Student voice over spirit

By Olivia Nouriani
Opinion Editor

School spirit is important. It brings students together, and instills a sense of community. It contributes to a positive school atmosphere, which in turn makes for happier students.
SPHS is incredibly lucky to have a group of students dedicated to raising spirit. ASB puts enormous amounts of effort into getting students enthusiastic about school events. Because SPHS culture and teenhood in general fosters indifference, that effort is often futile. But it’s there, and that’s more than what can be said for many schools.

But 32 students did not spend weeks and hundreds of dollars running for positions to serve in “student government” to be a part of what is, in all honesty, a committee for party planning and arts and crafts.

When ASBs were first formed, they were called Student Councils. They grew out of a need for student representation when it came to making school decisions. School spending, curriculum, standards, and school rules were all being decided by a group of high-ranking adults—not just at South Pasadena High School, but everywhere. This was a problem; if an education system isn’t serving the needs of its students, it has failed its purpose.

This realization led to Student Councils springing up nationwide. Committees of students gathered to be the voices of their student bodies. They fought to be engaged in administrative decisions. They fought for student positions on Boards of Education, and for the right to anonymously evaluate their teachers. Because of the students that started that movement, students today maintain each of those rights.

ASBs everywhere, however, have strayed from this original purpose. Student rights have been put on hold to school spirit—something that is important, but trivial when compared to actual change.

SPHS ASB’s accomplishments are consistently impressive; it’s obvious that this group of teens is dedicated, passionate and creative. But with such a driven group of students at our disposal, we’re wasting an opportunity to do something meaningful. These are the students that should be using their power to tell the administration what students want.

It’s important to have students ready to cover the school in decorations and raise enthusiasm. But what’s more important making sure students, the number one stakeholders in their education, have their voices heard.

During election week, candidates often throw around promises to gather input from their peers and make sure everyone feels heard. Homecoming week was fun and exciting, but it certainly wasn’t a channel for advocacy.

This is not the fault of ASB members. Many are expecting a chance to make a difference, and are met with the constant demand to paint posters and fill out paperwork. Rather, the issue stems from the dismissal of student input as a whole. Adults are quick to connect youth and a lack of experience with having nothing valuable to say. We see the symptoms of the same issue when teachers demand respect but refuse to offer it, or when adults make generalizations about teens. The reality is that high schoolers are the only people who experience education first hand, so they’re the only people who can offer truly relevant solutions.

Refocusing the purpose of student government doesn’t mean sacrificing school dances and spirit weeks; it means prioritizing student voice, and putting school spirit second to student involvement in serious decisions.

An amazing dance will be forgotten, if not in one year, then in two. But if the potential to get students involved on every level of education is tapped into, long-lasting change can be made.
ASB is the closest thing we have to an opportunity for students to take control of their education. It’s up to administrators to make sure the organization fulfills that obligation. Let’s continue to put activities in the hands of the students—but let’s put power in their hands, too.