But if you go look at the application announcement, it turns out that the student participant on the State Board of Education is a non-voting member. So much for having a real voice… [sigh]
I’m not trying to pick on DE; the non-voting status of the student is encoded in Iowa statute. But it’s worth noting that, along with student councils in schools and student representatives to school boards, these types of positions mostly seem to be a way for us adults to feel good about ourselves for including students. We pat ourselves on the back for ‘listening to student voice’ and point to the token representation to say, “See? We care!” when in actuality it’s just a sop, a meaningless thing given for appeasement instead of truly honoring needs or meeting demands: “Look, you get to sit with us and listen! We might even occasionally let you speak!”
As adults we’re not willing to give students actual decision-making responsibility. We’re not willing to give them power and authority over anything that’s really meaningful. Instead, we give them these artificial input opportunities and then exercise our freedom to completely ignore them – because they’re minors, you know, and don’t really know what’s best for them or the organizations in which they’re embedded – thus patronizing and demeaning the very youth that we’re supposedly honoring.
If we want to give students real voice and real agency, that means providing them with actual decision-making power (e.g., a vote) and something meaningful upon which to decide. What do students learn from tokenistic, inauthentic, powerless participation opportunities?
I challenge us to try this locally. Let’s give a group of students majority voting power over a school’s behavior and discipline policies. Or what courses are offered. Or the daily schedule. Does this scare us to death? If so, what does that say about us?
I think the words were important but when it comes from someone who didn’t write them and it’s positioned as if it is, it becomes disingenuous and very pretentious. . . . [L]et’s advocate for student voice but not fake ones. Our students do have a voice. Most of them are childlike, full of child like ideas and most aren’t as eloquent as adults because they aren’t adults. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing, helping them develop that voice. Yet we do have some that are ready for prime time and we should provide ways for them to share. I know some districts have had students keynote. I think that’s great, as long as the core of their story is their own, not the districts or their teachers. I’d way rather listen to a student share a less polished message that was their own than using them like a puppet to further other adults’ agendas.
Student voice without what Seymour Papert calls “kid power” is worse than empty rhetoric, it is a lie. . . . Too much of what is offered as “student voice” offers a false sense of agency, power, or freedom to the powerless.
Both posts are well worth reading. (hint, hint)
We need to stop putting words in the mouths of children and pretending that they’re theirs. It’s disingenuous and calculating and an insult to our youth.
danah boyd says:
But why should youth not be allowed to participate in public life? Do paternalistic, age-specific technology barriers really protect or benefit teens?
One of the most crucial aspects of coming of age is learning how to navigate public life. The teenage years are precisely when people transition from being a child to being an adult. There is no magic serum that teens can drink on their 18th birthday to immediately mature and understand the world around them. Instead, adolescents must be exposed to – and allowed to participate in – public life while surrounded by adults who can help them navigate complex situations with grace. They must learn to be a part of society, and to do so, they must be allowed to participate.
Rather than trying to protect teens from all fears and risks that we can imagine, let’s instead imagine ways of integrating them constructively into public life. The key to doing so is not to create technologies that reinforce limitations but to provide teens and parents with the mechanisms and information needed to make healthy decisions. Some young people may be ready to start navigating broad audiences at 13; others are not ready until they are much older. But it should not be up to technology companies to determine when teens are old enough to have their voices heard publicly. Parents should be allowed to work with their children to help them navigate public spaces as they see fit. And all of us should be working hard to inform our younger citizens about the responsibilities and challenges of being a part of public life.
Each such circle pulls in students from different social, racial, and interest groups from around the school to identify and solve problems related to campus climate. Adults sit outside the circle, in a “listen only” mode
What could listening circles do for the climate in your school?
What could listening circles do for educational reform and policymaking?
We have become a nation of test-givers, assessing student performance and knowledge in a way that is largely exempt from any kind of real-life application. As important as standard assessments are, relevant and authentic assessments are even more vital. Educators must give assignments that engage students’ curiosity and imagination instead of those that hold little authenticity and are simply to satisfy answers to a test; when they do, students will rise. They will lean into the issues they face in literature and current issues in the world if given the chance, and it is inspiring to see that, when given an opportunity to voice their opinions and share experiences, they can do just that.
In this kind of atmosphere, compliancy gives way to engagement and it is here where students find their own voices, where they uncover the seeds of their own stories and where they discover themselves.
Ann Camacho via http://smartblogs.com/education/2012/10/02/life-literature
I had a conversation with an Iowa parent the other day. In middle school her son started making voice-narrated Pokemon game walkthrough videos and posting them on YouTube. That’s exactly the kind of thing that most adults would look at and consider ‘a complete waste of time.’ He’s now 18 and has 70,000+ subscribers to his YouTube channel. His videos have been viewed nearly 54 million times. Some company’s now paying him enough money to make videos for it that he’s already pushing a six figure salary, which will easily pay for his upcoming college experience and then some.
All of this really speaks to nurturing kids’ passions, whatever they may be. You never know how they’ll turn out! Go Wooper!