> not feel consumed by fear.

True enough. But our situation is very, VERY dire indeed. The real problem (unrealised by most of us) is that we really aren't working (or even thinking) with adequate seriousnessness of the *underlying problem* we're facing:

We (most of us humans) are still continuing to live under the much mistaken impression - the 'Victorian' (or even Biblical!) idea - that we humans are the "Masters of the Universe" - and that 'God' has given us this planet to be our plaything.

It is obviously quite difficult to reconcile ourselves to a changed philosophy: "We are only a minor part of the Universe, not its masters at all!" (And our technology is a powerful tool that could lead to us destroying our habitat).
> But are they
> getting this message. Where does the school register
> on the Fear versus
> Longing meter? How does one quantify this axis?

How indeed? Our science has not reached such a stage yet when this can be quantified (though there have been some attempts). When I'm confronted with the 'world situation' as outlined in my 'tiger instance', I feel deeply alarmed.

When I'm confronted with the fact that, by and large, we humans ABSOLUTELY REFUSE to try to understand how to, for instance, "DO MORE WITH LESS" (in the face of the global situation as instanced by my 'tiger example') - I do fear that we are heading for a time when we shall have to try to do 'SOMETHING WITH NOTHING' which to my best understanding is impossible.

OF COURSE science has developed so that we can always now clone tigers from their remnants of hair or blood - but I believe that is by NO MEANS an adequate substitute for those 40,000 tigers in the wild!
> Given students take personality tests, there should
> be a way to measure a
> school's "personality".
> Kirby

I strongly believe we do need to learn to understand the Buddhist/Jain teaching of 'respect for life' (though I am not a vegetarian, by any means) [There are many Buddhists and Jains who follow the 'norms' but still lack that essential 'respect for life']. The film Avatar contained one truly profound scene, when the Zoe Saldanha character humbly begged the pardon/forgiveness of some wild creature she had killed or was about to kill.


Message was edited by: GS Chandy

Message was edited by: GS Chandy

Date Subject Author
Read Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
Richard Hake
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
Wayne Bishop
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
Jonathan J. Crabtree
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
Louis Talman
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
Wayne Bishop
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
GS Chandy
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
kirby urner
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
GS Chandy
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
kirby urner
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
GS Chandy
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
kirby urner
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
GS Chandy
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
kirby urner
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
GS Chandy
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
kirby urner
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
GS Chandy
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
kirby urner
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
GS Chandy
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
kirby urner
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
GS Chandy
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
Paula Greenlaw
Read Re: Why Have K-12 Educators Ignored Benezet's Breakthrough?
Bishop, Wayne

Point your RSS reader here for a feed of the latest messages in this topic.

[Privacy Policy] [Terms of Use]

© The Math Forum at NCTM 1994-2018. All Rights Reserved.