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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET MOVING EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION FORWARD | 13 into protecting their position rather than opening their minds to explore different views and possibilities. By opening an assertion’s conclusions and assumptions to public testing, though, advocacy can contribute to conversations with intent. When expressed as a clear, calm statement accompanied by the speaker’s assump- tions, balanced advocacy can help anchor a conversation and contribute to the process of learning from one another. The inherent challenge is tem- pering advocacy with inquiry. 35 Getting to Desired Results through Conversations with Intent When the ECE field began bringing a systemic lens to its work, it often described itself as a nonsystem because of its occupational fragmentation and limited infra- structure. Now more knowledgeable about systems, we realize ECE always has been a system, just not one that can be described as cohesive or as functioning coherently since it lacks binding interconnections that derive from a common function or purpose. To ensure that last statement was understood, let’s make sure each of us knows how a system is defined. A system has three kinds of things: elements, interconnections, and a function or purpose. A nonsystem, therefore, is a conglomeration of things without interconnections or a shared function. 36 An example of a nonsystem would be sand scat- tered on a road by happenstance and therefore lacking in intercon- nections and also absent a shared purpose or function. 37 A system’s behaviors are the result of the structures that created them. Now compare this example with ECE’s configuration as a field of practice: a system of connections disjointed by lack of clarity regarding purpose, identity, or responsibility. 38 Finally, compare these last two examples with professional fields of practice: interconnected and interdependent systems of preparation, practice, and accountability bound together by common purpose. As systems thinkers, we are learning that a system’s behaviors result from the structures that created them. Often invisible, systemic structures are patterns of interconnections among a system’s key elements. As Donella Meadows puts it, “The behavior of a system cannot be known just by knowing the elements of which the system is made.” 39 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL