The Irascible Professor SM
Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro

"Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent and debate."...  ...Hubert H. Humphrey.

Commentary of the Day - April 26, 2004:  Actualizing in Our Classrooms.  Guest commentary by David B. Shields.

My friend Rooster is the parliamentarian of the Southeast Georgia Chapter of the Secret Order of Busybodies (SOB), and the other day he brought a question to the table that needs some public consideration.  Rooster said many members in his group, in the routine course of conducting business in official SOB meetings, were bad to second a motion and then vote against the question.

"Is that Kosher?" Rooster wanted to know.

Let me pause and report that I'm no lightweight in "Robert's Rules of Order".  Matter of fact in many quarters I am regarded right much of a guru in the House of Robert, and Rooster has been quick to seek me out whenever he encounters a bit of confusion in the performance of his duties as SOB parliamentarian.

I've also been trained extensively in the behavioral sciences and have been trying of late to employ more of Carl Rogers' 'client-centered', non-confrontational techniques, especially when dealing with Rooster.  Rogers maintained that the human "organism" has an underlying "actualizing tendency", which aims to develop all capacities in ways that maintain or enhance the organism and move it toward autonomy.  In Carl's mind then it only followed that the therapist should never be seen as a threat or to be judging, and the best way to do that was to sit listening and offering only an occasional "Hmmm" in the exchange.  Each person thus, according to Carl, would wind up 'maximizing his or her fundamental mandate to fulfill his or
her potential.'

In all fairness I might pause further to point out that the theories of Carl Rogers had a major impact on public education in America, and much of our schools' reluctance to expect much out of their students, much less demand it, can be laid squarely at Carl's doorstep.  In fact, these Rogerian theories, along with their educational offshoots, in large measure account for the teacher we so often see sitting on his or her duff in the classroom handing out busywork and going, "Hmmm!"  The kid will educate himself if we just don't get in the way don't you know?

Needless to say, parents of ignorant and unruly kids love this kind of teacher and point with pride to their offspring bouncing off the walls in the classroom "actualizing."  And I don't need to tell you what these parents do if anybody attempts to discipline their children or call them down.  But still I've found the Rogerian model especially helpful with Rooster.  So I repeat: I often employ the technique with him.

"Hmmm," I said in response to Rooster's question about the propriety of seconding a motion and then voting against the question.

I know that a motion has to be seconded before it can even be discussed, Rooster reflected.  And I know that a motion dies if it gets no second, but it doesn't look like you ought to be able to second a motion unless you were in favor of it in the first place.


I mean if a motion doesn't get a second, Rooster continued, it dies, right?  Best way to defeat a motion would be not to second it, right?  Something doesn't seem right about that, but I don't know what to do about it.  I can find nothing in Robert what says you can't vote against a motion even though you were the one what seconded it.  So what do you do?


Of course, like Robert says, a second is merely a member saying he wants the question before the assembly.  Could be the member who makes the second wants the question considered for the express purpose of having it defeated.  Then, too, maybe he's a fair-minded individual and thinks that if somebody goes to the trouble of making a motion it deserves a fair and open discussion whether or not he approves.


Yeah, that's the ticket, Rooster said in a fit of unprecedented revelation.  Makes sense to me now.  Thanks for helping me understand that.  And off Rooster went, fully actualized and a much better SOB parliamentarian than he was when he came in.  But somehow our kids aren't coming out of school these days quite as well fulfilled.  Or maybe they are!

© 2004 David B. Shields.
David B. Shields is a retired vocational rehabilitation counselor and self-employed vocational expert and consultant from Waycross, GA.  He presently runs Ware Op-Ed & News, a news and opinion web site.

The IP comments:  Hmmm.

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© 2004 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro - All rights reserved.