Utilization of Dissatisfaction
Chapter 10 in "Human Relations in Curriculum Change"
(pages 58-59, 62-63)
The intentional process of
radical social change demands
continual tension or crisis. These may be spontaneous or
manufactured. This book helped lay the foundation for the psycho-social
strategies that have transformed education and culture around the world. See
also Facilitating permanent social change.
Much more promising in most cases than philosophizing as a way of securing
initial interest in deliberate social change is capitalizing upon
dissatisfaction. Men do not change their social arrangements so long as
they are perfectly satisfied with them. Dissatisfaction with existing
conditions seems to be a prerequisite for intentional change.
Now it is easy to see that the present period is one in which the sources of
dissatisfaction are not lacking. Maladjustments in our culture are
numerous, varied, and on the increase. Yet, it is not a simple matter to
make dissatisfaction function actively as a motivating force in our
complex modern society. Dissatisfaction may be present in greater or lesser
amounts in different social groups or in different individuals within the
same group. The quality of the dissatisfaction, that is the degree of
urgency associated with a possible change, will also vary greatly from
person to person and group to group. At various times and in relation to
various problems different individuals and groups may be arranged on a scale
stretching all the way from a tendency to be controlled by
tradition, habit, inertia, social pressure, fear of and hostility to
innovation to a tendency to become bored and discontented with the
old and curious about innovation....
In utilizing dissatisfaction as a factor in producing change the student of
society must learn to deal with these two types of conservatism,
Then, too, the scale seems not to provide a place for our honest skeptic,
who realizes full well the undesirability of present arrangements but who
has no confidence that change for the better is likely to come about.
Nevertheless, what Lynd calls a “general emotional receptivity to change”
is closely related to the extent and intensity of dissatisfaction present in
the population. The problem is partly one of helping people to arrive at
a “common definition of the situation” through analysis of conditions
and making explicit the maladjustments involved. In the case of the more
apathetic persons, much new information and many new experiences will be
necessary if they are to become actively dissatisfied. It will be a matter
largely of converting a vague sense of discomfort and unrest
into strong convictions that certain specific ills should be attacked.
Mary P. Follett believed there was really no such thing as the apathy of the
average citizen of which people talk. “Every man has his interests,”
she wrote; “at those points his attention can be enlisted.”9
In case of those who cling to established ways because they are the only
security they have for maintaining the social power they have acquired
there is involved the delicate task of helping them to become
dissatisfied with their present definition of self-interest. As for the
skeptical, dissatisfaction is already present but will not operate as a
positive force unless there is some assurance of success in reducing
Fortunately for human progress, there is a fourth group of
persons in whom already exist dissatisfactions of such nature that they
are ready to be utilized at once as motivations toward action, other conditions being
favorable. This group can be counted on as a nucleus for hastening the
process of change.
As with attitudes toward social change in general, emotions with regard to
curriculum change are mixed. The wise administrator will study the teachers,
learners, and community adults with whom he is in direct contact and will
attempt to determine in what stage of readiness for change they are. He will
likely find two rough groupings at first—those who are rather dissatisfied
with the present school curriculum and those who are apparently rather
complacent about it.
It will soon be apparent that both of these grous may be subdivided [into
"Persons Dissatisfied and Willing to world of for Change" and "Persons
Dissatisfied but Skeptical"]...
Methods of Arousing
There seem to be three worth-while methods for helping people to begin to
see need for curriculum change. One promising approach is through
a study of the social scene. There is much evidence that both teachers and
administrators are in need of such a study on a continuing basis. If the
study also engages the attention of community adults and learners, it will
be that much more effective in stimulating interest in curriculum change on
the part of all who must be sympathetic with change in order for that change
to be its most effective.
Now study of the nature of society may be as remote and abstract as the
formulation of philosophy to which objection was raised earlier. In that
case, it will be more academic than motivating. Rather, people should
approach community study as amateurs, not sociologists. The study should
be begun on a familiar and meaningful level. In other words, social
phenomena should be observed and data gathered in the local community. In
that event curriculum implications of the findings should be so obvious
that they will furnish strong drives for curriculum change...
A second promising approach to curriculum change is to encourage study of
human development. A better understanding of the learning process, of
principles of mental hygiene, and of the nature of growth should in
itself motivate much curriculum change. In the case of teachers it probably
is better for study to begin at the local level with children whom they
knew. Generalizations and principles can emerge from such a study and carry
fuller meaning as a result....
A third approach is to utilize some dissatisfaction felt by the persons
associated with the school to motivate interest in group problem-solving.
Some persons object to this approach on the ground that it results in the
expenditure of energy on insignificant enterprises. Yet experience has shown
that this Is not an inevitable result. Many groups, who have had the
benefit of skillful, evocative leadership have moved rapidly from
their early “low” level of concern to consideration of more basic
sources of difficulty. Since some things are easier to change than others
and since early success is Important to high morale, it seems wise to tackle
the simpler problems first.
Choice among the three methods of approach in utilizing dissatisfaction as a
motivating factor in curriculum improvement will depend upon a number of
circumstances. In some instances people need the satisfaction of moving on
problems of real concern to them, minor as they may be. In other situations,
where there has been a tendency to amplify petty criticisms into major
issues, dissident factions may be united in working toward some goal that is
beyond and larger than the trifling irritations of the moment.
Cautions to Consider.
Two cautions are in order before we leave the matter of dissatisfaction. it
is one thing to help groups of cooperating individuals to identify problem
areas and it is another to make a teacher or group of teachers feel
inadequate if a problem cannot be produced immediately upon someone’s
request. Much time has been wastefully expended on problems
“manufactured” to save the face of individuals put in the embarrassing
position of having to have a “problem.”
A second caution is that dissatisfaction should not be regarded
merely as a factor operating to furnish initial motivation. It should be
utilized at all stages of the process to keep crystallization from setting
in. Groups should be encouraged to make use of valuable solutions to
problems only so long as they serve a useful purpose. The process of
curriculum change should provide for periodic review and evaluation of such
solutions as well as regularized opportunities for expression of
dissatisfaction at any time by any participant in the process....
Compare this with Julian Huxley's plan
for global education in
UNESCO: Its purpose and Its Philosophy
(From Alice Miel,
Changing the Curriculum, Appleton-Century-Crofti, Inc., 1946, pp. 40-47)
See also Force Field
Facilitating permanent social change