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Wicked Problems: How Complexity Science Helps Direct Education Responses to Preventing Violent Extremism

journal of strategic securityJournal abstract

This article draws on the insights from complexity science to outline potential strategies within education which could interrupt the spread of violent extremism. It first identifies three problems in examining extremism – definitions, causes and targets—before arguing for a focus on systems, not individual learners. Within systems, diversity is needed for emergence, and narrow, hard secularism is rejected in favor of a dynamic secularism which encourages a variety of belief systems in order to guard against polarization. The systems of education, religion, law and of terrorism itself are analyzed to identify entry points and vulnerabilities. After looking at the theories of change used by extremist groups, the paper proposes a theory of change within the niche of education which has four strands: Introducing turbulence through value pluralism, working within the enabling constraints of human rights, building confidence and resilience, and developing networking for social change. All four combined are necessary to generate the creativity which can undermine the wicked problem.