Activity 2: Authority, Majority, and Consensus
Activity time: 10 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Newsprint, markers, and tape
- Leader Resource 2, Ways to Make Group Decisions
Preparation for Activity
- Print the Leader Resource. Use it as a guide to prepare and post three newsprint sheets to portray "authority," "majority," and "consensus," as shown. You may wish to include just the "We... " statement for each method of decision making, and keep the longer definitions for your own use.
Description of Activity
Children explore pros and cons of different ways to make group decisions.
Remind the children of the fifth Unitarian Universalist Principle: We believe everyone deserves a say about the things that concern them. Say that the adult version of the Principles talks about using the democratic process.
Invite volunteers to define the democratic process or explain how people make decisions in a democracy. Say that the democratic process means making sure everyone can have a say in the decisions that affect them. Sometimes it is summarized by saying "one citizen equals one vote."
Say, in your own words:
This sounds fair and, in a perfect world, it would be fair. It is, however, hard to achieve. Sometimes people who should have a say are excluded from the process. We often say these people are marginalized.
In the U.S., women could not vote before 1920 and in many countries, women still cannot vote. Other groups have had their access to the democratic process denied in the history of our country, too, such as African Americans, who can now vote, and people who live in Washington, D.C., whose elected representative cannot vote in Congress. So even systems based on voting are not always fair.
In our country, children cannot vote. But most adult citizens can vote for people to represent them in local and national government where decisions that affect everyone are made. So, too, in most UU congregations, members elect other members to represent them on a governing board. The board makes many, but not all, of the decisions for the congregation. Decisions may be made by staff or committees. Some decisions are made by the whole membership. At congregational meetings, all the members of the congregation can vote on important issues. Using different methods of making decisions gives more opportunity for congregational leaders to hear the opinions of everyone in the congregation. Using the democratic process as a fair way to make group decisions is a sign of our UU faith.
Using the newsprint you have prepared, explain three different ways groups make decisions: authority, majority, and consensus. Ask which method sounds the most fair. Ask which method sounds the easiest and fastest and which the hardest and longest. Say that consensus can be hard to reach and time consuming, but, if the group is small enough and has enough time for everyone to hear one another's opinions, it can be the most fair way for a group do make a decision.
Sometimes one method might be best; sometimes, another. For example, cars at an intersection cannot use consensus as to whose turn it is to go. Traffic lights, stop signs, and the rules of the road are a form of authority that makes that decision. When you receive your driver's license, you agree to obey the rules of the road, which is a form of consensus.