From Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt, author of The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America
THE 1990–91 (WINTER) ISSUE OF OUTCOMES, an educational journal devoted to discussion of Outcome-Based Education and the problems associated with its implementation (teachers’, administrators’ and community resistance) published a remarkable article entitled “Paradigm Change: More Magic than Logic” by John C. Hillary.
The reader should remember that the manipulation of classroom teachers and administrators discussed in this article is standard operating procedure in most schools undergoing “restructuring.”
Excerpts from Hillary’s article in Outcomes follow:
The deeper changes that frustrate leaders and threaten followers are planned second-order changes.... These changes intentionally challenge widely shared assumptions, disintegrate the context of “organization” and, in general, reframe the social system. This, in turn, generates widespread ambiguity, discontinuity, anxiety, frustration, confusion, paranoia, cynicism and anger as well as temporary dysfunction. Such trauma often builds to the point that leaders abandon their efforts.
The most disruptive changes—second order changes—on the other hand, call into question the entire context of organization. Such multidimensional changes not only challenge the content of each domain but also disrupt the alignment among them. Paradigm change is therefore not only traumatic in and of itself, but also challenges other attributes and disintegrates the relationship among all domains. The eventual outcome of such change is “transformed” or “renewed” organization.
The new vision for schooling suggested by contemporary educators represents a significant “second order” challenge to school organization.
The leader of planned second order change will be regarded as out of context by the organization. If he thinks and behaves in accord with a vision that
requires second order changes, he has no choice but to violate or challenge the established culture, mission/purpose, and paradigm of the organization.
From the existing frame of reference, such behavior will be seen as illogical. Powerful and pervasive psycho-social forces will bear down on the renegade in a relentless organizational effort to bring him back into alignment. Unless the leader succeeds in progressively bending the pervasive frame, persistence is increasingly risky.
During second order change, the organization must face and hopefully pass through a period of widespread psychological ambiguity, social disconnectedness and general confusion....The requisite disintegration of the existing culture, mission/purpose, and paradigm disrupts the organization’s frame of reference. During this time, there is little or no clear and consistent context to guide the thinking and behavior of members. In social systems, this condition produces dysfunction, anxiety, frustration, disequilibrium, and systemic chaos.
The instigator of second order change must consistently behave in ways that will not make sense when framed by the existing context. With time and leadership, the organization environment must move from initially and
naturally selecting against the innovation to selecting for the innovation.
The extinction of the old way of doing business is the desired outcome. Hence and with time, the risk should gradually shift away from the innovator and toward those who persist in holding on to “the way it’s always been.”