Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summertime Musical Aside: John McCutcheon Sings About Alternative Dispute Resolution

In the world of children's music, there is no one better than John McCutcheon. McCutcheon lived for a time in central Virginia, though I do not know if he still calls the area home.

It has been a thrill to re-discover McCutcheon as a parent (his website is here).

McCutcheon used to visit my elementary school once a year, and I always looked forward to his shows. His clever stories and lyrics are the absolute best: funny, evocative, and meaningful, all at the same time. The magical sound of the hammer dulcimer takes me right back to being 7-years old.


This past weekend I discovered McCutcheon's album from 1997, Bigger Than Yourself.

The album has a number of gems (I love "Whatchagonnabe" and "Friendship"), but the song that put me in mind of lawyering is "Let Someone Else Decide."

Although mediation has its detractors, I think it can be a valuable mechanism for resolving disputes (or at least getting the parties on-track towards a resolution).

Whether intentionally or not, McCutcheon gives mediation a plug in Let Someone Else Decide; I like the song's message that a disinterested third party can help each side-to-a-dispute see things from the other person's point of view. The "someone else" can help the disagreeing parties reach a solution that -- even if not perfect -- both people can live with.

The lyrics without the music probably won't do it justice, but here is an excerpt from Let Someone Else Decide (to listen to the song, check out Rhapsody or another music streaming site):

"I am right"

"You are wrong"

"I am not"

"Yes you are."

Dad and I just couldn't agree; though we'd written it down, we went round and around

I was getting mad and so was he.

"It means this"

"It means that"

"Are you nuts?"

"Same to you."

We could see things were going down fast

So we talked to my mother and Stuart my brother, who had a good solution at last:

When your argument goes fuss fuss

Find someone who you both trust

Let him listen to each side, and let that someone else decide.