THE FUTURE OF HIGHER
(All chapters are intended for continuing revision)
Volume III, Chapter Ten
(Last updated on Feb. 16, 2008)
NEXT STEPS: A GLOBAL PLANNING NETWORK
(Suggestions for updating and revising are welcome)
Finally now that we
have discussed many agenda items, how should education leaders proceed to develop a large online planning conference on how to achieve `education for all.’
President Steve Eskow after reading through these chapters said
"the single most important aspect of this book is its insistent
call for a dialog among the scholars and academics and higher
education institutions of the world, who in turn invite into the
dialog the other sectors of society, business and industry and
government and many of the agencies of civil society." In
Volume 2 we called for big thinking because human society needs
global strategies: a planetary ecology planning system, a global
health care system, a global governance system that can be more
effective in large scale and longer-range planning, a planetary food
panning and management system as well as an under girding global
education system for job training, lifelong learning and large-scale
research. One place to begin might be
the "The Impact of
Open Source Software on Education" series project site at on
Also the UNESCO online conferences.
The last chapters have proposed serious experiments and technology worthy of discussion and debate at such an online planning conference.’ Now we conclude with some tentative proposals of ways to facilitate political action and discussion to accomplish what must be done to achieve an effective global lifelong learning structure as well as holistic planning in all of humanity's crisis areas. So perhaps we should end here where we began:
In the 1860's the USA developed the `land-grant university' to bring science -- especially in agriculture since a majority of people were employed there--with tuition free learning geared to meeting local needs. Now those needs are both local and global. So could we give serious thought to the idea of `cyberspace grant" global universities dedicated to local needs and lifelong continuing learning? Many universities are now putting their courses online, free to the world, but counselors and tutors are needed online and on campuses to help design a learning program for each unique individual, and to select and create courses in each discipline...and especially for inter-disciplinary research and learnng.
Perhaps long-range global education planning can pave the way for online conferences on other major social problems. Agenda items proposed here for discussion are tentative as yet because lifelong education is coming to the fore at the beginning of a new time we cannot yet really imagine. Sturnick (2000) anticipated education continuing to evolve, change, adapt and embody many purposes. “The wisest and most dramatic transformation, however, will “be created by the moving and weaving shuttle back and forth in designs that interlace the values of service, community, heroic spirit, and stewardship.” How then should we proceed?
When President Sturnick spoke of `heroic spirit,’ she had in mind “the path that joins wisdom and experience, opens our individual lives to universal meaning, and allows for initiation and return to the community with new life template and mission.” To approach the possibility of a complete transformation of learning systems, of the possibility now of bringing adequate learning opportunities to everyone in the world, requires such language as `heroic.’ Such future imaginings, she has said, provide a richer context for moving into the new millennium. The more creative the imagination of education planners becomes, as they redesign patterns of learning and education, the more heroic the future can be. We, she says, are the loom, we are the threads, we are the weavers.”
One such heroic voice at the turn of the century has b een t hat of J. F. Rischard in his book High Noon: 20 Global Problems: 20 Years to Solve Them. The title `High Noon’ reminded us that the world faces potentially disastrous crises. The book jacket summarizes Rischard by saying that he “challenges us to take a new approach to the problems of the 21st century.” He finds that the standard strategies for dealing with them are woefully inadequate to the task.
Political leaders have called for `a war against poverty’ and `a war against drugs’ and so forth but Rischard laments such `wars;' for when they are declared they are rarely really pursued. He also is disappointed at G-8 declarations, global conferences where treaties, as on global warming, are signed but then ignored. Rischard suggested “an alternative concept for accelerating the solution of big global issues. What is needed is a network-enabled, citizen action movement that may be appearing now. He argues for a separate global issues network to tackle each problem.
Each global issue, such as how to provide knowledge and learning for all, should have its own problem-solving vehicle to achieve `distributed intelligence.’ Its organization should not be hierarchical but open to ideas from outside. One reviewer said that every university student should read Rischard and then commit to make a constructive contribution to one of Rischard’s twenty most serious global problems. Can we challenge young people preparing for careers in education to do that?
That `vehicle’ must be on a fast track that will replace the decades it takes to work through the treaties “in a very slow public space.” One of the characteristics of the Internet and related technologies is the capacity for the speed necessary to prevent global pandemics, dangerous damage to the planet, poverty and so forth..
Planners for global education must begin with present institutions, for there is no time to replace them, but they can be involved and helped while at the same time an effort is made to empower voices for change outside those 20th industrial centered institutions that are not yet preparing learners with creativity skills needed for a radically-different future the nature of which is not yet known..
