How it is leading us away from representative government to an illusion of citizen participation.
This article explained the Delphi Technique and how it is used as a methodology in the education system. It was critical of the technique and explains the consequences and motivations of those who are using it.
The Delphi Technique and consensus building are both founded in the same principle - the Hegelian dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, with synthesis becoming the new thesis. The goal is a continual evolution to "oneness of mind" (consensus means solidarity of belief) -the collective mind, the wholistic society, the wholistic earth, etc. In thesis and antithesis, opinions or views are presented on a subject to establish views and opposing views. In synthesis, opposites are brought together to form the new thesis. All participants in the process are then to accept ownership of the new thesis and support it, changing their views to align with the new thesis. Through a continual process of evolution, "oneness of mind" will supposedly occur.
In group settings, the Delphi Technique is an unethical method of achieving consensus on controversial topics. It requires well-trained professionals, known as "facilitators" or "change agents," who deliberately escalate tension among group members, pitting one faction against another to make a preordained viewpoint appear "sensible," while making opposing views appear ridiculous.
The facilitators or change agents encourage each person in a group to express concerns about the programs, projects, or policies in question. They listen attentively, elicit input from group members, form "task forces," urge participants to make lists, and in going through these motions, learn about each member of a group. They are trained to identify the "leaders," the "loud mouths," the "weak or non-committal members," and those who are apt to change sides frequently during an argument.
Suddenly, the amiable facilitators become professional agitators and "devil's advocates." Using the "divide and conquer" principle, they manipulate one opinion against another, making those who are out of step appear "ridiculous, unknowledgeable, inarticulate, or dogmatic." They attempt to anger certain participants, thereby accelerating tensions. The facilitators are well trained in psychological manipulation. They are able to predict the reactions of each member in a group. Individuals in opposition to the desired policy or program will be shut out.
The Delphi Technique works. It is very effective with parents, teachers, school children, and community groups. The "targets" rarely, if ever, realize that they are being manipulated. If they do suspect what is happening, they do not know how to end the process. The facilitator seeks to polarize the group in order to become an accepted member of the group and of the process. The desired idea is then placed on the table and individual opinions are sought during discussion. Soon, associates from the divided group begin to adopt the idea as if it were their own, and they pressure the entire group to accept their proposition.
How the Delphi Technique Works
First, a facilitator is hired. While his job is supposedly neutral and non-judgmental, the opposite is actually true. The facilitator is there to direct the meeting to a preset conclusion. The facilitator begins by working the crowd to establish a good-guy-bad-guy scenario. Anyone disagreeing with the facilitator must be made to appear as the bad guy, with the facilitator appearing as the good guy.
Next, the attendees are broken up into smaller groups of seven or eight people. Each group has its own facilitator. The group facilitators steer participants to discuss preset issues, employing the same tactics as the lead facilitator. Why hold such meetings at all if the outcomes are already established? The answer is because it is imperative for the acceptance of the School-to-Work agenda, or the environmental agenda, or whatever the agenda, that ordinary people assume ownership of the preset outcomes. If people believe an idea is theirs, they'll support it. If they believe an idea is being forced on them, they'll resist.
How to Diffuse the Delphi Technique
Three steps can diffuse the Delphi Technique as facilitators attempt to steer a meeting in a specific direction.
Always be charming, courteous, and pleasant. Smile. Moderate your voice so as not to come across as belligerent or aggressive.
Stay focused. If possible, jot down your thoughts or questions. When facilitators are asked questions they don't want to answer, they often digress from the issue that was raised and try instead to put the questioner on the defensive. Do not fall for this tactic. Courteously bring the facilitator back to your original question. If he rephrases it so that it becomes an accusatory statement (a popular tactic), simply say, "That is not what I asked. What I asked was . . ." and repeat your question.
Be persistent. If putting you on the defensive doesn't work, facilitators often resort to long monologues that drag on for several minutes. During that time, the group usually forgets the question that was asked, which is the intent. Let the facilitator finish. Then with polite persistence state: "But you didn't answer my question. My question was . . ." and repeat your question.
Never become angry under any circumstances. Anger directed at the facilitator will immediately make the facilitator the victim. This defeats the purpose. The goal of facilitators is to make the majority of the group members like them, and to alienate anyone who might pose a threat to the realization of their agenda. People with firm, fixed beliefs, who are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in, are obvious threats.
At a meeting, have two or three people who know the Delphi Technique dispersed through the crowd so that, when the facilitator digresses from a question, they can stand up and politely say: "But you didn't answer that lady/gentleman's question."
Establish a plan of action before a meeting. Everyone on your team should know his part. Later, analyze what went right, what went wrong and why, and what needs to happen the next time. Never strategize during a meeting.
This process sounds very political in this type of setting and that personal agendas, or vendettas may come into play if a facilitator is not in control of the situation. The illusion of a representative participation is obvious in this type of situation.