System Dynamics of School Failure
In the last chapter, we explored some of the external pressures that schools are facing, some of which have caused significant problems for the educational process. In this chapter, we will explore the most significant obstacles to change as we look at the structure of schools as a systems dynamics problem. In education, the problems of poverty, class, race, economic opportunity, equality and equity, community, and workforce quality interact powerfully with the educational process, affecting deeply children and their performance in school. At the same time the external and internal pressures constitute a set of systems that schools are embedded within and create a dynamic process that results in their continuing actual or perceived failures. Senge has pointed out that problems like those that afflict education are insidious in their character, creeping up on society rather than making themselves known more immediately through a crisis. 1 This insidious character is difficult for human beings to contend with, according to Senge. People are more capable of dealing with catastrophes than with slow change or what in a previous chapter was termed the "slow-motion riot" that is affecting our schools today.
Senge proposes that the solution to insidious problems like the failing education system or those social problems that interact with the schools is necessarily a systems approach. In a systems approach, the interaction of structure and policies of the system can be understood so that the dynamic of failure can potentially be shifted to a dynamic of success. This chapter explores the system dynamics that have resulted in school