Some 10 years ago I sat across from an Aerial Wolf Hunting Lobbyist in Juneau AK as a long beard, back to the lander with AK roots. He was a brilliant old timer: healthy, clean shaven, calloused, and tucked in….a big city (relative) look. Visiting my father (also lobbying) we had sat for breakfast in the oldest hotel in town. I could not stop looking at this man. I was doing work informally on reserve design for the Yellowstone to Yukon initative and was as I still am, a proponent of balance in ecological systems….read predators as keystone species…. Legislation was up to challenge shooting wolves from airplanes and I agreed with it. He looked like he may have a differing opinion so I engaged him and will never forget the learning that took place that day.
Me: “Are you here for the legislative session”
Old Fellow: “Yes, I am….I’m here to support aerial hunting”
I remember being startled that he would engage me in this way
Me: “Why do you support killing wolves”
Old Fellow: “Its about balance, son”
He went on to describe how in the 1950′s and 1960′s the wolf management program disrupted the ecosystems in drastic ways and created an imbalance that will take radical and systemic change to right. In his community of McGrath, though there where disagreements, a susbistence life was built around Caribou, tourism and self sufficiency….he was not about to let his lifeway go without evidence of how disrupting the “new” balance (keeping wolf populations low dealing with bear predation on fawning caribou….) was viable on the ground. He was not going to allow a tight knit group of bush dwellers to suffer for peoples lofty philosophy. Theirs was a deep opinion and way of life. It was political, economic and environmental.
This meeting has been a clarion call for me. Since that time I have studied why the “balance” in the world exists and specifically why school reform and tinkering toward utopia (Tyack 1995) fails to address the core balance in education and learning. Lobbing softballs in education around PISA and the common core, fixing teachers, students and schools because it is the “right thing to do” does not address the realities of balance and what it takes to change the cultural institution of schooling. Their is a holistic imbalance in learning. The American people do not see why education needs to be changed because the institutions that they participate in have not changed. AP, IB, honors, regents, common core, school re-design, teacher education and beyond feed a static process to enforce an almost 200 year balance and re-balance would effect every aspect of America and in turn the world. Our educational system exists to school a population into 19th and 20th century social, economic, and environmental patterns. These patterns need to be discharged, or detoxed as Monika Hardy and the Innovation Lab of Colorado practice. Furthermore as Illich envisioned in Deschooling society, the very fabric of society will need to awaken and act in new designs and systems. Yes there are growing vestiges of these innovations. However, these vestiges will need to get to the heart of political engagement, move away from ideological trends, and embrace each other through the messiness of their call for peer to peer ecologies. If this process of mutual aid, doxa and thaumadzein is networked, the balance in learning will correct like an ecological system and self organize.