READING REFLECTION: Unplanned Organization by Margaret Wheatley

Articles like the one by Margaret Wheatley, which are written sans citation and stream-of-consciousness, have long-bothered me. She posits many theories, none of which she has any evidence or name to back up (except for her view that these should be obvious to the reader).

Where is the evidence that the stories she is weaving are even true? Or are they all just passed along by “meme-like group misremembrance”, as so often ill-advisedly occurs during many a teacher story. How much is she fitting the narrative to fit her own perspective of how things ought to be?

One such sentence stuck out at me. “Entomologists who study termites looked at these [termite towers] for years, and, recognizing a very complex structure, wondered, ‘Where’s the leader? Where’s the engineer? Where’s the brains behind this operation?’ The search for a leader was a long and futile quest. What is interesting is that the leaderless phenomenon wasn’t even pointed out until some women started critiquing the history of science, and came up with the stunning realization that there didn’t have to be a leader.”

This quote bothers me for three reasons.

1) it has no facts to back up its claims. Who are this group of women scientists?

2) Why is the punchline about “males overlooking the idea of collaborative self-organization” necessary? What does this accomplish other than needlessly mocking males?

3) Is any of her story at all true?

I decided to look up her claims. First of all, these towers have indeed been studied for years. Most of the studies I could find were by males, but in recent years a few female researchers have delved into the issue, particularly in the field of robotics (self-organizing robots).

However, all of this research, including a grad paper on the subject by a woman, was dated past 2007, when Wheatley’s article was written. ALL of the cited work I could find was by males.

This is just one of many examples of what I can only perceive as “storytelling” rather than “fact telling” in this article.

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