An earlier version of this essay appears in the Spring 2010 issue of educational Horizons
The Indeterminacy of Consensus:
masking ambiguity and vagueness in decision
Edward G. Rozycki, Ed. D.
Consensus: illusions of agreement?
We've made a good beginning by setting the nation's sights on six ambitious National Education Goals ...George H. W. Bush, America 2000: an education strategy (DOE, 1991)
...all you have to do is say yes ... --- Montel Jordan, I Say Yes
The False Consensus Effect is stronger in situations with ambiguity --- Borgson & Weber (2008), 
Yes, we can. -- Popular American Sentiment, 2008
People expect too much of a "yes." "Yes" might indicate agreement, but agreement does not necessarily indicate a "meeting of the minds," a surrender of "heart and soul," or, as Star Trek fans might have it, a "mind-meld." People work together and coordinate their activities. But that does not, in and of itself, indicate a "sharing of values" or a "commonality of goals." Because people generally obey a law does not mean that they value its legal constrictions. Nor does it mean that they believe the law is beneficial, or that under certain circumstances, they wouldn't ignore the law altogether. And, a most obvious example, working to earn a living is not the same as enjoying it, or wanting to do it.
That fact that plagiarism and cheating is commonplace among the top ranks of American high school and college students is also evidence for misgivings about the necessity of sharing academic or other values in order to succeed. So is the high number of people incarcerated in US prisons for possession or sale of controlled substances. And so is the recently passed (December 2009) legislation for health care in the US House of Representatives and Senate.
Why might people consent when their "heart is not in it" or they have "mental reservations"? Here are some obvious reasons:
a. out of politeness, or indifference;
b. in general, as a temporizing reaction to various kinds of importunity; or
c. in pursuit of other goals for which the agreement is merely instrumental.
Despite the easy chit-chat of political pundits, voting "landslides" may signify little more than reaction against earlier incumbents.
Supporting the idea that consensus is necessary for cooperation are Western theoretical traditions that hold consensus to be the lynchpin for any kind of society. Consensus is also looked to as a prerequisite for any coherent action in a "democratic" society. Educators everywhere tend to prefer consensual theories which bias in favor of elite "cadres" to which those of the academy presume they belong. Organizational leaders, of course, have a natural interest in emphasizing consensus, particularly if their membership believes that the organization is run somewhat along democratic principles, or by voluntary participation.
In a pluralistic society such as ours in the United States of America, it is an unrealistic to think that consensus runs very deep. Despite this, there is no end of teachers, preachers, and promotional speakers who push people to dedicate themselves to "real learning," "shared values," "meeting of the minds," using such superficial methods as paper-and-pencil examinations, promise-making, solemn oaths, and reciting creeds. What they generally lack is any kind of intensive investigation to confirm whether "real" learning, shared values or met minds have occurred. (Such investigation, if it occurs at all, is especially avoided until financial support from the "dedicated" has been assured.)
This is not to say that exams, oaths, or credal recitations can't work to produce shared values or meeting of the minds. Rather, it is to warn that they might not work; perhaps, even to caution that they generally fail to produce lasting changes in people -- as indicated by the relatively high frequency of mediocre academic achievement, broken promises, adultery, fraud, and other such pastimes.
Why Consensus Appears to Work
"It is by universal misunderstanding that all agree." -- Baudelaire
We might be inclined to agree with Baudelaire. In many situations, people caught up in the enthusiasm of a crowd or hypnotized by the rhetoric of a ceremony claim to be in agreement with one another -- and, they often fervently believe it to be so. The bride and groom at a wedding ceremony may agree to "love, honor and obey." But question them privately afterwards and you will find discrepancies between what each of them explains is their understandings of those words. If no discrepancies initially turn up, ask them after the honeymoon is over.
However, what Baudelaire seems to overlook is that an agreement is often little more than an expression of concession or acquiescence. Faced with a potential impasse, parties may make concessions or acquiesce in a formulation of mutual responsibilities that none really find optimal. Why would they do such a thing? Because, by conducting a cost-benefit analysis parties to a negotiation find out that concession or acquiescence is less costly than disrupting relationships with their opponents by, say, walking away from the bargaining situation. Let's examine this more closely.
