Summary and Analysis of Consilience, by Edward O. Wilson.
Wilson won the Pulitzer Prize twice for his books On Human Nature (1978) and The Ants (1990, with Bert Holldobler) and has been a teacher at Harvard University. Consilience was both praised and highly critiqued when it was published in 1999.
Using Wilson and others as my guide, I propose that education can thrive on the “edge of chaos” (Wilson, p. 97). The classroom is, after all, an unpredictable environment, where agents of change and disruption threaten to overturn the imposing order at any given time. A student mood swing, an ADHD outburst, a students day dream, a drug problem, a recent fight at the school, overcoming peer pressure, distraction from noise, fluorescent lighting, confusion over subject matter, pressure to meet district and school standards all threaten to interrupt order, goals and academic progress.
For example, we create a problem based class, and look to student creativity to solve seemingly complex problems. As I will submit later, Global Challenge – a classroom microcosm – is one such way to put these theories into action.
Whether Wilson realized this at the time or not, he is suggesting or supporting some concepts that are very relevant to primary and secondary education. Often in his book, he uses the terms “conceptual unity,” the “communal mind,” and “microcosm” to explain his view of how things should come together. Later, he tackles the difficult topic of complexity or chaos theory. Further on, I will show how these theories should be connected to educational design.
Wilson, Edward O. Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. New York: Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 1999.
From the second introductory page to the book: (condensed and paraphrased)
Wilson received his B.S. and M.S. in biology from the University of Alabama and , in 1955, his Ph.D. in biology from Harvard. He is the winner of the 1977 National Medal of Science, the Crafoord Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (1990), the International Prize for Biology from Japan (1993), the Gold Medal of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (1990) and the Audobon Medal of the National Audubon Society (1995).