What is certain is the fact that the world as we used to know it, is no more. In its place we have something different that, in the making of history, we have created. This act of creation, if authentic, apparently is not well understood.
The paradigmatic vision that, in the last three hundred years has served as the perceptional instrument of reality, is highly impersonal and mechanistic. The fundamental problem of the 17th century was characterized by the preoccupation with the notion of order, intellectual and social. The world was perceived as a complex of competing forces, thus requiring the establishment of order necessary to harmony and as the fomenter of progress. This paradigm, whose revealing metaphor is the notion of the machine, is called by Joanna Macy "patriarchal," by Don Oliver "modernity," and by Richard Katz "the scarcity paradigm." It also includes the concept of singular cause – singular effect, with the result that all human relationships are perceived as occurring in a linear progression of cause and effect. This paradigm influenced not only the social sciences, but until very recently informed the methodology of modern sciences. Seth Kreisberg, in a brilliant analysis of this Subject, says the following:
The view of reality as made up of separate and competing entities reinforces, or perhaps creates, the view that power means strong defenses, invulnerability, inflexibility, in short, domination. Power consists of separate entities struggling amongst one another for strength, control, superiority and their separate interests.
This concept of power, which has been called power-over. defined in the modern era by Hobbes and continued by Max Weber, Bertrand Russell and others, seems related to less developed forms of human relationships, and has served as moral justification for many acts of social and political aggression. In the mechanistic model any attempt to prevent disorder, or to restore order, is considered "good", since such effort is exerted to achieve the ultimate good of the community. The ultimate good of the community is not, however, the result of a consensus established by a dynamic society. In the mechanistic model, the ultimate good of society is a static and prescribed concept.
Our schools still function in accordance with this model. The educational process is conceived as a cluster of distinct elements: teachers who know and teach, students who know nothing and learn, administrators who know more than anybody else and control. The curriculum, prescribed and untouchable, is passed from the teacher to the student as a biblical testament to be dictated, received, and reproduced letter by letter, dot by dot. Any deviation from this norm is considered as a more or less subversive act, deserving of correction and punishment.
Teachers and students are thus considered as competing entities to be mediated by the curriculum. Reform in the traditional school thus means, above all, a curricular revision, or at most, a revision of the hierarchy.
The analysis of the relationships among the different entities is rarely conceived in horizontal terms: in this model the pyramid remains as the graphic image of those relationships.
The influence of the mechanistic model in international education is reflected in the notion that ethnic or multicultural studies can be reduced to the examination of exotic or minority cultures. The majority, or dominant, culture is rarely included in the same plane as the others, and the notion that it can be influenced by the minority or dependent cultures receives little or no consideration. We speak of the Portuguese influence in Africa and in Asia more frequently than we speak of the extent to which our culture was transformed by that association. similar parallels could be established for linguistic relations among peoples.