I sat down this morning to write something for The Globe and Mail’s School Council and when I finished I realized I’d written a blog post, so I decided to post it here.
The idea that student input and control of education is limited, is somewhat misleading. Students have the ultimate level of control and input when it comes to education. Each day they decide whether to attend or not. Students enter classrooms of their own free will (no one is shackled to their desks) and decide this is how they will spend their day. They control their learning. There are students who refuse to attend school, demand a change or attend but go through the motions without engaging. That’s the ultimate level of control and the only one that really matters.
In terms of involving students in the decision making processes of public education, I don’t agree that this is universally good. I’m sure there are useful and active student trustees, but I haven’t seen them. From my admittedly limited exposure, student trustees seem to be along for the ride and are rarely given a meaningful voice in critical decisions. It seems like a nice resume padder for some students and PR exercise for the school board.
I’d much rather see student input be given the same weight and value of any other partner in the education system. Teachers and parents have channels they can use to express their opinions. They communicate with trustees, write to the media, etc. It’s patronizing to say that students need special treatment.
Through technology, passionate and intelligent students have a much louder voice than ever. A student who has something to say about an issue in education can send out e-mails, blog, posts videos to YouTube and so on.
One of the best examples of this is the story of Martha Payne’s dinner blog. The 9 year old student in Scotland thought the school cafeteria food sucked, so she started a blog and posted pictures. She was right, other’s agreed and her blog has changed things. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-19471972
Not every person wants or needs a say in education decisions and students are no different. Let’s empower students to raise their voices and let the good ones rise to the top. It’s much better than creating some token positions where students get to sit at the ‘big table’ so long as they remember their place.