It is dangerous to put student voice on a pedestal. Besides leading to dizziness, it can make students nauseous and suspicious of what you are doing, especially when it requires gaining their support. It can also lead to accusations of romanticization. I believe that its my duty as an ethical educator to strive not to decieve myself, my students, or the educative process by romanticizing student voice.
All of that said, I have to admit that I have a student hero. For almost a year I have watched the campaign of Adam King as he has been fighting an uphill battle with his local school board for a student position in their decision-making process. More than any other young advocate I have ever met, Adam has dragged two groups with him: his willing online supporters, and his “sleepy” local school board. He has dragged us all along, mostly through cyberspace, but also through his TV appearances, news articles, and recently through his blog for a local newspaper.
Adam King’s campaign started last February when he first asked the Buncombe (N.C.) County Board of Education to consider having a student representative. He got up the gall to ask after hanging out with activists in the National Youth Rights Association over the last few year. The powerful effort he’s logged since then has warranted media hits, led to the creation of a “Guide to Getting Student Representation on School Board,” and a growing online petition. You can learn more about Adam and the campaign at the campaign website.
The lesson Adam provides for the rest of us is that the road is rough. For every nervous youth worker who brings the idea of having a youth council to their ED, Adam King struggles. For every anxious first-year teacher who wants to listen to student voice, Adam King struggles. For every angry youth activist, driven student researcher, compelled counselor, interested parent, or passionate advocate, Adam King struggles. Adam King is a symbol of the activism the media says is dead; he’s the interest that teachers say doesn’t exist. There are dozens of Adam Kings out there right now, too. They might not have his access to the Internet or his podium at school board meetings (which was recently denied), but they are out there.
We should all be so bold, so composed, and so motivated. We should all find the Adam King – the activist, the organizer, the advocate – within us. Thanks for the motivation to do just that, Mr. King.