A reader writes:
The tactic of breaking meeting attendees into small groups with one staff member per group who runs the group discussion and writes the comments on chart paper is commonly used at the system level in the county where my children attend. They did it for controversial redistricting plans, and when they were acting as if they cared about teacher and parent input regarding conversion to a charter system. The tactic drives me crazy because it is a way to control the crowd, a way to keep the masses at bay. It avoids the opportunity for the “whole” of who cares enough to show up to HEAR from each other and build a discussion that has the potential to become loud enough to BE HEARD. It was so patronizing to be led in these small group discussions, which were largely controlled by the facilitator anyway because they had parameters and categories and ultimately decided what to write on the chart paper. In our system, they then lean heavily on these “town hall meetings” to bolster their decisions because they can SAY they got input. In reality it is just window dressing.
So, it comes as no surprise that they would break such a large group of teachers down to take away the power of your collective voice. They neatly avoided what would have been said, perhaps to thunderous applause and cheers, had they allowed you to stay gathered and build on each others’ comments. I am a psychologist by training, but it doesn’t take a psychologist to see the manipulative ploy for what it is. Democracy at its best, right?