I think my concept of resilience has been stained by my readings in complexity sciences which seem to define resilience as the ability of a system to cope with and recover from internal and external perturbations that threaten to disrupt the structures and processes that define the system, which give the system its functional identity and capacities. If I start here, then I find myself having issues with some of the things I’ve read so far.

First, all that I’ve read so far seems to put a mostly positive spin on resilience, whether as a personal trait or as a process of negotiating a complex space. Resilience is something that’s good to have, to learn, or to do. However, this seems to ignore the value of the system being preserved. As near as I can tell, organized crime, poverty, ignorance, fascism, terrorism, influenza, cancer, and academic hectoring are all amazingly resilient systems. Perhaps we can study those systems and learn how to mimic their amazing resilience in systems we want to preserve, such as students, and to undermine the resilience of those systems we want to change or eliminate. Anyway, it may be useful to ask in what contexts is resilience positive, negative, or neutral. If ignorance is a resilient system, then in some ways, the purpose of education is to overcome that resilience. Plagiarism is a resilient system. Hmm …

Then, most of the assumptions seem to be that resilience is about coping with external perturbations. I think internal perturbations are also part of the mix. Resilience in a well-functioning system however defined—a student, for instance—must cope with forces within and without the system that threaten to undermine the system. Moreover, the system must cope with the exchanges, the feedback loops, between inside and outside across whatever boundaries help define the system. New college students have internal forces at work that cannot be ignored, especially when entering into feedback loops with an institution’s external forces.

My sense is that there is much for us all to say about resilience, and I really look forward to the conversation. Let’s see if this conversation will be as resilient as Rhizo has been.