Posted by: kbater | November 19, 2012

The challenge of democracy

I am in the midst of some interesting discussions at the Alberta School Board Association (ASBA) Fall General Meeting in Edmonton.

Key topics are:

  • a policy for – safe, inclusive, equitable, and welcoming learning and teaching environments for all members of the school community, including sexual orientation and gender minority students, employees and families should be established and maintained.
  • mandating and fully funding half-time programming and for at-risk children fully funded full-time kindergarten
  • addressing financial literacy for students in the K-12 system
  • Examining the current knowledge for student assessment

Well the discussion has been wide and varied.  The policy addressing the needs of sexual minorities created lots of strong emotions and a variety of opinions.  In fact another trustee and I remarked how the discussion really reflected the issue – strong views, a variety of approaches being presented and sadly (but commonly) some comments that bordered on personal attacks.

This is the challenge of democracy – allowing for everyone’s views, trying to find support for an approach, and keeping the discussion respectful and productive. ASBA lives with these dilemmas all the time, as there are 64 boards with a few hundred trustees and tough issues.  Today’s discussion shows we have come a long ways in developing a robust approach to democracy and it also illustrates that we need to keep learning about improving our approach to democracy.  We need to find better methods for discussion, we need to find ways to surface key ideas and then explore them thoroughly so that the best few ideas start to emerge.  It is so important to not hurry to decision (that is one of the pitfalls of our fast modern life – we want quick and simple solutions).

One of my favourite quotes is from H. L. Mencken – “Complex problems have many simple, easy to understand, wrong answers.”






  1. Yup – democracy – it gets messy sometimes. Patience and a listening ear are our friends.

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