Monday, May 17, 2021

Students Should Organize, Just Like Their Teachers

In school, students are powerless. A progressive school may have a student government whose input they consider when making decisions, but ultimately, all the decisions are still made by a group of school directors composed of administrators, teachers, and—depending on the type of school you attend—government officials, parents, board members, or religious officials.

No school is an exception, because in every school, students depend on school directors to make and implement all final decisions.

Even if, for example, an entire school has a “don’t ask, just go” policy regarding bathroom use, the school directors can arbitrarily change and enforce a new policy, and there would be almost nothing the students could do to stop them. The power to grant or deny permission to go to the bathroom should never have been under any school director’s control. So, like many other powers, it must be taken from them.

The only way that students will be able to take powers from school directors is if we organize.

The only way that students will be able to take powers from school directors is if we organize. We must use direct action, mutual aid, and collective bargaining to take for ourselves both the powers and responsibilities of school directors. We must form a Syndicate.

Taking Back Our Power

The Syndicate would work to take back the power to educate students. The Syndicate could organize peer or professional tutoring for students, shifting the power into our hands. We would be able to decide what subjects to teach, what curriculums to use, and where and when to study, and no school director would be able to say no.

We would be able to decide what subjects to teach, what curriculums to use, and where and when to study, and no school director would be able to say no.

The lack of a faculty advisor has prevented many clubs from forming in school. If instead clubs were organized through the Syndicate, students from many different schools would be able to participate, and the members could decide for themselves if they even needed an adult to “advise” them. I, for one, would love to have an easy way to assemble a variety of students from different schools who all love programming, but adult-run afterschool programs and intra-school clubs help to keep students somewhat isolated from each other.

We could also support students applying to college. We can easily take on the function of sites like Niche, College Vine, and the Princeton Review by compiling, organizing, and distributing information directly from current college students about their experiences, and by making directories of current and past college students willing to talk to prospective students to help them plan their futures. Exploitative services like GradGab charge $30/hr to talk to a current college student. Hopefully, we’ll be able to put them out of business.

Even within a single school, if the Syndicate helped students organize the copious gossip that students already produce, it could help students to identify and target real issues of favoritism or discrimination within a school, and take action to stop it.

Ultimately, the Syndicate would be the students’ vehicle of power to implement their decisions and to develop organizing and decision-making capacity in order to support each other in every way possible.

Gregory Wickham
Gregory Wickham was a student at Stuyvesant High School, a 2013 2nd place winner of the Michael Perelstein Memorial Scholarship Discover Your Passion Competition, and a quarter-finalist in the 2014 Young Rewired State Festival of Code. You can find his website at gregorywickham.com.

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