Adversarial Approach to Problem Solving

James Flanigan’s column about cost-cutting in corporate America, “Cost-Cutting: Easing the Pain (April 22), is a topic that deserves a great deal of attention.

Both labor and management are at fault. They, and in fact our whole society, must learn to get along better.

The adversarial approach to solving problems is primitive, barbaric, inefficient and expensive. Labor disputes and many others should be subject to compulsory arbitration rather than media battles and vitriolic litigation.

Regarding Flanigan’s remarks and those of Foster Smith of the National Alliance of Business about trade schools and college: “We act as if everybody should go to college, when 70% of the jobs don’t require a college degree.” It is important to remember that colleges, in general, are not trade schools (except engineering, medical and law schools).


The purpose of college, it seems to me, is to introduce people to the great institutions, sciences and arts of society; to learn about life and to learn to think critically.

If a college education is successful, the graduate leaves with a respect and empathy for other cultures and classes of people, and he or she has at least a reading acquaintance with many of the great ideas of Western society.

College is the great civilizing influence and is one of the wisest investments a society or an individual can make.

It is not the only way to become educated, of course, and it may or may not have anything to do with what one does for a living later. However, it has everything to do with how one thinks, feels and lives one’s life.


Judging from the barbaric treatment of their workers, it is obvious that the management at Caterpillar would benefit from going back to college. I would strongly recommend anthropology and ethics classes.


Pacific Palisades