...OR IS IT?
Student governments and their relations with the administration and the students differ. Some may be more democratic, and others may not. There will be some student governments that are almost exactly like a democracy.
WHAT IS A DEMOCRACY?
Democracy is a form of government.
One other extremely publicized form of government is communism. (QXZ points out that communism is a type of economy that is compatible with democracy) Democracy is "free and equal representation of people" or a country in which the government officials have been elected by all the citizens.1 If we want to apply the term democracy to student government, the citizens would be the students and staff, and the representatives would be the elected officers. In most cases, there would also be an elected president, vice president, and treasurer. The administration would be a separate part of the government, something like the Executive branch, or perhaps a second House of Representatives.
STAFF COUNT, TOO!
In a democracy, all the citizens are represented equally. As stated above, the staff, who make up the administration, are citizens, too. Therefore, they deserve to be represented. If their opinions were to be cast aside, the student government would be more like a dictatorship, ruled by the students. However, since the staff are the adults and the students are the kids, this is a very unlikely possibility. The administration represents the staff. Given, the administration may have more power and control than the elected student government officers, but this is not an intrinsic quality of student government; adults tend to take control away from children in almost any situation.
OPPRESSION IS RELATIVE
Since student governments and their relations with the administration differ, elected student officers in different schools may be more oppressed by the administration than others. The officers of one school may have more ability than the officers of another school. At a certain school, it is called the Associated Student Body, or the ASB for short. The ASB at this school has a relatively nice amount of control. They may call an assembly whenever they think they need one. Whenever the officers want to have a meeting between themselves, they are rarely denied the privilege. But then there is another school in the same district. At that school, the ASB has barely any rights. The ASB of that school is more like a set of expectations by the administration, not a real democracy. The ASB officers of the first school listen to the students, listen to the administration, add in some of their own opinions, and make educated decisions while representing others' opinions. That is a democracy.
WILL WE BE?
Another issue that greatly affects whether or not a certain student government is a democracy is the elected officers of that student government. At a certain school, the following offices, listed in no particular order, are open:
- 7th Grade Rep.
- 8th Grade Rep.
- 9th Grade Rep.
- Co-Vice Presidents
in each grade can vote
for one person for each of the offices, with a few exceptions. There can be two votes for the co-presidents, and two for the co-vice presidents. In addition, the individuals of each grade
can only vote for a representative
of their own grade
. At this school, the 7th graders, being new to the system, usually do not make a wise vote. Many agree that the election of the representative of the 7th grade was a gender-driven vote. Others observed that this representative was usually unavailable for conversation. Yet others noticed that this representative routinely missed meetings of the elected officers.
Basically, the representative was not able to effectively represent the citizens. This means that the 8th and 9th grade students were better represented than 7th grade students. Not all the citizens were equally represented. The words "all" and "equal" are key terms when it comes to democracy. Since the citizens were not all equally represented, the very definition of democracy was violated, and the student government was not a democracy. Now let's look at another student government that worked within the same set of rules and with the same offices. In this other student government, all the representatives are effectively representing the citizens. While it is true that no student government can be a perfect democracy, this one is a lot closer than the previous one.
Student governments differ greatly, so a generalization cannot be applied to all. Yet, it is true that no student government can be a perfect democracy in our current society. There are many issues that affect whether a certain student government is a democracy. These include the competence and involvement of the officers, and the attitude of the administration. Some student governments aren't democratic, but some come pretty darn close.
1 Encarta World English Dictionary