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March 8, 2017
Filed under Opinions
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In its declaration of purpose, the high school’s constitution makes three statements, that our government is, by its own nature, “representative,” that it serves as a “forum for students, faculty, staff, and administrators” and that it possesses “defined areas of authority.” Reality is, unfortunately, quite the opposite and it is dismaying that the legislative branches housed in our government are so wildly dysfunctional and undemocratic that it is not unreasonable to speculate that they exist merely as statues of democracy.
Primarily, ours is an institution composed of those it serves, governed by those it does not. Should we recall the basis of a rightful government, that it is representative, we begin to find flaws in the system designed for us. Our Legislature contains 34 members, 17 of which are students and 17 of which are not. This provokes two questions: first, does our government believe that Brookline High School has an equal amount of students and non-students? and second, why are the votes of non-students, therefore, worth more?
The true ratio of students to teachers in Brookline is 12:1, according the Massachusetts Department of Education. A representative government would not, as ours has done, allow the vote of a teacher, be it direct or through a representative, to be twelve times more powerful than that of a student. May I remind you that without students, this institution would be inoperable, and yet, it seems we are operating without recognition of the rights and power of the complete student body.
Even more so, the danger of this makeup is the possibility it creates for our administration to dominate a student government. Because our Legislature contains an equal ratio of teachers to non-students, it itself is vulnerable to rule by the minority. There should be no possible way for every student to reject a measure, and it still have the possibility of being implemented, and yet, our Legislature has been created so that not only does it devalue those votes of the students, but it allows the possibility for their voices to be ignored completely.
While it is unlikely that this will occur, it is essential to make sure that we remain vigilant of all legislative possibilities. Our Legislature is not only unrepresentative but delegitimate, which is to say, all decisions made by this body are done so unrightfully, as it is not a true government of the people.
Though the most incredible overreach of authority, perhaps, is the 5 seats designated for the Administrative Council. To those unfamiliar with its existence, the Administrative Council is defined in a single sentence as a body “composed of the Headmaster, Assistant Headmaster, the Deans, Associate Deans, and the program and curriculum leaders of the teaching and counseling staff, or their designated representatives.”
While the Council serves mostly in dealing with the uninteresting minutiae of running an educational institution, it is deeply concerning that they hold seats on a Legislative body. This council is a piece of the Executive branch, defined as such in Article I, Section 3.2, and yet 5 of their members, elected from the Executive branch, possess the power to vote in our Legislature.
The pinnacle of this irresponsibility is a tiny clause, contained in Article 2, Section 1.2, declaring that that those representatives from the Administrative Council “shall not include the Executive Branch members,” which reads as if the writers of this document realized their mistake in including Administrative members in a student government and sloppily attempted to fix it using undecipherable language that suggests members of an Executive Council may somehow be elected from that very council and yet still not be Executive Branch members. The Executive Branch of our government, which is “ultimately responsible for implementing the educational policies of the Federal, State, and local governments,” must recuse itself from the making of those policies.
“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this:” said James Madison, “you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.” Our government has neither the mandate to administer its policies nor the ability to control itself.
To restore the sovereignty of Brookline’s students, and to ensure its own accountability to those it serves, the Brookline High School’s constitution must make the following changes: (1) allow, in the Legislature, 5 representatives of each class, from which the Student Representative to School Committee should be elected, (2) eliminate completely all involvement by the Administrative Council in the Legislature and (3) allow 18 legislative representatives to non-students. Implementing these changes by amendment would create a 38 member Legislature whose ultimate power lies in the students, though retains a large voice for non-students, while clearing itself completely of any influence from the Executive.