In a previous post on Jefferson’s Bible I discussed the tension that I feel reconciling my personal belief system with a decision before me on the local school board. The pull to be driven ideologically is undeniable, it is a normal part of our human condition. It often stems from the people we have been around, the experiences we have had in our life, and opinions we hear from people we respect. When we come together in a governing body, we have to realize those three factors are different for everyone. In America our system of government is built around representative majority rule. The masses do not rule directly but elect representatives that vote on their behalf. These representatives are not bound to vote exactly as they would, but are expected to make decisions that are in “the public’s best interest”. This concept of “best interest” is where the tension comes in.Members of a governing body are, and should be, privy to information not available to the public.
This information can often drastically change one’s perspective on a decision, and can lead to some raised eyebrows in a constituency. I am in a position of representing the public on the issue of public education. I have resolved myself to making decisions that will best enable the students within my purview to succeed. There are times that voters will not understand a particular decision and I am comfortable with that. I firmly believe if they knew all of the information they would want the best for the students and would make the same decision.The sticky wicket comes when we filter our decisions though our ideology. As my example I will use a ridiculous analogy.
Let us assume that my ideology teaches that the color blue represents evil. My circle of friends and associates all agree with me and I have even attended a “NO BLUE” rally. We cringe at the sight of blue cars and shudder when we see people dressed in that color. It is a learned trait that is associated with bad things to me. In reality a color is not a moral issue, it is simply a color. The damage was done by people using that color in my experiences that caused it to become associated with evil. Now I am elected to office and it turns out the most energy efficient color to paint a building is blue. It is a substantial improvement over other colors, cheaper to buy, easier to paint, the school colors, and also preferred by others. Do I vote no on this issue and lobby others on the basis of my ideology?
As I said, the analogy is ridiculous, but the inherent truth is one we face. There are beliefs held by many of a particular political persuasion that on the surface seem important when in reality they are not. These fringe issues can become closely tied to strong personal convictions that engage an emotional response. They might be important in the right context, but in others they are irrelevant. Is it important to carry that ideology into an unimportant context just to be consistent? Do we make a bad decision because it does not match up with our beliefs? I intend to not do that and I believe we are capable of much higher thinking. I have come to understand it is necessary to consider the current situation without coloring it with ideology. I firmly believe this is key to effective leadership and makes it possible to make really good decisions. We do not want to make blind decisions that can lead to unintended consequences. I have seen decisions made like that do a lot of harm to an organization or government.
I am not suggesting we set aside our morals and our belief systems. What I am suggesting is thoughtful reflection in each situation, not blind application of your ideology. Facts, processing of information, and thought should occur prior to application of ideology and belief system. This will protect you from being a well meaning destroyer and make you a wise leader worthy of respect.