Reasons for Disagreement
Given a choice, say, between two courses of action, X or Y, there may be many reasons why people agree on one or the other. Some easy examples come to mind:
a. Ignorance: the participants don't understand what the choice situation is about. (A point for Baudelaire!) They are involved merely because of "extraneous" social factors, e.g. a desire to belong, to participate; or, a desire to be in a position to persecute later deviants; or mere habit or tradition.
b. Lack of discernment: 1) they perceive X and Y to be indistinguishable and are "voting" because they want to participate in a social event. Or, 2) they view the differences between X and Y with equanimity, say, if offered a free ticket not of their choice for playing in the national sweepstakes of either country X or country Y. (Any benefit is better than none.)
c. Insignificance: a step up from lack of discernment. The chooser can well distinguish between X and Y; however, viewing them from some kind of cost-benefit perspective, the chooser perceives no difference in either short-term or long-term expectations of gain or loss.
A sense of number and difference probably influences our judgment: we naturally expect that a "consensus" among 100,000 strangers is likely to contain more misunderstanding than one existing between two old friends. If Baudelaire is right, then unless we check, we don't know if apparent agreement really is a consensus. If, for example, "consensus" is taken to mean "agreement such that no future elaboration will elicit discrepancies among parties in agreement in the interpretation of the original statement," then consensus has to be considered a very rare event, a limiting condition, perhaps, that is seldom actualized. (Note that any definition which depends on future developments to establish its present applicability can have no practical application except as a hypothesis, e.g. "I think this will turn out in the long run to have been a consensus.")
How can we ascertain that consensus has been achieved? We may not be able to. That consensus has been reached may be an operating assumption which is reasonable, even given limited evidence, for us to go on. But the claim of consensus is far from having the certainty of a mathematical proof, or even the kind of reasonable certainty, based on long experience, that the sun will rise tomorrow, or that the tides will continue to ebb and flow.
What is consensus supposed to do? Examples from educational policy debate.
Consensus is seldom necessary or sufficient to support a course of action. Consider the following example: Diane Ravitch in a comment published in the New York Times asserts,
The single biggest problem in American education is that no one agrees on why we educate.
Is it really a matter of agreeing on why? Won't it do just to agree on "what" and "how?"
Suppose every American agreed that "we" educate in order to prepare kids for the world of work. What follows from that? Would we then all agree that art classes be removed from public schools? Would every 7th grade child take woodshop? Or vice versa? It is far from clear.
In fact, back in the 19th Century, public schooling was sold to Americans as a whole potpourri of benefits: common schools were to be
"...the best police for our cities, the lowest insurance for our houses, the finest security for our banks, the most effective means of preventing pauperism."
Need there have been much consensus on any particular one of these purported "benefits?" This scattershot method of promotion indicates that any single factor would not have been critically persuasive.
However, such rhetoric eventually helped build a broad but shallow consensus for public schooling. Unfortunately, however, this consensus proved hard to maintain under the pressures of implementation. David Nasaw quotes Horace Mann:
"While there appeared to be widespread agreement among Americans on the importance of schooling for their children, there was no consensus on the shape that schooling should take. There were differences of opinion over how the schools should be funded: over what form religious instruction should take; over the qualifications for schoolmasters, the facilities for schoolhouses, the content and objectives of school books, and the proper language of classroom instruction."
Ravitch's claim, that no one agrees about why we educate, is at best a rhetorical flourish. She would be the first, I suspect, to confess that it is false; or, at least, that she does not know it to be true. (Did she survey all Americans? Even if she did, have they changed their minds since she started with the very first of the 308 million+ citizens of the US?)
For the sake of argument, let's take her statement literally. Does Ravitch really mean to claim that there is no one, i.e. no existing pair of individuals, that can agree on why we (whoever) do or should educate? This is obviously false because I, among many, would agree with much of what she says when she writes,
Faced with this lack of consensus, policy makers define good education as higher test scores. But higher test scores are not a definition of good education. Students can get higher scores in reading and mathematics yet remain completely ignorant of science, the arts, civics, history, literature and foreign languages.
Also, packed into her statement are a substantial number of challengeable presuppositions. Compare her statement with this one:
Johnny Smith needs help from Mr. Jones in learning multiplication.
Let us generalize it to the form:
A needs help from B in learning X.
By substituting in the appropriate names of people and things to be learned, we could generate tomes of true educationally relevant statements pertinent to education anywhere in the world. Any group of them might be fulfilled without there being consensus on either general or specific beliefs about education. Note, for example, that Ravitch's claims presume the curricular and organizational structures of an American high school. Need we agree on such structures to address the learning needs of any individual?
