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Dynamic Chiropractic – May 23, 1990, Vol. 08, Issue 11

"Consensus: Peace!"

By James W. Healey, DC

I was recently contacted by a chiropractor who was interested in resolving some of the difficulties that currently lead to much controversy and battling within our profession. He told me that he really didn't understand the differences between the two schools of thought and, naturally then, why there should be any fighting at all.

His perception was that since chiropractic originated with D.D. Palmer, one man with one idea, that there should be common ground between straights and mixers, perhaps enough to have them reach some sort of a compromising position of consensus agreement as to exactly what chiropractic is. If this was possible, he thought, then it would bring peace to the profession and allow us to focus on other more productive efforts.

I, of course, agreed with him that our profession could spend its time, energy, and resources more effectively than battling one another. I have always held that the fighting is wasteful and unnecessary.

I asked him what he thought the common ground was that would allow straights and mixers to come to some agreement regarding chiropractic. He said he considered there to be a chiropractic core concept, concern for the spine, that seemed to be common to straights and mixers alike. This is an opinion that many people have.

On this point, though, I had to disagree, even though he may have been correct in a limited sense. Describing either straight chiropractic or mixing chiropractic as a profession which has concern for the spine is like saying that New York is the place where you find tall buildings. Granted, it's true, but not distinctive enough to communicate New York any more than it does Chicago or Los Angeles. As for the spine, I know a yoga instructor who has concern for the spine for himself and his pupils, and certainly orthopedists, physiatrists and others would fit into that classification, as well as chiropractors do. Ironically, there are probably some chiropractors who are not concerned at all about the spine.

Even if we were to accept "the spine" as the common ground for the purpose of reaching a consensus, what would the consensus be? Would it be that it can exhibit vertebral subluxation? Some have argued that subluxation is the cause of all disease and some have argued that it doesn't even exist. Some have called for the word subluxation to be dropped from the chiropractic vocabulary and some spend their entire professional lives finding and correcting them. No consensus. That the spine is located in the back? Possible consensus here, but so what!

After some discussion and consideration of other areas of possible agreement, including communication with other chiropractic organizations or agencies, the chiropractor decided that a consensus on the spine may not be worthwhile. He seemed discouraged by the thought. I then asked him to look at the problem again, focusing on the goal, not the consensus. The goal, we agreed, was peace -- definitely worthwhile. The solution was not a consensus on the spine or the identification of common ground. It was the acceptance of diversity in the profession -- not the elimination of it.

To try to fit both types of chiropractors under one umbrella won't work except, as we saw, in the most general and insignificant ways. Only if one group becomes so much like the other that it has the same needs will it be possible. It is historically true that when this happened, one of the groups disappeared or at least was severely weakened. It had to surrender its mission and core concepts in order to become closer in kind to its counterpart. It gave up its reason for being. Consequently, its membership declined to the point of non-existence. Did you realize there was once a UCA or previous ICA and ACA which existed in the first half of the century and are now gone because of mergers or lack of mission?

I believe we've learned from history. Let's face it. Straight chiropractors aren't going to disappear and neither are mixing chiropractors. The organizations that serve them must meet the different needs of the different groups. The laws that govern them are being written in some cases specifically to meet the distinctive governing needs of the different groups. We now have two accrediting agencies to meet the different accreditation needs.

The only consensus -- the only valuable consensus -- is that we'll "agree to disagree," and not interfere with one another. And, in answer to the chiropractor, SCASA would be willing to participate in such consensus.


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