Rischard showed how high the stakes are, how unready the system is too move, although humanity’s very survival may depend on its ability to educate a much higher percentage of the world’s 6-8 billion people within the next twenty years. The teachers and researchers trained in the universities are crucial. Without adequate learning and skills--and research on how to accomplish them, the hungry poor of the earth may drag humanity down to disaster. Without a global learning system, actively involving a much higher percentage of the world s population, we may for example destroy our ecological system and with it ourselves.
On the other hand, Rischard proposed, humanity is on the edge of potentially tremendous new possibilities in education and in solving fundamental global problems. The vehicle he proposes is a global issues network, “a new kind of public space. Rather than theorize on a concept that is still embryonic,” he proposes to visualize how such a network might work, and we here seek to apply that visualization to a planning and action network on a global lifelong learning system that would seek to serve our whole planet. One preliminary initiative is seen at <http://www.stateofourplanet.org/educationforall/>.
He proposed that it be developed in three stages: first `a constitutional phase’ when the network is constituted and set into motion. Second, “a norm-producing phase with a rigorous evaluation of options and alternatives; and third, an implementation phase. He anticipates that its initially limited membership would increase from phase to phase and it would continue to evolve during its entire lifetime that might be decades. It would operate online continually, not spasmodically.
Its initial planning phase might be initiated by a UN agency, for example, which would operate as a facilitator not as an operator that would determine the agenda and process. One model, which he does not discuss, might be the online conference that involved thousands of people on every continent in debating, paragraph by paragraph a draft of the 2001 World Poverty Report. <http://www.worldbank.org/poverty/wdrpoverty/>
Rischard’s launching group would include experienced people from both developing and developed nations, who “might lend some of their most knowledgeable civil servants” as staff. A major role would be given to NGO’s, especially individuals, in our case, with a deep knowledge of education issues. It is essential that fifty percent be women and also that youth—the 18-35 crowd—be `on the front row’ as full participants, not just `observers.’ Education researchers would be involved, but Rischard says that `experts—perhaps a panel of thousands of them, assigned to different sub-topics--should be outside the network itself—perhaps as an independent panel of consultants. There would also be skilled representatives of businesses that create electronic products for learning. Rischard proposes that such a conference process might begin with a three facilitators, one from each of the above three areas. The three would be responsible for “roping in the first members,” raising necessary funds, convening the first online meetings and “organizing the knowledge base.”
Another model that Rischard did not mention—especially on the point of `organizing a knowledge base, might be the GK97 conference in Toronto (described here (2.4), that exhibited a process for bringing many minds together, including good representation from the developing world that began by collecting `voices of the poor" with an online data base on ‘best practices’ gathered from the field. `Social networking' on the Internet can make possible collaboration and scientific research on a scale not yet imagined.
An online `global issues conference’ on learning for all would thus be at an `open source project.” An essential first task would be means to guarantee freedom for various points of view and knowledge. The process would encourage `open minded brainstorming.’ Those found to be unwilling to be open-minded “would be dialed out of the process.” To get the best out of participants, Rischard would have it make a constant appeal to universal values and those involved would be required to “state their opinions publicly and always link them to the problem-solving process. Once a `rough consensus’ is reached on one need—a work in process, not one that has been voted on and adopted—work begin on action steps needed to accomplish it.
The network process would begin by defining major elements and sub-elements of the issue, “mapping the casualties, and describing the planetary downside.” It would figure out how soon each sub-issue must be solved, each one having its own time dynamic in relation to the entire process. Participants would be asked to “put themselves in the place of their children twenty years from now” to provoke thinking about the implications then of how the issue was tackled now. At this point Rischard imagines “a vast electronic town meeting” with `deliberate polling. The network would thus create a vision of what education would be like in twenty years and “work back to the immediate steps needed to realize that vision, figuring out who would have to take these steps.” Where a consensus is found, action networks would be mobilized.
Rischard proposed that the network would then undertake its toughest task, that of “drawing up a set of norms or standards to set in motion the processes that will lead to the fulfillment of these interim steps.” Norms might then be assigned to agencies, businesses, to nation states on needed legislation, proposed treaties or whatever. Finally, there would be a `launch event” and for a global education strategy this would need to be vast and exciting in its picture of the possible future.
Meanwhile, Rischard envisaged then adding to the planning network some experts who could evaluate countries, businesses, agencies and others to see how well they are following the norms and standards, “perhaps even along the lines of the ISO 9000 practices pioneered by the International Organization for Standardization.” Each year ratings would be discussed at the large global town meeting and would be widely publicized, turning a spotlight on laggards. At this stage, Rischard suggests, the global issues network should look like an activist NGO that speaks unofficially, only for itself, and would be empowered only by moral authority. This, Rischard says, would please the media who would love to publicize `naming and shaming' of the kind that has already been quite successful, for example, in exposing countries that do not crack down on money laundering.
