“Ivory Tower” – The Faceless Power of School Administration

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Many students are upset about some of the new rules put in place by George Washington’s new administration, and for good reason.

The new rules seem arbitrary and seem like they’re meant to “fix” problems that didn’t exist to begin with. For example, the new dress code (which applies almost only to girls, but that’s another story) fixes nothing, because there was nothing to fix. Nobody had a problem with what girls were wearing, and the introduction of the new policy only created new complications.

Now there are new rules about headphones; they aren’t allowed. This, like the dress code, is an attempt by the new administration to fix a nonexistent problem. Music isn’t a distraction to anyone as long as people wear headphones, and for some students is necessary for them to maintain their focus “I think it’s very unhelpful to [the students]. Personally, music helps me a lot. It helps me focus on my work and it’s something I sort of need in class to relieve stress.” Freshman River Greer said. “I really need music to focus on things like tests. I tend to struggle or rush… when I don’t have music because unless I can… take a step back and listen to something calming, I either rush or I don’t get it done. Either way, I get a bad grade.” Sophomore Kalvin LeBlanc said.

Some teachers don’t even bother to enforce the rule. Why? Because not only do they realize that some students listen to music because it genuinely helps them, but because they realize that pushback from certain students is inevitable. “It’s sad seeing students directly defying teachers by refusing to put away their phones during instruction and making it into a big scene.” Freshman Evelyn Milias said. Teachers know that telling students to turn off their music and get rid of their phones will only result in a larger distraction than the phones ever would have created by creating arguments between teacher and student, which would not only waste class time but strain the relationship between the teacher and their student.

This all ties back into a major problem the authority figures in our school seem to struggle with. Those at the top exercise their indomitable power by creating rules that people get mad about, without explaining why these rules are enforced or consulting those that are actually affected by their policies.

This kind of behavior seems to have its roots in the district board; many teachers and students were rightfully upset with the selection process for the new principal. During the process, the district asked for community feedback. The community did so; A student at the time, named Shahad Mohieldin, helped to construct focus groups to interview the candidates and narrow down options, according to Chalkbeat, an organization specializing in educational news.  

These focus groups, one made up of teachers, one of students, and one of parents, proved to have pretty mixed opinions, but the student group in particular leaned heavily towards a candidate named Jason Maclin. He would have been a black principal at a school where about 50% of students are black or Hispanic. He also submitted a plan for his first 100 days at George, which would have included a listening tour of the school. Principal Waters was chosen instead because she was more experienced. “We were often told that, ‘Hey, your voice really matters in this. Please, we want your input,’” Mohieldin told Chalkbeat. “It really hurts. Now we don’t trust the district as much, which is really sad.”

In summary, the two real issues here are twofold: One, the lack of representation of students’ voices; it makes students feel alienated, like their opinions and needs matter. Two, the lack of any kind of reasoning behind these new rules: Perhaps there are reasons, for the administration’s decisions, but the students wouldn’t know; they are expected to just accept that this is how things are now. Obviously, this kind of policy making does not work, at least not for long, before people start demanding reasons and representation.

This article is meant to be a message to the school administration; a set of recommendations to help legitimize their authority; students will not, and cannot be expected to, conform to orders without reason. That is the nature of the modern generation, and maintaining the current order of things will only cause more problems on both sides of the issue.

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