Chapter 10: Living In an Integrated World
An Integrated World Requires Integral Education
Adult School: A Guide for the Perplexed
Besides the speaking, human level of Nature, all the other levels—still, vegetative, and animate—operate in mutual guarantee. Homeostasis, as defined in Webster’s Dictionary, perfectly matches the description of mutual guarantee on the levels below that of the speaking: “A relatively stable state of equilibrium or a tendency toward such a state between the different but interdependent elements or groups of elements of an organism, population, or group.”[i]
Our current, predominantly capitalistic society shuns equilibrium, mocks the tendency toward it, and dreads interdependence. In fact, we endorse and campaign for the opposite. We praise individual achievements in sports, business, politics, and the academia, and we idolize those at the top. We overlook those who contribute to the well-being of the collective and cherish individualism and independence.
But a society that functions in this manner cannot last very long. Think of our human bodies. If our bodies conducted themselves by the values that dominate our society, we would not make it past the initial cell-differentiation in the embryonic stage. As soon as cells would begin to form different organs, they would start fighting each other for resources and the embryo would disintegrate. Life would not be possible if any part of it embraced the individualistic values just described. It is because life, meaning Nature, adheres to the rules of homeostasis that we can develop and sustain ourselves, and have evolved to the point where we can ponder the nature and purpose of our existence.
Indeed, not only organisms, but our entire planetary ecosystem, even the cosmos, are in a state of homeostasis. When the balance breaks down, troubles soon ensue. An eye-opening and rather amusing report submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in October, 2003 by Irene Sanders and Judith McCabe clearly demonstrates what happens when we tilt an ecosystem off its homeostatic state. “In 1991, an orca—a killer whale—was seen eating a sea otter. Orcas and otters usually coexist peacefully. So, what happened? Ecologists found that ocean perch and herring were also declining. Orcas don’t eat those fish, but seals and sea lions do. And seals and sea lions are what orcas usually eat, and their population had also declined. So deprived of their seals and sea lions, orcas started turning to the playful sea otters for dinner.
“So otters have vanished because the fish, which they never ate in the first place, have vanished. Now, the ripple spreads. Otters are no longer there to eat sea urchins, so the sea urchin population has exploded. But sea urchins live off seafloor kelp forests, so they’re killing off the kelp. Kelp has been home to fish that feed seagulls and eagles. Like orcas, seagulls can find other food, but bald eagles can’t and they’re in trouble.
“All this began with the decline of ocean perch and herring. Why? Well, Japanese whalers have been killing off the variety of whales that eat the same microscopic organisms that feed pollock [a type of carnivorous fish]. With more fish to eat, pollock flourish. They in turn attack the perch and herring that were food for the seals and sea lions. With the decline in the population of sea lions and seals, the orcas must turn to otters.”[ii]
Think of the way we behave toward each other. We are competitive, alienated, isolated from each other, and aspire to excel over others. Keep in mind that this is not the exception, but the norm, the values we all teach our children as the “right” way to be. This is why an adult school, a guide for the perplexed adult, is necessary.
The way in which this school will operate should vary from place to place and from country to country. Each nation and country has its own mentality and culture, a different level of technological advancement and means of communication, and traditions by which people learn. For this reason, each country, sometimes each city will have to develop its own method of instruction. However, the fundamental content, the principles that all these adult education systems will teach must be the same. Otherwise the result will be disparity in the population’s commitment to mutual responsibility and the understanding of its importance to our lives.
Let’s examine some of the fundamental principles that education toward mutual guarantee should instill.
[ii] T. Irene Sanders and Judith McCabe, PhD, The Use of Complexity Science: a Survey of Federal Departments and Agencies, Private Foundations, Universities, and Independent Education and Research Centers, October 2003, Washington Center for Complexity & Public Policy, Washington, DC. url: www.hcs.ucla.edu/DoEreport.pdf