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The Student Body Sinecure

Bharat Sreekrishnavilas, St. Louis, MO


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Early in the morning, still exhausted, I rush to get ready for school, Twice as fast as I usually would on a regular day. A quick shower and an even quicker bite of breakfast before I rush off to school.

I speed walk through empty halls, half an hour before any of my peers arrive. More or less the last to enter the room, I glance around and other equally tired faces before taking a seat.

Bleary eyed and still a little discombobulated, I yawn and mumble out standard morning greetings and small talk to the others in the room. Amongst “hello”s and “what’s up”s someone passes out bagels and the smell of coffee permeates.

I pull out my folder of notes. A loosely organized sheaf of papers comprised of nothing more than a few bullet points of actual notes and a few pages of responsibilities that I have to get done in the coming month.

Finally, someone begins the meeting. As the agenda is laid out, we launch into ‘discussions’ about the few responsibilities we have in student government. From planning the themes of homecoming week or planning the themes of the spring dance, the work we do seemed to be menial.

I don’t want to put hours into my school’s student government only to have my payoff be a line on my college application and an expert level knowledge on how to hang up posters and hand out candy. I want to leave my four years behind knowing that I have done something to make the school year for my peers more enjoyable and that I have gained invaluable knowledge on practical matters.

With the constant droning that students have to listen to in school, the wholly institutionalized teaching methods paraded by the public school system provides only one option for students to have their own opinions, student government.

Unfortunately, in many cases, the role and power of this organization is severely limited. Restricted to mundane tasks such as planning school spirit activities or planning the most superficial parts of events.

Of course, the reason that student government is structured like this is not for good reason. Time and time again, it has been proven that apathy towards the inner workings of the school is something that students feel. A “get in, do what I need to, and get out” mentality is pervasive as each year of students pass through the halls of their school.

This attitude maintained by students is what most administrators believe runs rampant in schools. However, this could not be further from the truth.

From my experiences, as both a student and as a student government member, the perceived apathy stems from the lack of opportunity that students are presented. In the words of author Louis L’Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain”.

For students, the easiest part of going to school is complaining about what is wrong. In experiencing the parts of my own school that, to administrators, seem good in theory, I also notice how many aspects are poorly received by my peers in both practice and execution.

With no real way to change, or even affect, the system that we are a part of, a large majority of students fall back into their only option, to dejectedly complain about pointless programs and ineffective teaching methods.

So how can this be fixed?

Of course, it’s the duty of the administrators to create the teaching criteria and curriculum, but in what ways can students get involved, more so than we already are?

One way is to influence character education in schools. Although not all schools have some kind of character education, one way or another, all schools are in the business of teaching students how to be good people.

Having administrators listen to student government, the very people who experience the result of administration’s decisions and were chosen to lead their peers, could really improve the quality of the interaction between the content that is taught and the people who it's taught to.

But having a school’s student government act as some kind of unilateral representative of the student body isn’t what I’m advocating for. Rather, I want it to be easier for all students to make their voice heard.

This kind of voicing on the part of the student body shouldn’t just be restricted to simple polls about what themes that spirit week or what charity the school should raise money for this year.

No. Instead, there should be a way for students to voice their grievances whenever they want, wherever they want. Being chosen to represent the student body, it’s only fair that same student body gets a chance to say what they would like to change about their school.

Any student government should have a community email, where any student can have the chance to communicate what they want to. This email should enable students to easily influence their school and even provide them the opportunity to communicate this anonymously if they want.

Granted, there will be ‘clever’ kids who abuse this email, but just because a few people don’t take it seriously, doesn’t mean that all students shouldn’t still have an opportunity to share their feelings on the day to day going ons of their school. All students should have the ability to affect their school by fixing the very organization created to help them in the first place.

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