Friday, June 5, 2009

question the system: asg four

Every time you walk into a public high school you're also involuntarily walking into one of the biggest bureaucracies in the world. There's a specific chain of command that every decision must go through, and honestly I think it's a really inefficient system, but that's beside the point. Since that chain exists, every student in a leadership position is caught in a very awkward tension; they have responsibility without authority.

This tension is honestly what causes most student leaders to be completely ineffective. There are tasks you're supposed to complete, but you don't have any authority in the system to complete those tasks. Frankly, there's tons of stupid processes that students would have to go through if they actually wanted to make a difference, and it can seem pretty unrealistic to fight those at times. No matter how impossible or time consuming it feels, constantly question the system.

Just because someone says, "this is the way you have to do that," doesn't mean that that's the way you have to do it. It means that's the way they would rather you do it, and it also probably means that's the way everyone else has always done it. In that moment, though, if you question the system and act differently, you can set yourself apart as a leader.

Sadly, most teachers at the school aren't going to share the same passion for improving that student leaders are. Because of that, questioning the system causes you to stick your neck out a little bit. Your reputation is somewhat on the line when you get approval for something that goes against the system; so make sure you have a plan. The worst thing you can do is push for something that is outside of the norm and then not have your ideas together and it flop. Trust me, that's a crappy feeling.

Bottom line: Question the system. Get the principal on your side and push the envelope.


  1. Nathaniel--You did a great job. I was glad to be there for it. =)

  2. My favorite part-"Get the principal on your side" =]