One important role for a `global-learning issues network' would be that of ‘best practice exchange,’ wherein there would be a global sharing of successful ideas, projects and knowledge. In our judgment many of the most successful experiments in providing learning opportunities in the most deprived neighborhoods would actually take place in such neighborhoods. (2.18) So to Rischard’s imaginative network idea, we would propose a strong developing-country neighborhood voice for the network, perhaps as we just said, on the model of the GK 97 conference in Toronto. (2.4.4) We would especially like to see exploration of and experimentation with the idea of local `learning co-operatives' (local membership groups that combine what is usually done by school boards, school alumni, parent-teacher groups but with many new, creative functions.) Thus, as the network matures, rather than planning to disband when its goals are accomplished, it might continue as a global association of local education cooperatives.
We have here suggested many items for an agenda and raised many unanswered questions. One of the most crucial: can politicians (including those in education bureaucracies and unions) be moved to develop and implement a global action plan now; and not only in the use of technology (satellites, cables, computers in schools etc.) but also to the development of creative `content' (3.7) and software to make it available globally? And can `virtual space,’ where much of global lifelong education will occur, be made a human and effective learning place?
A Netherlands Design Institute conference `Communication in a Meaning World' concluded that human society needs “collective, coordinated, intelligent action on a larger scale than human beings have ever attained in the past.” We have quoted Pierre Levy, author of Towards an Anthropology of Cyberspace, on collective intelligence. Now we ask-- how in cyberspace-- can we make the transition f to `intelligent collectives’ to deal with the increasingly large scale of the problems confronting education.
W e earlier quoted John Markoff who cautioned that the unexplored “virtual wilderness…seems to harbor as many dangers as the rest of society” (such as network vandals, operating in distant corners of the globe, who have made “Internet an unsafe neighborhood in recent years”). The political pressures and problems are also enormous. A shift in power is opposed by corporations whose profits may be greatly reduced by the competition of new services that can provide great educational opportunities and who may take over the Internet for commercial purposes.
Rischard has admitted that the concept of “global issue networks” is messy, so he would limit their activity to clearly global issues. He wants a practical push: `let’s get down to work’ immediately on the experiment. And we ask, why not hope that a first effort at global issue networking would be a quest for `learning for all?’ In these three volumes we are calling for beginning conversations on line, discovering and linking together those who are most concerned. Information conversations might begin, as Rischard suggested, by describing the urgency, examining what the issues are and how little time we have; asking for more visions, like Rischard’s, especially on what can and should be accomplished within twenty years in the most educationally deprived neighborhoods; also then, how we might get there and where planners and process should begin.
Some of that will be easy, as many groups—often isolated and not linked-- have been working on global learning issues. Rischard suggests that modern communication technology has and can be used not only for interconnections but also to speed up the process. Networking can generate political energy and can ‘put pressure on existing systems,’ so that they will respond at a faster pace. He quotes Habermas on a serious obstacle: a global political ethos and culture does not yet exist and the forming of a global identity is not easy in education or other issues. So steps must be taken to overcome that obstacle. Might that effort begin with large-scale online planning; even just dreaming?
Rischard, on the basis of his experience as European head of the World Bank, said that focusing on one global issue can mobilize a global public around a shared concern. He suggested that this might best be accomplished by a network, with open architecture, that would “engage people all over the world and from all relevant constituencies. Working together in creating norms and participating in ratings could “facilitate global citizenship-building and the formation of a common ethos that Habermas and others argue is essential for problem-solving.” Also, then, global town meetings on education issues would “add something brand new.” They could go a long way towards linking people and reducing the distance between them. Even better, a planning network could bring together science and the public good “in ways never seen before.”
Time will tell how effective a global issues network on `education for all’ would be, but Rischard thinks that a `horizontal legitimacy’ could emerge from such joint, global-scale deliberations--“across borders and government, business and civil society” as a large international group of people become deeply concerned and knowledgeable about one issue It would not replace the vertical legitimacy of traditional processes and organizations. Rather it would empower citizens to put urgent pressure on those governmental and other processes through an accountability framework. “Short-term, territorially-minded traditional politicians would now have to reckon with something bigger,” something more global-issue-focused as a result of the development of a new method and constituency to judge politicians.
