About a year ago, Chuckles came out with a bit of sabre rattling for engineers over academics which rang true but at the time, there were too many other things happening.
It was that in his field, the way things move forward more often than not is for a boss or team leader to call a meeting and invite anyone competent and/or relevant in the field into a room and they thrash out all the issues involved. It may go to a second meeting or not but the aim is to devise the plan.
Has its faults in that the person with the greatest influence most often gets his way but he is forced to hear other opinions and if they are to the point and valid, they’re often adopted. Chuckles’ mindset on academia is that someone brings up a way forward and it is auto-opposed, academics rush off to write great tomes on it, in esoteric language, which are then discussed and he with the greater kudos wins.
That’s not untrue and this adversarial system is a killer in education because, from deciding which textbook a school adopts to which subjects are taught, there is a succession of fads and fancies. At one school I was at, they changed the textbooks because a firm had come in to sell its wares and the person charged with handling this built a strong case with the head.
One of my colleagues pointed out the flaws in the texts, that they failed to address grammar and spelling, that the actual text was error-strewn and that there was scant follow-up material unless the school also purchased the enrichment material and exam guides. He was ignored because this was the new face of the school, wasn’t it?
Two years later, I couldn’t believe it when, with staff having seen precisely those errors make it an unwieldy text to use, let alone inaccurate on some points and the educational texts person having moved on, someone else who liked a different text began a “discussion” on changing all the texts. The parents were not happy.
And always it was adversarial.
The adversarial system
Of late, it’s struck me that what often begins as a round table discussion most-times turns into an adversarial process and the areas this happens in the most are parliament, the courts and in the blogosphere … but not in the field of investigation.
Let’s say we were discussing, say, Gordo’s RIPA. For a start, anyone is in that room having a say, from the informed down to the trolls and those who put something in for the sake of putting something in. Along comes someone with chapter and verse but he’s not liked and so quite a few oppose him on principle and then look for arguments later to back that up. It gets to the stage of someone “winning” and someone “losing”.
In fact it is so far to the forefront of some minds that one commenter might say: “You’ve lost the argument.” Which is interesting because many there were not aware there was an argument in the first place and if there was – why was there? The person making that statement about “losing the argument” stikes me as probably being in an adversarial profession in real life and therefore all discussion is in terms of adversarial tactics, i.e. ignoring any truth coming from the “other side” and only putting that part of the truth which enhances the case.
Nothing wrong with that within the system but is that the best system in the first place?
A fictional version of this was in Perry Mason. In one story, the chief coroner took counsel aside before the hearing and said he wanted no spurious objections, no obstructive practices, nothing but motoring along and getting to the truth. Both counsel agreed but as the system itself was adversarial, it naturally fell apart and they were up to their usual legal legerdemain and at each other’s throats, points-scoring.
It happens in the field of discussing the issues of the day. With JFK, it quickly split into SB theory and multiple-assassin, whereas things both sides had to say were worthwhile. However, as they were at each other’s throats, the temptation was to doctor evidence and produce ludicrous diagrams on both sides, with neither conceding any ground whatever to the other. For those who really wanted the truth, it was impossible – everything was biased one way or the other.
In religion, you’d think Christians would pretty well agree that the end times will come and Jesus will come to collect his people and there’s an end on’t. Yet some ridiculous argument sprang up in America between the Pretribbers and the Posttribbers, i.e. a dispute over the timeline. Bloomin eck! And it’s not the first time – there were the consubstantiationists versus the transsubstantiationsists a few centruies back and let’s not forget the Great Schism.
I really can’t stand it. As in the engineering room, someone brings information to the table, informed people are invited to add to or subtract from that and even uninformed opinion is heard. That’s as it should be. That’s the nature of investigation or exploration of a topic. In just such a way is art currently being discussed over at my place and my stance is to learn what I can but already I can see certain “camps” emerging.
All the time I see someone come up with a post on a topic he or she knows about and he or she is auto-opposed by someone else, on the grounds that it is that person saying it, rather than on what is said. The actual topic, the data and evidence on it, is either left unread or opposed with ad hominem. Now I’m not arguing against people “having their say” – of course that must be unrestricted and OoL fiercely protects that. Yet how many times will someone come in, in reaction to a post and be completely unwilling to “concede” on any point the other person makes?
Whyever not? If it has been researched, if it appears to be the case, then why wouldn’t it be taken on board?
The short answer is “the narrative”, the agenda, the ideology. There are certain things we all believe in in this community, e.g. WTC7 was just a fire and anything threatening that is seen as a minor irritant to be either ignored, auto-opposed or mocked. This is especially so if the person is not liked. I generally don’t take that point of view except with some of the guff left-liberals come out with and it takes so long to wade through it that I ask for the abridged version in bullet form.
Then it can be discussed.
There’s nothing wrong with strong views in my book, as long as they’re backed up. The trouble is, much of it is not backed up at all but is assertion and assumption. Take Sacker’s cartoon on Assange and Pussy riot. It attempts to conflate the two issues but actually the assumption’s wrong, as one is about a dubious character we still haven’t decided on and the other is about criminal desecrators of a nation’s icons. The a priori assumption people come to the cartoon with is that Pussy Riot are somehow martyrs to the cause instead of self-interested guttersnipes, which is how much of Russia sees them. On Assange, there seems more openmindedness and a “let’s wait and see” attitude.
So it’s an assumption people make that they are opposed to Putin and every single Russian who wrote to me, without exception, said their stunt had little to do with that in the mind of those girls, though it did to the liberals. Even my exgf wrote on it last night and the story is the same. So I’d expect that to be taken onboard but no … and why not?
Partly the way the person said it and partly the narrative we’re all meant to follow on Putin.
The investigative method
In Westminster, we should drop the adversarial system of two opposed parties which Swift parodied so well. There needs to be a forum in which PMBs are the order of the day and discussion is not gagged. There are no parties per se and therefore no preselection parachuting scams. Each member has a direct conduit to him/her from his/her constituency office, to which anyone living in the area may come and have matters taken up, if enough people agree.
Not perfect but it can be workable. There is still a head of State - why not the Queen or if not, a Prez – and she has a chief minister voted for by the entire parliament. The Lords become part of that parliament in the proportion of the pre-Blair days. Select committees find things out and report back. It becomes a standard consultative process with good notice to the relevant people in the field or even the general public to put in their say on paper.
The mindset is that here is the discussion table, what do you bring to it? Obviously it is chaired but according to rules restricting the chair’s powers, agreed to by the whole parliament at the new paradigm’s inception. The critical points are twofold:
1. that conduit from citizen to parliamentarian is in place;
2. select committees are able to access people’s opinions.
Who would chair these discussions? Career people who have a history of getting a result, just as in any other field of endeavour in the community. The electoral commission is a good body to recruit these people, providing it is not itself stacked with public sector workers or private.
This way, a forum or discussion paradigm replaces an adversarial paradigm and the only people unhappy would be those who stood to lose by the paradigm shift.