Other Opinions on Consensus
Ravitch is far from being alone in assuming consensus problems are at the heart of educational issues. Aristotle, more than two millennia ago, regarding only the attitudes of the small population of free adult males of Athens who counted as citizens, commented,
That education should be regulated by law and should be an affair of state is not to be denied, but what should be the character of this public education, and how young persons should be educated, are questions which remain to be considered. As things are, there is disagreement about the subjects. For mankind are by no means agreed about the things to be taught, whether we look to virtue or the best life.
Part of the emphasis on consensus by both Ravitch and Aristotle may come from their assumption that the state has, or should have, a pertinent role in schooling. There is here, perhaps, a reiteration of Plato's that individual and social motivations have the same basis:
...harmony and unity in the ideal polis derive from the identification of each citizen of his own interest with the interest of all.
By why not accept that because individuals, not matter how tightly bound they may be to family and clan, run their own life course, confronting from their own perspective influences that make them ultimately different, and reasonably so? We agree or not and it doesn't matter so much as that we acquiesce when it is individually rational for us to do so.
In 1985 a panel of nine prominent educators were concerned enough to advise the National Institute of Education to cut back on research on the cognitive development of students so that it should devote a greater percentage of its dollars to define a common core of knowledge for American students. If there really had been broad agreement on what was to be taught, such a recommendation would have made no sense.Is Consensus determinate?
There are many examples ... of situations in which disparate groups of politicians and the constituents they represent have joined together in common cause but consensus has represented nothing more than a superficial commitment to a simple slogan. -- Susskind & Cruikshank, Breaking the Impasse, 1987, p.63-64 [21a]
The Breadth of Consensus
Let us analyze consensus on an issue in three dimensions: its breadth, its depth and its span.
Is consensus determinate? Yes, in one of its dimensions; but, only superficially. In the dimension which I will call "breadth" degree of consensus is determined by a head count. But such consensus is volatile, ambiguous and vague. By itself it leads to little action since ambiguity and vagueness often stultify the task specification needed to initiate action.
Pick a group and a formulation of an issue, e.g. "Ought public monies be used to support common schools, i.e. schools open to all and any children?" The breadth of consensus of the group, either yes or no, is a mere matter of a head-count. This is about as determinate as consensus gets: a head count.
But the breadth of the group's consensus is agreement which is a construct of either the ambiguity or vagueness of the definition of the group or of the statement of the issue. If, for example, we distinguish between Americans as opposed to American taxpayers, we might well expect to find a difference in the consensus on the issue. Also, if we distinguish between public monies of federal as opposed to local origin, a difference in consensus may result. "Open to all and any children" is a phrase which provokes great controversy even today. And after all this, opinions seldom persist unchanged. (Note that the organizational ritual of mission formulation is one common technique for finessing consensus problems.)
The Depth of Consensus
This brings us to the next dimension: the depth of the consensus. Is the formulation of the issue, should it be agreed on, specific enough to permit implementation? The number of specifications needed to adjust the original formulation to the level of some kind of implementation, is the measure of its depth. But will this measure be consistent if repeated? We can hardly trust it to be.
Here we likely fall into indeterminacy. Unoperationalized consensus items often cannot be implemented because their terms are too vague. But from the original, sloganistic formulation of the assented-to proposition that enjoyed the broadest consensus, there may be many possible paths of operationalization. For example, even though in 1988 about 93% of Americans agreed that public money should provide education for all children, only 73% agreed that federal funds should be used to support such schools. And only 47% agreed that taxes should be raised to do the job. (See figure 1. )
But supposed the steps toward operationalization had been: Support public education
a. by state and local action;
b. by enacting new tax laws affecting mostly tourists;
c. and pooling them with a new set of "sin taxes", while
d. reducing school activities and facilities already provided for by townships, e.g. playgrounds, gymnasia, sports teams?
Just because we can reach a level of operationalization with respect to one group, doesn't mean that another group will accept it, too. Technical sophistication does not necessarily help here: many university faculties lack consensus on curricular goals, even within departments.
Sloganistically formulated issues generally enjoy wide breadth of consensus. As they are operationalized down to implementable form, they tend to lose substantial support as earlier hasty supporters realize who will enjoy the benefits and upon whom the costs will be visited. We see the dynamics of this conflict in the health reform initiatives of the Obama administration. Health reform, superficially, sounds good to a lot of people. But as the specifics are hammered out some of the earliest enthusiasts of such legislation begin to drag their feet.
Exploring the depth of consensus risks, not only revealing hidden costs, but bringing up disagreement on means. This is why, even in our "democratic" society, leaders of all kinds go with the majority vote, the breadth of a consensus, and leave its depth unexplored. One must avoid "opening cans of worms," say, with individual personal cost-benefit analysis that have the potential of undercutting the breadth of the consensus of the group.
