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EDUCATING: THE NEXT GENERATION

Consensus

 

 

"Beautiful Sahage" performed at Foothill College, January 31, 1998 by the Academy of Chinese Performing Arts, starring Johanna Chu (left), Leslie Lan (middle), Karen Yuan (right) and (out of picture or obscured) Tina Ting, Nicole Chen, Jennifer Saito, Jenny Wu, Rosanna Lee, and Amy Wu. This active yet graceful dance is performed in the imperial palace by Manchurian Girls. Director: Sally Li.

 

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Consensual decision making can be contrasted with autocratic (unilaterial) decision making and democratic decision making. While the relationships between the three forms of decision making are complex, the fundamental relationship is that they are stages along a societal developmental continuum. Autocratic decision making is the first stage, democratic decision making is the second stage, and consensual decision making is the third stage. At the early end of the continuum, decision making is relatively simple, but decisions have minimal validation. At the later end of the continuum, decision making is relatively complex, but the decisions have maximal validation.

 

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Scene 1. Doris picks up Darian and Daria from school and takes them to a park to play.

 

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Scene 2. Doris picks up Darian and Daria from school and asks them what they would like to do that afternoon. Darian says he would like to go to the video arcade; Daria says she would like to go to the craft store to buy some supplies for a project she wants to work on. Doris says she votes for the craft store, and that Darian must go along with the majority.

 

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Scene 3. Doris picks up Darian and Daria from school and asks them what they would like to do that afternoon. Darian says he would like to go to the video arcade; Daria says she would like to go to the craft store to buy some supplies for a project she wants to work on. Doris says it would be nice to find something that they all could enjoy. After some discussion they all agree to visit a hobby store that has some craft supplies but also has some action figures of interest to Darian.

 

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The reader might benefit from filling out details from the scenes, imaging relationships before and after the time base of the scenes. Is the reader's attitude affected by additional facts. Suppose Doris is the mother of elementary school children Darian and Daria. Suppose Doris, Darian, and Daria are college classmates. What role does gender and stereotyping play in the examples? 

 

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Think of the scenes as microcosms for autocratic, democratic, and consensual societies. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each political form. In this vein, let us consider one more scene.

 

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Scene 4. Doris picks up Darian and Daria from school and asks them what they would like to do that afternoon. Darian says he would like to go to the video arcade; Daria says she would like to go to the craft store to buy some supplies for a project she wants to work on. Doris says it would be nice to find something that they all could enjoy. After an hour of discussion without consensus, Doris says it is getting late and drives home with the children.

 

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The main advantage of autocracy is the ease with which a decision can be reached. Decision making in a democracy is harder, but the decisions tend to be better, especially where the decisions impact many people's lives. Consensual decision making is even harder than democratic decision making, but the decisions are even better. Thus, autocracy, democracy, and consensus define a political continuum. Along the continuum are various tradeoffs between ease of decision making and quality of decisions.

 

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To those that would argue that consensual decision making is impractical on a society-wide scale, it should be noted that many people have made the same argument about democracy. As long a theoretical purity is not imposed, consensual decision making can be approached gradually, accepting practical accommodations as required. Just as a democratic society can decide to delegate some of its responsibility to an individual or institution, which in turn can act autocratically, a consensual society can delegate responsibility to entities that make decisions democratically or autocratically. In fact, it is easier for a consensual society to include democratic and autocratic elements, than it is for a lower political form to include the higher political forms. 

 

 

 

 

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Consensus

 

 
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