January 3, 2007

Do We Really Want to be Self Governing?

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:24 pm by gary

rightgraphic.jpgLet’s be serious. From the outside, the majority of students appear to not care one way or another about taking part in the governing aspects of the school. During ASM people seem to be spacing out, reading, listening to music or talking to the people near them. Are they there so they have a free period? If attending, they should be participating in the discussions and making the decisions.

The talk in the hall and the classrooms, is about people saying how they hate ASMs and are totally bored or sick of how people are not respectful.

If we are going to keep the same system, how do we make it work?

If we change, are we going to show that we care about the process by joining in House and Senate discussions?

What is the right thing?

What do you want your school to look like, politically?

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15 Comments »

  1. Timothy said,

    The real question is: Will YOU participate?

  2. Chris said,

    He’s got a point.
    We all need to participate in the school government.

  3. Me said,

    People should participate. Also I don’t see how the compromise commitee proposal could make the school governance system work any better. The way we have it now, everybody as the option of being heard and having a part of the desiscion. Yes, it might be easier to talk in family group, but what if your representative does’nt represent YOUR ideas???

  4. the cobster said,

    I think you’re wrong, representative governments are invalid with a group of approximately 200-some students because no one can truly speak their mind through another person, and if you argue that some people have trouble speaking publicly, well that’s one of the principals the school is founded on.

  5. Me said,

    That’s what I meant, you didn’t understand. I was trying to say that representatives would NOT represent us well.

  6. kaile said,

    my absolute favorite part of LACS (besides fall retreat) is the weekly ASM. this is an arena where we can all come together and share ideas that have to do with our school culture and policy. there is nothing more inspiring than a sixth grader voicing their opinion for the first time or a veteran student, who has grown up and developed as part of the community here, standing up to express how meaningful something has been in her or his experience. i’ve listened to sound reasoning, maturity, and emotional support throughout many of the meetings we’ve shared in the 4 years that i have been here and i can whole heartedly vouch for the empowerment that i feel among staff and students who choose to be active participants.

    as far as what things look like from the “outside”, appearances are sometimes misleading. the outcome of the school governance requirement is not necessarily quantifiable or easily observed; rather, it is in the development of awareness around civic responsibility, participation, and process. it is in community and character building that comes from familiarizing oneself with the system or process and coming to an understanding that process can be changed when it is no longer “working” for its constituency.

    as a teacher here, i have, on occasion, because of all the issues i try to involve myself in, lost sight of the many amazing liberties that we have enjoyed and (hopefully) taken some responsibility for. but no matter what, i don’t want to lose my direct vote by relying on a representative school government system. the coolest thing about LACS (besides fall retreat) is this direct participation in the processes that determine our present and future at the school.

    i remain in favor of weekly ASM’s with each staff and student having a direct opportunity for creating and sharing their own voice directly with others.

  7. Publius (in spirit, naturally) said,

    At this point, it’s immaterial: the proposal has been voted down. It could, naturally, be brought back; but that’s a separate discussion. What we need to focus on at this point is where to go in the future. It’s impossible to be unaware of the glaring deficiencies that the ASM system has. That said, it’s doubtful that the proposed representative system would be any better, but it’s important to keep in mind that the school is in need of improvement.

    While Dr Dave’s proposal may have been unrealistic, it was one attempt to acknowledge the issues facing our so-called direct democracy. ASMs are generally unproductive, students are apathetic and staff aren’t alleviating the problem. It would perhaps be useful to look qualitatively at each aspect (student participation, school requirements, etc.) to decide how to proceed.

    People have previously said that the best part about our school is the direct participation, where students are able to make informed educated decisions about the school’s needs and future. That is, theoretically, what happens in ASMs. Instead, they far too often degenerate into repetitive comments and applause. The system today isn’t working, and we need to change it.

    Specifically, the format is in need of a revision. Without the motivation to change things at the school, students are unlikely to pay attention or listen to repeated warnings about noise level. No matter how inspiring it is to see sixth graders making their opinions heard, it’s anything but inspiring to see the many high and middle schoolers sitting in circles with their friends, playing cards or gameboys.

    Smaller meetings (such as QSMs) have always been more effective. Though you get a smaller number of people, it means that much more meaningful discussion can happen. It means that the ‘troublemakers’ can be spoken to individually, without being forced to clamber into a crowded corner. It means that the leader can present the information, and the students can actually HEAR them. I am in favor of school meetings, but ASMs aren’t serving the purpose they were made for. If we were to encourage QSMs, and think about the base problems we’re facing, so much more could be done.