And one would wish that a issues-network aspect of global `learning for all' planning could reach out to every concerned parent and citizen, to every sensitive teacher and education researcher, to every influential politician; and to all those who could give voice to all kinds of disabled people as well as the most talented and gifted, to all races, cultures and religions.
Rischard pointed to the value of bringing together diverse “parties with different vantage points including public and private international organizations. He pointed to the success of some existing “tri-sector partnerships.” He reports that business leaders are often now more willing to take an essential long-term view than politicians. He wants to move beyond the big international conferences that meet to discuss crises and that so often end up only pointing to the seriousness of the situation without taking effective meaningful action. Now, however, there are open doors to networking to clarify what needs to be done and beginning to take steps to force prompt action.
As always, however, he reminded us that `the devil is in the details.’ Can networks really deal with the complexity? “Put it another way,' Rischard says, ”what’s the alternative?” The current global system for dealing with problems is failing to deliver “solutions on time” and we will not soon enough have effective global governance, either. In an era of resistance to a world government, issue networks need not be a threat. They have no legislative power. With proper representation, such unofficial networks can do a much better job of bringing adequate voice to “the poorest countries and constituencies.” Polling the public through international town meetings, Rischard proposes, can bring more real democracy into the process than is present in existing processes for dealing with crises, and the polling can measure the influence of public discussion, objective debate and sharing of information.
Rischard asked us to imagine the United Nations conducting a global referendum on a proposed controversial action, an idea that has sometimes been discussed along with other ideas for reforming the UN. However, he pointed out, networking offers more avenues to creativity. It is not the only alternative, he said and others are also worth exploring, including new kinds of diplomacy. This can now use computer gaming to discuss possible consequences--good and bad--of proposed actions. He asked us to imagine “some sort of private brainstorming among the leaders of the world, not on the global issues themselves” but on problem-solving methodology. He guessed that global issues networks would not lead to replacing such leaders, but that leaders could be “energized, put under pressure and made more accountable.”
Global events, such as terrorism, may create motivation as perhaps many other kinds of worries and current tensions. Also, Rischard says, Never “have there been such massive opportunities for improving the human condition.” On the other hand, also, it seems that little will done about providing `learning for all,' and grasping other opportunities, unless there are new efforts at stimulating imagination and “different kinds of thinking;” for example a new kind of `Internet-inspired thinking that involve many people in faster and `out of the box’ thinking. How else can humanity cope with new stresses that promise “a sort of crisis of complexity.” The rate of change is becoming truly breathtaking, he says, and the snail-like pace at which they evolve more and more handicaps human institutions.
It is not going to be enough for educators to continue trying to reform existing institutions. Traditional schools and conventional teachers may long be with us, maybe forever. And efforts must be made to bring more excellence into the conventional schools also by interconnecting t hem with the world of learning online. However, much more than institutional reform is needed to bring lifelong education to everyone in the world. For the developing nations, programs for lifelong job retraining and entrepreneuriial skills are a crucial need. The most basic and fundamental education happens, or fails to take place, first of all at home, within the family and with learning instruments at home, connected to and empowered by support is provided in the neighborhood. A lifelong global education system—with databases, courseware, classes and online tutoring--could help re-educate many parents as they get involved (and are guided and tutored at home) in helping their children with homework and online instruction. Electronic interactive education offers new possibilities for strengthening and educating the whole family.
A learning education network and system can also help everyone develop or discover a neighborhood cooperative learning center to be a window on the world for all ages—a place for guidance, testing, tutoring, counseling, and acquiring the skills in using the electronic technology that one also uses to learn at home and at work.
Perhaps another helpful model for a `global issues network’ to move humanity into a new learning era, would be PeaceNet (2.7.6), which early sought to draw together all peace organizations and link all peace databases. However, no existing model is yet adequate, perhaps because new global-meeting software is needed, and new kinds of online venues to host thousands of meetings and discussions. Everyone must learn to be a good citizen in the local community, in t h e region, int he nation and also in the world. Perhaps also the planning network will soon need the support and resources of the `cosmopedia’ (2.2.2), the `global brain (2.2.3) and perhaps a `global heart.’.
George Leonard, in Education and Ecstasy, asked why students were bored with so much of their schooling. Shouldn’t they be thrilled, for example, with the exploration of the stars? Little children bring curiosity, imagination, and great excitement to learning and discovery; and then, too often, their schooling robs them of all that joy in learning at an early age, so often teaching them to cheat, only to pass tests, or to escape into daydreaming or delinquency. Instead, Leonard said, learners ought to be in a state of “ecstasy” as they explore the mystery and wonder that come with scientific discovery about the universe and the human body and brain. Leonard asks for joy and delight. Can planning for such ecstasy be on the agenda for the `global issues network’ on future learning?
