Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Got Something to Say?: Student Government

Editor's Note: Below I have copied a conversation over Ashu's recent post "Are Student Governments Necessary". It's a very interesting conversation and the kind of debate we really look forward to having on the NYC Students Blog. It also gives you a nice sense of the kind of debate that takes place at our meetings. BTW I re-formatted both posts for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy- Seth

Louis said...

Let me preface the comments with my guarantee of the utmost respect for your work Ashu and the work of your SGO. That said there were a couple points I felt it important to make.

While I agree with your contention that SGOs are important, their role as displayed seems contrived. You talk about helping the student body and this is indeed imperative but I would say this is not helping them to feel at home but rather to handle the numerous administrative issues that undoubtedly arise. Further, planning activities is fine and dandy, but I personally feel that there are enough issues already in each school: funding, scheduling, structure, etc. that are more crucial and should take an SGO’s focus.

Indeed the effectiveness of the school is crucial and should take precedence over its welcoming atmosphere. Though this is entirely imagined, it is not beyond the pale of reality to have a school with glorious activities and no curricular achievements or uncommunicative teachers, or the ilk. Creativity is also very nice and pleasant but sometimes all a problem needs is some clout and an avenue to a faculty ear.

You contend that if students like their environment they will stay in school and learn. While this is true, there needs to be a proper and adjusted system in place, achievable only through communication between student body and administration as handled by a SGO, to educate those children remaining in school due to your efforts. You seem very interested in empowering students to implement ideas but in so neglect reaching out to students who have major problems and have no clue, or worse no power, to fix them.

Finally, “It is necessary for all schools to have a student government” not simply for a student’s comfort but because otherwise schools would continue to operate in na├»ve counter-educational fashions.

Ashu said...

Your arguments are valid such as "Though this is entirely imagined, it is not beyond the pale of reality to have a school with glorious activities and no curricular achievements or incommunicative teachers, or the ilk. " But I believe that small steps lead to greater results. So, if we start out by putting a student government in every school, that is inviting, and makes the school inviting, I believe that it could be considered the first step toward many problems. Student governments should be dealing with all aspects of a student’s life, and that includes teachers, staff and administration.

The way to solve problems of an uncommunicative teacher is to try to solve the root problem (if possible, and this is usually through trial and error). The teacher may not feel comfortable in the school and thus may not be cooperating with students. Using my school as an example we hold many events that get teachers and staff involved. Our student government sends cards thanking teachers, for their hard work and dedication. There can be many reasons, and I am not saying that every problem has a simple solution as the one described above. Once students with the help of their SGO’s feel more comfortable in their respective schools, they would be willing to cooperate with staff and fellow classmates, making the school environment better.

You mentioned the administration, well student government is the link between the administration and students, and so for those students who do not know how to solve certain problems, student government can be the go to point for them. My SGO has a council called “Principals council” which meets once a month and consists of 4 representatives, one from each grade and our principal. Last Friday one of our representatives on the council presented the issue of soaps in the bathrooms, because many students had brought to his attention the lack of soap quality. He brought this concern of the students, who otherwise may have never had their voice heard, to the principal. Monday morning we had new soap in out bathrooms. I understand that the type of soap may not be the first concern of many students in other schools, but this is just an example of how student governments are effective in a school, and how they affect the school environment in a positive way.

There are problems with every solution. I am simply advocating for student governments in other schools, because I see first hand the difference it can make in a school. SGO sponsored events pulls together people from all different backgrounds and groups and making the school achieve a more united feeling. With this united feeling, students can feel more safe and welcomed within their schools. Of course all schools are not going to achieve this, because of maybe the ignorance or apathy of some students, but if it helps some students, it would be worth it.

I appreciate the feedback, and I believe that you made some very strong and valid points. My views on certain issues may be slightly biased because of my personal experience in an effective student government.

1 comment:

Louis said...

Thank you Ashu for the clarification, i too strongly believe in the power of the SGOs but just felt that your original post seemed to negelct some of the what i felt to be more important and that you have now addressed in your response.