Sunday, June 18, 2006

Holons, or Organic Education...

Having just read Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" (see previous post), I can't help but think about how the comparison between the industrialized food production cycle and the nature/organic/localized one can be made re education, especially in the US at the moment.

The industrial model pursues efficiency via standardization and (over) simplification, while in natural systems efficiencies flow from complexity and interdependence.

Pollan cited one 'beyond organic' farmer who described how he stacked enterprises, layering diverse and interdependent activities on one piece of land. The farmer called each of his stacked enterprises a "holon", a word (Pollan explains) originating with Arthur Koestler and meaning an entity that is both self-contained and a dependent part of a bigger system.

For example, one holon on his farm is to have cows graze a new pasture every day, with another holon being to have chickens feed in that same field three days later in order to eat the larvae just hatched in the cowpats. The farmer described himself as the orchestra conductor, "making sure everybody's in the right place at the right time".

I'd like to think of the school library as a holon -- just as every primary school classroom and the other specialist lessons are holons -- each self-contained and yet part of an interrelated system, with collaboration and communication between teachers and teacher-librarians necessary to make sure that the flow of intellectual nutrition is gathered at exactly the best moment.

So who's the orchestra conductor? The curriculum coordinator? Better yet, the teacher-librarian...

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