I’m Pretending You Asked, Issue 2

I’m Pretending You Asked, Issue 1

Let us start with a little disclaimer. I’m a socialist, but I tell my parents I’m an everyday Democrat, so they don’t tell me I’m “just going through a phase.” Now let us move on. I had a whole plan of what this column was going to be about, but then I went to Student Government on Thursday and saw all of the blank screens on the Zoom and found some new inspiration. When my Zoom video is off, it’s because I’ve left the room. We like to pretend that we’re still listening or that we’re taking a screen break when the camera is off, but that is a lie — 90 percent of the time when the camera goes off, so does my brain. I was ASTOUNDED (well, not really) by the absurd number of cameras that were off during the recent plenary session on Thursday. I mean, when we’re in person for Student Government, at least you could tell when people weren’t listening because they were on their phones or just not there, but over Zoom? No one can see anything. This then led me to the question — if so many people aren’t listening in our mini-democracy, why should we keep it? 

Let’s entertain the idea that we don’t keep it. Democracy only works when all the members of the assembly CARE and WANT TO BE THERE. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “wanna skip SG today?” or “SG is stupid, why do I have to go?”, I would have a lot of money. The perfect democracy that we claim to have clearly is not as perfect as we think it is. Last year, about one-third of the student body eligible to vote in SG elections did — that is not democracy. I myself voted. Don’t get me wrong, I was perfectly happy with the results, but that’s the problem. I’m one person, but since about one-third of the Parker student body voted, my vote counted three times as much as it should. Another issue is that we see the same 10 people on stage proposing things and arguing with each other every week – 10 people out of around 300 isn’t a democracy. But in theory, to keep them in check and to get anything passed, they have to get a majority vote. The problem is that no one listens and then all of a sudden it’s time to vote, and now I’m raising my hand only I have NO IDEA what I’m voting for because I wasn’t listening in the first place. 

Then that got me thinking, if the same 10 people care so much about student government, why don’t we just give them all the power and walk away? It’s not like they’re going to get anything done. The biggest thing that’s happened in the four years of me being in SG is Senior Month. According to the recent polling, most seniors don’t want that to happen anyway. I’ll just jump to the chase – ten-ish people in power sounds a lot like this form of government called an Oligarchy. The definition of an Oligarchy is “a small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution.” The name might have a bad connotation, but in theory, it works here. Right?

WRONG. Time for the other side of the story. First things first – Stanford does NOT want to see “Head of the Student Government Oligarchy” on a college application! I mean, that’s the only reason people get involved, right? (OH! SICK BURN, SPENCER) All jokes aside, casting away without democracy would be a foolish idea – here’s why. It teaches agency in the Parker youth, and it teaches students what a dysfunctional democracy looks like. Once a person knows how to break something, they can avoid doing it again in the future. Just because the Francis Parker SG Democracy doesn’t work doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good model and learning experience. When you think of Parker, you think of Embryonic Democracy, not Embryonic Oligarchy. A student government should teach students responsibility, and if they abuse it then so be it. They still learned a life lesson, intended or not. 

I’m sure you can tell I think just by reading this, but you should make your own decision. I’m not sure how much the type of government we choose for the student body matters that much, but you just read my thoughts on it. In the end, you have to decide for yourself whether you think our democracy is worth keeping or not.