In education, technical groups related to subject matter have developed special vocabulary, ostensibly "scientific" but more likely political, to demarcate clientele boundaries, e.g. "at risk," "instructional reader," "integrated curriculum," "limited English proficiency," "challenged."
The Span of Consensus
The span of consensus is gotten by comparing the agreements across issues for a given group. It considers the effects of priorities. It is a recognition that even if people within a group agree on the educational issues in detail, individuals of that same group may differ on whether education takes priority over health care or national defense, or not. There is a tendency -- particularly among educators -- to assume that if people share some kind of "philosophical" outlook, or "common values," a "consensus" on educational philosophy, that this guarantees consensus on voting issues. This is a mistake.
So what do these distinctions tell us? That there are many ways in which consensus on an issue can fail to reach fruition. The consensus may be an illusion of breadth, resting merely on ambiguity or vagueness. The consensus may disappear as the costs of implementation, its depth, are revealed; or, as multiple operationalizations appear to compete and distract commitment from a common cause. The consensus on one issue, in the context of restricted resources and competing concerns revealed in examining its span, may not carry forward the implementation despite persisting through an exploration of its depth. Variation in prioritization, a variation in span of consensus, is the third and final kind of indeterminacy a would-be consensus falls prey to. In daily practice, span issues are generally ignored as though they involved no more than special interest groups elbowing for dominance.
The Search for Consensus as Social Control Mechanism
The attempt to calculate consensus on an issue relative to a given social group may be strongly biased by several different influences:
a. group leaders may see the issue at hand as threatening their authority or tenure;
b. members may see it as threatening "group unity;" i.e. the potential personal costs of "doctrinal" review may outweigh the costs of acquiescence in the doctrine.
c. member wannabees may be quite uninterested in the issue per se and merely want to get past it for admission.
Many religious and political groups, for example, are substantially syncretic. They tolerate wide discrepancies in personal opinions so long as such "opinion" is kept relatively secret and the "party line" acceptable to the leadership is the only thing given public expression.
If consensus cannot be normally achieved, if all that is accomplished by initiations and swearings and oaths and creeds and pronouncements is apparent consensus, why do so many people promote and participate in them?
Because consensus can be extensive, even if it can be shown to be superficial and to have its limits. Consensus is imagined by many people to be desirable, a "sharing" with others, particularly in the groups they belong to. And, practically, deviations from some general consensus may not matter for specific group functions.Preaching to Which Choir? With What Authority?
Here is a fundamental concern: authority of any kind is based on consensus, either as putatively shared beliefs, values and attitudes, or as acquiescence. This is the reality of the moral freedom we enjoy as individuals, if we only think about it. (It is also why our institutions, from family, through church and school, and workplace, and government discourage us from such thoughts, except as they support the special agendas of the institution, for example, rejecting school teaching on evolution.)
I can choose, if I am willing to live with the consequences, not to acknowledge as pertinent to my life, any "authority" whatsoever. This is no weird, esoteric practice to be carried out by bald monks on a mountaintop. It is exactly what we do to a great extent when we visit other countries and cultures: we acquiesce in behaving so as to keep ourselves out of jail, or to avoid social opprobrium; even though we would often disregard whatever other inhibitions and concerns a native of that culture might have. Not acknowledging as authority what or whom others do acknowledge is what makes the differences between families, religions, cultures and nations.
After claiming there is no consensus in the issue, "Why do we educate?" Professor Ravitch presumes to speak with the authority whose consensual foundations she has likely weakened if not postulated away:
Why do we educate? We educate because we want citizens who are capable of taking responsibility for their lives and for our democracy. We want citizens who understand how their government works, who are knowledgeable about the history of their nation and other nations. We need citizens who are thoroughly educated in science. We need people who can communicate in other languages. We must ensure that every young person has the chance to engage in the arts.
(I, who acknowledge her authority as an educator and historian, agree with her almost entirely at this vague level of specification -- I am concerned, however, as to whether "every" young person, no matter the circumstances, has to "engage in the arts," whatever that may mean. What depth of understanding will be pursued? How will capability for taking responsibility be determined? What is "our democracy?" And so on.)
Ravitch adds -- no minor afterthought --
But because of our narrow-minded utilitarianism, we have forgotten what good education is.
