We are selling students short. Many of the very organizations, programs, and agencies that are engaging student voice are oftentimes blindsiding their targets.
I say we are selling students short because student voice is often inauthentic. Students are incapacitated from participating fully in conversations about schools.
What Makes Student Voice Inauthentic
- Little Adults: Pulled from their schools, in order to share student voice, students are expected to talk how adults talk, dress how adults dress, and act like adults act.
- Taught their Opinions: Drilled in the importance of a specific issue that adults have determined they need to hear student voice focused on, adults teach students adults’ perspectives only. After that, they ask students to stand up for that issue in the ways adults agree with.
- Little or No Room for Dissent. With or without being conscious of it, students whose voices are heard by adults eagerly comply with adults. Those who don’t comply aren’t given room to disagree, and are frequently railroaded out of student voice activities.
- No Credit for Participation. Adult educators are often paid for their time to participate in extra-curricular activities. Students receive little or no credit for participating, whether in the form of money or class credit. Students who can’t afford to skip classes or attend at night are excluded from activities.
Working with many situations over the years, I have found these traits and a few others to be relatively consistent, and I believe that ultimately, it is selling students short.
As I share regularly in teacher workshops, professional development seminars, and keynote speeches, Student Voice is any expression of any learner in any place about education. It is NOT only things adults approve of, and is so much more than what generally passes for student voice today.
Students deserve more than opportunities to share student voice. That is why I researched the field and worked with students and adults nationally and internationally to develop my Frameworks for Meaningful Student Involvement. When students become interested in changing schools, we should work our hardest to position them as active partners in transformation, and nothing less than that.
Learn how at www.soundout.org and contact me for more info.