COMMENTARY 893.2: Tyranny of the Minority

According to a survey of parents, 93 percent want schools to teach basic values like honesty and respect. The problem is, schools are left to contend with the 7 percent who disagree. In any enterprise that seeks to avoid conflict and find consensus, that small minority may often dictate policy.

Too often, aggressive objectors bully administrators into quick surrender with the threat of contentious and prolonged opposition. This has created a tyranny of the minority. The way it works is that 5 percent make so much noise that they seem like 25 percent, and when it comes to a decision, they’re treated as if they were 55 percent.

I strongly support the right of all people to speak their minds and the corollary duty of administrators to listen to and consider what everyone has to say. My concern is, we seem to have elevated the right to be heard into a right to win. We seem to be turning the basic democratic principle of “the majority rules” upside down so that “the minority controls.” That’s not how democracy’s supposed to work.

Of course, the will of the majority never should be allowed to trample basic human rights of a minority. But I’m not talking about persecution or discrimination. I’m talking about how we deal with disagreements.

Just as we must always guard against oppressive majority opinions, we must also guard against dictatorial minority philosophies. That means we need leaders who have the moral courage to stand up to those who would thwart the will of the majority with demands, protests, and backdoor politicking.

We also need more people who are willing to lose and subject their personal preferences to the will of the majority. Democracy requires respect from all sides.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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