Rhetorically, this last sentence finesses the issue of authority, and enfolds us into a community of consensus, reestablishing her authority as it chides us for "our narrow minded utilitarianism" and consequent lapse of memory. We have "forgotten" means that beneath it all, we all agree with Professor Ravitch.
What Can be Accomplished?
To pursue what patches and shards of our "nobler," -- non-work related -- curriculum can be accomplished in the institutional environment we actually live in, I will offer some rules of thumb, given below in stepwise fashion -- their order is not written in stone:
Let us use the word consensus so as to formulate our rules in as colloquial an English as possible -- remembering that "consensus" means "willingness to cooperate based on presumably shared or acquiesced-to beliefs, values or feelings"
To accomplish X (plug in your favorite X)
Step 1: Identify the market for X, e.g. people willing to pay for X or use or allow others monies (in the case of public institutions) ) to pay for X. (Call them the funders.)
Do traditional demographic or political categories encompass these markets? You may have to break loose of easily articulable group labels. You will likely find consensus groups cross over traditional boundaries. Note: do not assume that the market for X is the target of X.
Does low willingness among potential funders necessarily translate into resistance or counter-attack? At shallow depths of consensus, no agreement or disagreement should be taken too seriously. Disregard the pundits.
Step 2: Specify how the funders can influence change or stasis within the relevant organizational environments.
Willingness to bear costs does not indicate, per se, ability to get changes made. Very wealthy funders can spend a lot of money and accomplish little. (I predict that the Gates' undertakings and the Obama administration will suffer this fate, unless their educational efforts undergo major reconceptualization.) "Change agents," for example, who boast they will close down "underperforming" schools and shift their staff are likely to accomplish little beyond accelerating teacher abandonment of position; or, teacher strikes.
Step 3: Operationalize X down to implementable levels.
This is where we get down to brass tacks and find out who really knows what's involved in realizing X.
Step 4: Determine how funder consciousness of depth and span of consensus affect their status, i.e. willingness to pay for X.
Step 5: Carefully consider whether funder-perceived benefits to be obtained by accomplishing X offset funder-perceived costs.
Realize there are more than educational benefits to be gained. And, likely, more than minor costs to be suffered. Will these benefits be recognized as such by the recipients? Are they willing to tolerate the personal costs of participation in the system. If not, it might be well to consider something else. Recipients of goods and services they consider impositions generally work to subvert or sabotage them.
One might raise an objection: Wouldn't following through on these steps possibly force major reconceptions in what we consider public schooling. For example, much of our "noble curriculum" mentioned above may be severely truncated, if it appears at all.
That may happen. (I suspect much of the obfuscation with "consensus" springs from this misgiving.)
In the year 1991 there appeared a remarkable document called, "America 2000: an education strategy." In the process by which it was conceived, many of the considerations raised in this essay were ignored. The rotting carcass of this vision still litters the educational landscape, despite the mutter of occasional litanies to its passing.
 Available at http://www.lyricstime.com/montell-jordan-i-say-yes-lyrics.html
 S. Borgson and M. Weber "False Consensus and the Role of Ambiguity in Predictions of Other's Risk Preferences" No 07-46, Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications from Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim.
 However, in idiomatic American English one generally uses "no" to agree with a negatively posed question, e.g. "This policy isn't acceptable, is it? One answers "no" to agree that the policy isn't acceptable. An answer "yes" is to disagree with the proposition that the policy isn't acceptable.
 See Gary K. Clabaugh & Edward G. Rozycki, "Cheating Trends" available at http://www.newfoundations.com/PREVPLAGWEB/CheatingTrends1.html
 Access data on this at http://drugwarfacts.org/cms/?q=node/62
 See "Disputes threaten '09 passage of health bill" available at http://upcoming.current.com/search?q=Health+bill's+passage+is+just+a+start+-+Philadelphia+Inquirer
 See Thomas J. Bernard, The Consensus-Conflict Debate. Form and Content in Social Theories. New York. Columbia University Press. 1983. Chapter 1.
 See Nicholas Rescher, Pluralism. Against the Demand for Consensus. Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1993, page 7 on coming to terms with realities of individual difference.
 It is not an accident that in our religiously pluralistic US that church "resources" vary inversely with the severity of penance demanded of sinners.
 See Susskind, L & Cruikshank, J, Breaking the Impasse, 1987, p. 63-64. Sloganizing increases ambiguity, which in turn increases false consensus. See Gary K. Clabaugh & Edward G. Rozycki (1999) "Slogans in Education" available at http://www.newfoundations.com/Slogans.html
 See for example, Prabha, Chandra, Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Lawrence Olszewski, and Lillie R. Jenkins. 2007. "What is enough? Satisficing information needs." Journal of Documentation, 63,1: 74-89. Pre-print available online at: http://www.oclc.org/research/publications/library/2007/prabha-satisficing.pdf
 See Susskind, L & Cruikshank, J (1987) on knowing your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement).
