I was just listening to an oldies station, and this gem popped up: “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.” I remember this song and the catchy verse from Stealers Wheel. (For those unfortunate enough to have missed this era, it was the 60s and yes, some of us do remember pieces of it. As the joke goes, “I lived through the ’60s. It was a great decade—or so I’m told”).
I feel like this a lot in our profession, though I don’t in any way mean to imply that people on the left or right of issues are “clowns” and “jokers.” On the contrary; they are passionate people who believe in what they do, and they fight for these beliefs. As an intellectual revolutionary myself, I respect these passionate warriors, even if I don’t always agree with them. What these lyrics bring to mind for me is a strategy for change. On one hand, I hear rhetoric that the solution is simple: Get rid of this organization or that person and everything will be fine. At the other end of the spectrum are people who feel so impotent or disinterested in the issues facing us that they have withdrawn. I believe that the solution is “in the middle;” not as a position of compromise, but quite the opposite. It’s a strategy that says the solution is not singular, nor is it so complex that nothing can be done. Rather, solutions are doable, but they will involve serious hard work and a long-term vision and plan.
What I’ve learned to do is apply what I call the REALLY? test. Someone says to me, for example, that if we would just allow chiropractors to prescribe drugs and perform surgery and give up this spinal/neurological subluxation mumbo-jumbo, that the profession would be “fixed.” …REALLY?
Or that if we’d just wipe out this or that organization, then the profession would be “fixed.” …REALLY?
Recently, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE)’s reaffirmation by the Department of Education. One group initiated a social media campaign to attempt to block that reaffirmation. The Executive Committee of the CCE published a letter to the profession defending itself. One side sees their elimination as critical to fixing the profession, the other views its actions as noble and without fault. …REALLY?
I’m amazed when people who experience no consequences to their actions try to engage others in their efforts by publicly embarrassing them, or worse, ridiculing and belittling them. It’s easy to start a campaign with simple slogans that appeal to people’s fears and emotions, but while it feels good to whip off an e-mail to a government group, the bottom line is that there are no negative personal consequences to doing so, regardless of the outcome. For others, like the colleges who must maintain federal accreditation on behalf of the students who trust and expect to graduate into a profession where they can obtain a license to practice, the stakes and consequences are more critical. On the other hand, CCE has a history of being accused of being a political organization that has used its power to manipulate schools into unwanted philosophical positions. They have often failed to reflect the nature of what many feel is the very essence of our professional identity. So, what is an effective strategy for dealing with a profession that is often adrift? Wipe out CCE and live with the anarchy that would follow; such as loss of licensure rights for most students, loss of federal student loans for many, if not all, colleges? You can fill in the rest of the scenario. Or do we simply let things be and passively accept whatever is handed out without demanding accountability from those organizations critical to our development as a profession? Maybe the answer is in the middle.
Here are the real issues: If you want to see your view of Chiropractic moved forward, you have to start with each state that dictates the scope of Chiropractic for that state. Drugs in New Mexico had nothing to do with CCE. They had to do with a one-vote majority on the State Board of Examiners, control of the Executive Committee of the N.M. State Association and years of work with legislators in the N.M. House and Senate. Want to influence Chiropractic? Start there.
And this is the middle I’m talking about—the hard work that takes dedication and meetings and years of effort to really influence our professional dialogue. This isn’t the entire game plan, but it’s a start. If you don’t like the CCE, then start an agency that is accredited by the U.S. Department of Education, get the states to approve the agency for licensure purposes and give schools an option. Do the work. I’m not defending either side, here. I’m just saying that the answers aren’t simple.
So, clowns to the left, jokers to the right, and for those who recognize the need for serious change and are committed to that responsibility, we’ll meet you in the middle.