Speaking with one voice

There comes a point in almost any struggle, organization (or family for that matter) when, at the heat of the moment, a conciliatory voice will say we need to find common ground and speak with the same voice. The assumption seems to be that differences of opinion and divergences of perspective are distractions. Distractions that will ultimately lead to intensified conflict (or, in the terms of a political organization, weakness). It is very nice, in the abstract, to say people need to speak with the same voice. It makes a sort of common sense. One might even suggest that it allows us to sweep under the carpet distasteful aspects of conflict for a common good.

But is it really possible to speak with one voice? What does it mean? What is the cost of reducing everything to the lowest common denominator so that every one can speak with the same voice? I hear this sentiment often in my professional research into aboriginal title and rights. But in my professional work it is usually a privileged non-aboriginal community, organization, business, or government that suggest that one should speak with a common voice, find a common perspective. Suggestions from the aboriginal community that their rights have been denied or that the services they are receiving are sub-par are met with calls to try not to be divisive, to not cause conflict, to not pit communities against each other. Of course, that’s a different story and doesn’t directly compare to the question as to whether or not families living west of Blanca face an inequitable allocation of public resources.

The current problem of the EFR is a classic dilemma. Within the current context if voice ‘a’ gets what it wants voice ‘b’ doesn’t. Voices ‘a’ and ‘b’ can both agree that some external force is to blame and that each other both deserve what they want. But, unless something changes there is no way to speak with one voice, unless one party wishes to subsume their immediate interests so that the interests of the other can be supported .

We can certainly agree, as I think many of us did at the representational meeting last Thursday, that there is a real and pressing need in our school district for students living west of Blanca. We can also agree that seismic upgrades are critical and need to be dealt with. That’s the easy part. What is far harder to find common ground on is the mechanism to achieve these agreed to objectives.

It’s what parents and community members living west of Blanca have been struggling, lobbying, arguing, praying for, for close to six years now.

I think it is fair to say that ideally and in the abstract every currently existing school and piece of school property should be held onto. We don’t, however, live in an ideal or an abstract world. We live in the here and now and have to make decisions under conditions not of our own choosing.

[See, comments that lead to this posting: click here.]

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