    Keep it in mind-

    -Publius Pseudonym

  8. gary said,

    Publius,
    It might be time for you to submit a question/post for this blog.
    Come see me,
    gary

  9. Mirko said,

    Kaile,

    You’re right. This school is a wonderful thing. But Publius is right too. Sometimes, I think we ask too much of a school who, at first glance, appears to thrive off inefficiency. It may not just be a matter of restructuring the school meetings, but perhaps restructuring the way we look at ourselves.

    Don’t deny it, I know you can think of people within our own walls who are skeptical about our educational potential. “ACS isn’t a real school,” they joke. But look at us. Look at ASM.

    Perhaps we need to explore more holistic approaches, or one that will allow us to appreciate meetings for the sake of the school. Make them love the school for it’s true purpose, and they will participate in the meetings, instead of breaking them into infinitely smaller and smaller meetings that eventually lead to things like Houses and Senates and Dr. Dave Proposals.

    Just a thought.

    Mirko

  10. I said,

    I agree with what “Publius Pseudonym” said, we get much more done in QSMs than in ASMs. However, I know that QSMs are less convenient for Agenda committee because of the lack of communication between sections. If we were to start having more QSMs we would need to figure out some sort of check-in time where all the ideas expressed in the different quarters could be put together… maybe someone in each group could take notes and the notes could be posted on a QSM bulliton board?

  11. kaile said,

    publius pseudonym,
    from my recollection (and, granted, i have been away from school for an entire semester) staff meetings look a lot like asm’s. people come and go, eat, correct papers, do “homework”, puzzles, knitting, etc. i even brought my dog once to a meeting. there are side conversations and often, people interupt and jump protocol if they feel they have something important to say. does this mean that we should give up on participating in running the school and have a small group of people make decisions for us?

    everyone doesn’t buy in all the time. so what? does that make it so “broken”?

  12. Lili said,

    I think the issue is bigger. Apathy in ASM’s is only one aspect of the greater issue: that most students are apathetic about the opportunity to learn in general. There seems to be a common concensus that school is in place to hand a young person their education, and that all one really has to do is absorb the material and do the work. This is completely absurd and a waste of time. The point of school is not to take in what they tell you. The point of school is to learn to question and form your own opinion about everything in the world. We get bombarded with new ideas and concepts every day and it is the job of the individual student to look at every individual thing taught to them with the mind of someone who cares. Everything is taught for a reason. It is the job of the individual student to figure out why. It is rediculous to see people zoning out in the all school meetings, because it is such an awesome opportunity to literally be an important member of their community, but it is equally rediculous to see people zoning out in class on a regular basis. I admit I am periodically a culprit of this as well, but as a body, if we step up to the plate and start taking responsibility for our entire schooling experience, every aspect of it will grow to such more meaningful levels.

  13. Chris said,

    I’m definitely going to take a bigger part in LACS’ government.

  14. I said,

    Speaking of democracy, I was not at the ASM about Lunch in The Gym. Does someone know what happened?

  15. Crystal said,

    Hey, I just stumbled on your school through a websearch and I wanted to point out that apathy, selfishness, and a lack of a sense of community has been ingrained into an awful lot of people from very early ages. Many students in your school may already be damaged, as is the little boy in Harry Chapin’s song Flowers are Red, but they may heal with time. In the meantime, rather than focus on the folks who are tuning out, recognize the success you’ve achieved in the people who aren’t!

    A relevant snippet might be at the end of My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki. She devoted a small part of the end of the book to the idea that when information is overwhelming to the point of causing constant panic and one feels powerless to do anything with it, being ignorant becomes empowering. I made a note of it because I feel the need to re-read it, process it further, and bring it up at a book discussion.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I went to an alternative school for part of 4th and 5th grades and it was absolutely the best school I’ve ever been in. I LOVED being able to pick my own projects and pusue them with gusto! Well, after I got the hang of it. As I recall, I did absolutely nothing for the first few weeks because I’d never had a choice before.

    My alternative school was not self-governing so I can’t speak from experience on that. But I submit to you an idea that perhaps students at your school go through a similar do-nothing period: never having had the choice of self-governance, they don’t really exercise it at first. Some people’s adjustment period is longer than others. Later, they may take the right for granted (“Don’t it always seem to go / that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi). Finally, some may choose not to decide, and that’s still a valid choice (paraphrasing the lyrics for Rush’s Freewill).

    Thanks for sharing your school with me!

    🙂

    Crystal


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