Since we were children, we’ve been told that our perspectives will change when we enter “the real world,” and we will understand what it means to be a responsible adult. While it’s true that students have much to learn before we can live independently, there is no question that the world we live in is real. We have real world experience, albeit within the limits of adolescence, and it is discouraging to have this invalidated as a cheap imitation of life. Not only does this expectation of teenage mediocrity invalidate our passions, it encourages us to become pessimistic about what we can accomplish.
Even in high school, students are active participants in the real world. Students from TASSEL teach English to children in Cambodia, a service that will impact both teachers and children for years. Likewise, the California Association of Student Councils (CASC) is a student-run nonprofit that empowers youth through leadership training. Both TASSEL members and CASC delegates spend hours every week organizing meetings, demonstrating both responsibility and passion. These organizations are only two of countless activities teenagers engage in, that allow us to change this “real world” we all inhabit. If impact on other people could be quantified, there would be students at SPHS who have had more positive influence on the outside world than many adults.
Similarly, ASB put together five days’ worth of Homecoming festivities last week. ASB students organized campus-wide decorations, class competitions, a picnic with over 50 booths, support for the football game, and the dance. Teacher supervisors played a minimal role and ultimately, this team of just 32 students executed school-wide activities, on top of juggling schoolwork and
ASB pulls off this feat annually, yet adults and students alike belittle it as an ineffective imitation of “real” government. But “real” government can also fail, as our federal government did in 2013 when it shut down for two weeks. We acknowledge the complexities that weigh down our government as legitimate, yet we refuse to see how difficult it is for ASB members to organize spirit activities. Even as students, ASB members know the very real implications of responsibility, commitment, and cooperation.
That said, ASB and similar organizations are often tasked with frivolous work. ASB’s primary role is to plan dances and festivities, but rarely anything more. Students have proven that they possess the responsibility and critical thinking skills to participate in broader, more relevant discussions. Both adults and youth contribute to this lack of power by cheapening student activities as mock trials of the real world. Ultimately, we need to acknowledge that our identities won’t suddenly change when we enter the “real world,” because we are already there.