Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

Constructive Dissent

Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

Constructive Dissent

Article excerpt

Sarah Morrow, my assistant, has pretty eclectic reading tastes, as proven by a page from a journal she sent me recently. It's an article from the Foreign Service Journal, published by the American Foreign Service Association. The article is by the president, Susan Johnson. Sarah thought I'd be interested. The article starts out:

"Taking constructive dissent - informed alternative views - seriously is essential both to healthy institutions and effective policy. This means consistently promoting and nurturing a corporate culture that publicly values creative, vigorous challenges to corporate wisdom, and is not satisfied with only the form, rather than the substance, of dissent."

The author goes on to mention shriveling of dissent in the State Department and its "Dissent Channel," which, since its establishment in 1971, has had 250 dissent messages submitted. "Yet as far as is known, few if any of them ever led to real changes in department policy."

No kidding. Dissent, constructive or not, is not welcomed enthusiastically in any institution I can think of, and certainly not in government agencies like the State Department, where, like all government departments, politics plays a powerful role. Politics exist in institutions, too.

I agree that dissent can be very constructive, but I would think primarily in very small institutions, like developing computers in your garage. One of the characteristics of growth, it seems to me, is the stifling of dissent. I certainly noticed it in the governmental growth of my county over the forty years I was part of that government. …

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