Monday, July 06, 2015

Constructal pedagogy

Any educational system will move different materials through it. It is not solely for moving students. Information becomes principles, principles become worldview, and worldview becomes culture. The educational system fits into the larger transformation exchanges. Desirable outputs depend upon what the environment, all the larger systems, need to be and move.

Students, being transformational exchanges, convert different materials into other substances or materials. In each of the transformations, the student must be free to explore opportunities to convert, and they must suffer consequences for the good and bad. Internal friction only structures one of the components of the system. The rigid boundary has to shrink while also fading into the background of the flow, like Sierpinski's gasket. Thus, the educational system has to reduce its own internal friction in order to allow the materials for cultural production to flow through the students.

Students are radiators, heat exchangers, not the material flowing but that through which information becomes culture.

To this end, the tree or arboreal metaphor works if we allow a key shift in the metaphor: the tree connects the water in the ground with the air in the sky, moving these into the other. The student as a tree condenses air into bread and disperses mud into leaves and clouds and fruit. The student turns knowledge into wisdom, passes wisdom on to others through living it out, who then take the lives up as facts of life worth knowing about.

All mechanisms for communication only facilitate transformation, but the student must perform the transformation themselves. Every tree grows as it must within the flow.

But the flow can be manipulated. Farmer, gardener, arborist, landscape designer, forest industrialist, art student, redneck, country club owner, homeowner, woodpecker, moss, weevil: everyone with the right tools and energy can turn the flow to their own ends for needs they might never comprehend. Those who need the culture students produce are going to want to shape the educational system, the way dams and turbines and reclamation plants shape the hydrological systems for their own efficiency needs.

Education either flows one way on the other. What system you choose depends upon what you need to flow. Money, ideas, speech, facts, practices, knowledges, student bodies, student social networks, cultural influence. The overlap here determines the structure and limits the pattern. A system that wants to survive must always adapt.

Thus, pedagogical strategy depends on what flows, how it needs to flow, what it flows through, how quickly the flow must go to sustain itself, what kind of work the flow performs.

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