Sabotoging Student Voice

This last week I’ve had the terrible experience of feeling sabotaged in this work. I’ve been working closely with a high school in the area, co-facilitating a program for students focused on student voice. For several weeks the school, including two staff advisers and several students, have been gung ho and firing on all cylinders. Then, in the final 7 weeks of school, everything has seemed to fall apart. Without warning students are dropping off from meetings, the advisers have stopped attending, and the program feels undermined. But that’s not the sabotage, per se.

Instead, the sponsoring organization that is hosting the program has shown its true colors. Despite initial promises to bring in dozens of schools and to infuse SoundOut throughout their related efforts, and despite ongoing meetings and phone calls that have indicated their interest in continuing and re-commitments and everything, there is still no further movement. Worst still, there seems to be regression, as the very approaches to student voice that we initially discussed defeating through this innovative program have recently been whole-heartedly embraced. Any shared acknowledgment of the manipulation and tokenism inherent in many student voice activities has gone out with the trash, and now this sponsoring org is being vogue and innovative with their peers by engaging students in these ways.

Its a frustrating moment in the CommonAction office, and a time for reflection and re-assessment.

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