 See Nicholas Rescher, Pluralism. Against the Demand for Consensus. Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1993. p. 199. Rescher argues quite convincingly that consensus: is not a standard of truth, is not a standard of value, is not an index of moral or ethical appropriateness, is not a requisite of co-operation, is not a communal imperative for a just social order, and, finally, is not, in and of itself, an appropriate ideal.
 Diane Ravitch, "Beyond Testing" New York Times Magazine, 9/27/09, p. 33.
 Edgar Knight, Twenty Centuries of Education (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1940) p. 172
David Nasaw, Schooled to Order: A Social History of Public Schooling in the United States, (Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 1979) p. 81
 Aristotle Politics Book Eight, Part II (Jowett Translation)
 See John Goodlad A Place Called School, (New York. McGraw-Hill, 1984) There is a substantial difference between the mix of goals that students, teachers and parents perceive in their schools and the mix of goals preferred. In general, Goodlad study found that perceived intellectual goals far exceed preferences; whereas, perceived personal goals do not meet preferred levels. (pp. 62-69)
In contrast, Deloitte finds somewhat the reverse in 2009 in that parents and students in high school want more emphasis on college preparations than their teachers seem willing to give. See http://www.deloitte.com/view/en_US/us/About/Leadership/barry-salzberg/article/568f028846215210VgnVCM100000ba42f00aRCRD.htm
 From Plato, Republic quoted in William T. Bluhm, Theories of the Political System, 3rd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1978) pp.74 -75
 See Rescher, p. 175, "The Rationale of an Acquiescence-Oriented Approach."
 "Researchers Urge E.D. Effort to Define 'Common Core'" Education Week April 24, 1985, p.9
[21a] See G. K. Clabaugh & E. G. Rozycki , "Slogans in Education" available at http://www.newfoundations.com/Slogans.html
 See G. K. Clabaugh & E. G. Rozycki "Getting it Together: the nature of consensus" available at http://www.newfoundations.com/Consensus/NatureConsensus.html
 See Edward G. Rozycki, "Operationalization" available at http://www.newfoundations.com/EGR/Oper.html
 See Gary K. Clabaugh & Edward G. Rozycki "Politics, Consensus and Educational Reform" available at http://www.newfoundations.com/PolEdReform/PolEdRef.html footnote #8. Increasing depth of consensus produces what is called "unpacking." See JP Redden & S Frederick (2011). "Unpacking Unpacking: Greater Detail Can Reduce Perceived Likelihood."( J. Exp. Psych.) available as pdf from http://www.csom.umn.edu/assets/166024.pdf
 This can be done to subvert support. Remember Ronald Reagan's questions in 1980 addressed to each individual member of his audience? "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" began the list. See this speech replay on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loBe0WXtts8
 Another tack, which would take us too far from the main thread of this essay, is to examine to what extent consensus claims contain hidden negative universal empirical statements. These involve search procedures without stopping rules. On search procedures without stopping rules, see Gerd Gigerenzer, "The Adaptive Toolbox" Chapter 3 in G. Gigerenzer & R. Selten (eds) Bounded Rationality. The adaptive toolbox. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 2002) 37 - 36. See "Types of Heuristics" for a quick overview chart of Gigerenzer's and Selten's heuristics types and comparison with standard computational methods: TYPESofHEURISTICS.html
(Here is a list of concepts that probably incorporate negative empirical universals: shared belief, shared feeling, shared attitude. Clearly, any claim that there are no deviants from a putative given consensus bears a burden of proof that grows heavier as numbers and subtleties increase.)
 For theory and exercises spelling out the steps in operationalizing, see Edward G. Rozycki, "Operationalization" available at http://www.newfoundations.com/EGR/Oper.html
 Someone who was involved with a writing team for America 2000: an education strategy told me at the AESA Conference in Pittsburgh PA in Nov 1993 that the several writing teams involved were isolated, rarely communicated and were often uncomfortable with the product they were engaged in producing. -- EGR
 See Edward G. Rozycki "AMERICA 2000: An Education Strategy. The Artifact of a Society Past" educational Horizons Summer 1995. 163-165. Also available at http://www.newfoundations.com/EGR/Am2000.htmlTO TOP