Monday, March 9, 2009

On Student Councils and States

I was amazed and filled with excitement as a 6th Grader in the fall of 1999, when I found out that I had been elected to the executive board of my Elementary School’s Student Council. I could hardly contain my joy. I had given a speech just before the vote, to an assembly of all the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. I had given my speech as a rap, and I had charmed this audience of my peers. It helped that I was the only male running for the office, which got me a lot of votes I’m sure, in the age when “girls have cooties.”

The Student Council met an hour before school started on Friday mornings. We planned the various bake sales, charitable donations, canned food drives, and such. We read scripture to our fellow students during the Thanksgiving assembly, which was later addressed by a local clergyman, who reminded us to be thankful that we lived in such a great Christian country called “America.”

I went on to be in Student Council in 7th and 8th grade as well. Student Council in 7th and 8th great came with a whole lot of privileges. We got to go on special “educational” trips. These trips were an all day affair. I recall one trip was to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We explored the Museum for about two hours, then we went to the Hard Rock Café in Cleveland to eat a $20 lunch on the school budget, and then we walked through Tower City Mall, shopping at the Gap, Abercrombie, and other trendy clothing shops.

I decided never to run for Student Council again that year. Earlier that year three students had been banned from Student Council for misbehavior. One student had gotten into a fist fight. Another had flipped off the school’s only security camera. They were removed for their “misbehavior.”

But later that year, on New Year’s Eve, the executive board had gathered in the basement of a member’s house, and gotten smashed on underage alcohol. Upon joining Student Council we had all signed a form saying that any use of alcohol or drugs would results immediate dismissal. Everyone knew that the executive board had done this. But they weren’t punished at all. There was some discussion of it, and I think they may have had to go to counseling or something, but no one ever considered throwing them out.

I was outraged, and never ran for student council again.

I am forced to think of this now, as I am in College. I am helping to organize the Baldwin-Wallace Food Justice Council, an organization that fights for a reasonable meal plan on my campus. Our demands are modest. We ask merely for reasonable prices, or the ability to use financial aid to cover the expensive prices.

But upon forming the group, who came to attack us? None other than the Student Senate, the College Version of the Student Council. I knew several of the attackers. One of them has the goal of being a CIA agent, and I had the privilege of debating him in “Socialism v. Capitalism” last spring. Another was a guy who was in a lot my Political Science classes. He never speaks in class, unless making a sarcastic joke. However, outside of class, he had frequently e-mailed me and berated me telling me that arguing with a professor is disrespectful, and instead of thinking, I should just close my mouth and accept everything a professor says as gospel truth. (How Ironic that his type are constantly whining about the “liberal bias” in education, when they dare not even raise their hands to challenge this bias, and berate those who do so from further left.)

I do not know much about the Baldwin-Wallace Student Government, and I frankly don’t think I want to. I suppose they go on a lot of expensive trips as well. I suppose they think they are superior to us “regular student” who have the “bad attitude” to challenge authority. I suppose the college bureaucracy respects these clowns, but not merely as much as they respect themselves.

The more I think about it, Student Councils aren’t that different from the real government. My High School, Elementary School, and College Student councils don’t really have much power. They set up bake sales, dances, they give speeches, they make themselves feel good, and they make us feel good by being able to vote for them. But the real power at any school is not with the students, it’s with the school officials.

If the principal wanted to implement a dress code at my elementary school, no vote by my student council would have stopped him. If anything, we would have all been sent out to justify it to our “peers”, on the day before another trip to the mall and Hard Rock Café. We would probably be loudly criticizing any students who challenged the policies as “trouble makers.”

The capitalist government is the same. The bankers, the capitalists, and the ruling class make the decisions. But the Politicians get up and speechify, and make their wishes sound good, between weekends at Camp David or other health resorts where the liquor and cheap sex runs free. Then, after they have done nothing and changed nothing for long enough, they get a retirement pension that would make any of these “overpaid” autoworkers we hear about on the news, jealous as hell.

And when politicians come along who dissent, they get trampled on. Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel were ignored at the Democratic Primary Debates. The governor of Illinois went down for some minor corruption, he was exposed because he sided with the Republic Window and Door Makers who occupied their factory and defeated their bosses, and Bank of America. Howard Dean learned that shouting into a microphone to loud can cost you your career, especially if you say things capitalist don’t want to hear. Rev. Pinkney of Benton Harbor is now in jail for quoting scripture to a judge. Congresswoman Cynthia Mckinney was humiliated for defending herself from a violent capitol security guard.

But George W. Bush revealed the identity of a CIA agent, lied about WMDs, dodged the draft, shredded the bill of rights, and then left office in a helicopter to live in luxury until his death, which will be of natural causes, as secret service will make sure he is safe from assassination until that occurs.

Just like the executive board who got smashed, the rules don’t apply unless you start doing your job, and thinking for yourself. Student Councils, Student Governments, and Governments themselves are supposed to shut us up, tell us peons and students what we want to hear, and enjoy the luxuries of being “good kids” and “honorable men” who are superior to us.

I learned something in 8th Grade that has stayed with me for my whole life. Student Councils, Governments, and everything in this capitalist system is rotten. Revolution is the solution.


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