Ted Nelson was critical of those who do sloppy, half-creative work. He had no interest in `improving the educational system’ as it is. He wanted to set learners on fire with enthusiasm. This inventor of hypertext and hypermedia pressed educators to “enhance and nurture human minds and capabilities,” taking learners far beyond former levels of literacy to new levels of understanding and intelligence (Nelson 1987). Future education must never be satisfied with mediocre grades, but must help each learner master a subject at each stage before morning on to the next.
Linda Harasim has enquired into ways that on-line education can do more than improve the learner’s access to information and knowledge building, suggesting that intelligence can be enlarged and empowered to “make us better thinkers, learners and problem solvers.”
Peter and Trudy Johnson-Lenz have seen that `hyperspace,' where the global lifelong learning system begins to exist, now present society “with enormous possibilities and equally enormous risks. It could become the new global village green where we meet to explore how to be better human beings and care for ourselves, our culture, and our planet.” Peter and Trudy worked to create groupware to help people work together on-line, then decided that they no longer believed in simple visions of connectivity. “Connecting people without clear purposes, processes, and norms to guide their interactions results in scattered and sporadic activity.” Without planning for excellence, electronic communications are “usually unsatisfying and unfruitful.”
Yet few people, they found, and especially few educators, have used `hyperspace’ well at a time when more and more learning takes place there. What is missing is “support for different learning styles, self-directed learning, concern for the whole person, and learning how to learn .” In the future of education, as in other human systems, what happens in `virtual space’ and through "on-line networks and systems are the foundation for a social architecture of the future.” But, they wondered, “will it become a planetary nervous system or an electronic tower of Babel?” (Perhaps as seen in the specialized jargons of each discipline?) In order to address that question they began to explore new ways of incorporating “active listening, explicit group processes and activities, emotional safety, mutual encouragement and reminders of the sacred” into online activities. Computer conferencing, they found, changes the participant’s sense of space and time as people in different countries and time zones find new ways to meet and work together. This hyperspace is real to the world of business and finance, for example, as the place where billions of dollars leap instantly from country to country, and to the world of global politics where equally invisible and incredible events take place.
In this emerging world of `virtual space,’ we human beings are “like astronauts experiencing zero gravity for the first time—so we still have many things to learn.” Trudy and Peter therefore invited participants to covenant together “to create a safe, supportive, and vital [on-line electronic] learning community.” There people could listen to each other with care and compassion, could speak the truth as well as they can, and could acknowledge everyone’s personal wholeness and connection with the sacred. This suggests a quite different approach to global electronic learning, in contrast to those who seek powerful new institutional forms. Trudy and Peter prefer to visualize self-directed on-line learners as meeting around an imaginary hearth or campfire in hyperspace. Each gathering circle shares “background information, a menu of personal self-discovery processes, and instructions,” for example, on how to live with questions a few days and then return to the circle to share what has been learned. Those who plan for a global lifelong learning system for all must not overlook the importance of providing support for individuals using electronic group processes, “using reflection, intuition, and other forms of inner knowing to discover what really matters” as well as well-thought-out institutional procedures. Can we find more flexible and imaginative ways to conceive of a new world of learning?
Learning technology becomes more sensitive and usable when it is seen as part of a living organism—not as the cold, heartless product of hardware. What is needed is not merely a humanizing of technology. Systems can be made healthy or unhealthy in large measure by our own human interaction with them. Also, learners and planners need more than the ability to control the proliferation and use of technology. Education planners must seek ways to use it wisely and well. This (Watts 2003) will require interdisciplinary networking as never seen before.
An `learning issues network' is likely to decide that the time has come to share scarce resources.” In a time of exploding knowledge and population, no educational institution can long afford to be “bounded by a wall with a narrow gate” that keeps out all but a few who can afford high costs; where all students are kept “in one place at one time,” sharing finite resources and faculty. The era is over when learners can `graduate” and have their education stop. One danger, O'Donnell has said, is the rise of "an economy of amusement, that the "advance of science will be overtaken by the advance of play." In hat context, nevertheless, our task now is to "explore openings, multiply possibilities and venture down enticing new pathways. Perhaps that will require an international network of volunteers--on the scale of Amnesty International that keeps an eye on human rights--to report education abuses, ineptness and inadequacy. A child who gets no education is as abused as one who is physically tortured.
Individual educators must live with lifelong change and so must institutions and planners, and say with Thomas Jefferson. "I am captivated more by the dreams of the future than by the history of the past."
The Future of Higher (Lifelong) Education: For All Worldwide: A Holistic View