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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Charter committee to do something soon

Same-old, same-old plus Delphi

Re: last night’s Charter Committee meeting. (Pilot article)

The visitors were the same folks we see at most government meetings. They seem to be a group, with rotating lectern assignments – to complain or protest. Those not assigned to speak, write and compare notes. TV coverage at Council meetings encourages more of them to speak, but it’s unclear if that’s the plan or just spontaneous responses to the cameras. Unsurprisingly, they spoke against writing a charter.

A union representative read a speech advocating “must use prevailing wage” in the charter. He cited unspecified studies that showed better quality of work with lower overall costs for some type(s) of union work compared to work by “imported” laborers and craftsmen.

Prevailing wage

This argument would suggest that business owners, contractors, laborers and craftsmen exhibit higher levels of skill, integrity, and pride in their work if they belong to a union. Under most prevailing wage rules, though, a contractor hiring non-union craftsmen would have to pay union wages and benefits and contributions to the union. This would presumably raise the skill, pride and integrity of the non-union workers.

The “prevailing wageruns up the bill 20-40% to cover higher wages and benefits, generous pensions, union-workforce training programs, and union organizational expenses. It’s using tax money to finance a union business. Compare paying prevailing wage to paying a hospital marketing fee and an “association” fee, as well as your doctor’s fee, for your office visit.

Consensus building

Then a debate – no, sorry, this group doesn't debate. It achieves consensus. Oops, does this sound like the education “debates” that have helped guide California from near the top to near the bottom in public education? Or like some past U.S. administrations that sought consensus and developed manipulation to a fine art? (Delphi technique)

Manipulation by consensus building is codified in the Delphi technique, which is sometimes credited for the ongoing conversion of the United States from a Republic to a Participatory Democracy. It guides groups to an executive-defined conclusion.  Some educators believe it is the technique being used to drive education by bureaucratic rather than educational interests.

Is the group being “led” by a Delphi team, and more importantly, are they aware?

One meeting isn't enough to see if the technique is being used, but some processes last night suggest it is. As far as the members go, most seem benignly unaware. However, a few seem to deliberately use techniques designed for dealing with and overcoming the technique.

So, time will tell if the technique is used to force the committee toward a preconceived result, and if enough members will resolutely resist the manipulation – if it’s there.

Analysis paralysis

Another and perhaps more acute problem was clear. The committee is making lots of lists (they have cutesy names like “parking lots”). Its members defer to each other. Members ask “soft” questions. Members voice positive thoughts.

So far, that’s all they’re doing.

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