By Gray Macklin
To the Editor,
The opening of the most recent extended viewpoint reminded me of an English teacher’s response to my intense interest in Transcendentalist thought when I was in high school. He said the Transcendentalists were a fountain of great ideas, not one of which was the least bit useful in organizing a civilization. I think the same can be said for their applicability in a school. I certainly agree that communication is important, and I would refer readers to the previous issue’s viewpoint by Kirsten Huh about student conversation when looking to improve the student voice at SIS. Why 10th grade students cannot take more than 1 AP is not a conversation that will help 10th grade students achieve the ever-elusive dream of a good night’s sleep any more than access to coffee at school will change the culture at SIS for the better. You are of the age where you should be demanding more freedom and fear not, it will come. Just remember the cautionary words of Mustafa Mond in Brave New World regarding freedom, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy…the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen to-morrow;…the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind”.
Of course none of this means that I hate freedom or that those conversations asking for some understanding are not welcome; my door is always open. I think most who have brought something to talk about would attest to my willingness to listen to students and give honest and reasoned responses. I even held 3 hours of focus groups to get student feedback on the winter skills-based assessments. You are always welcome, but remember that in a conversation, both are expected to listen and that listening and acting are different. I will always listen, but you may not get what you want or an answer that you are happy with, but that does not mean I wasn’t listening.
Students, trust me, the problem is not that the adults around here do not value your input. We listen when a clear, coherent, solution-oriented message is delivered. Coffee or more advanced math classes will not make your experience at SIS more meaningful or valuable. If anything, those are just new ways for you to engage in the same toxic competitiveness that already ruins the four years at SIS for so many of you. From my perspective, which I readily admit is limited, the larger problem is that you don’t really value each other’s input and often do not even trust each other enough to share your thoughts. Remember that effective bottom up change starts where you can affect the most change: yourselves. Even the Transcendentalists would agree with that.