On the Decline of Leadership and School Spirit

Source: Joseph Rabinovitsj

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In the past two years, the reputation and the reality of Leadership at M-A has changed drastically. We the M-A Editorial board believe that this change is the result of a breakdown between the student government and the student body.

Towards the end of the 2009-2010 school year, about a hundred M-A students were scrambling to apply for one of the three Leadership classes offered during the subsequent scholastic year. The Leadership classes of 2009-2010 and those of 2010-2011 competed among themselves for officer positions and roles in the student government.

However, over the course of the past two years the face of Leadership has changed significantly. Last year, the Leadership program consolidated its course offerings down to two classes and now it has dropped down to a single class. At the beginning of this semester, Leadership even had to distribute recruitment pamphlets to fill the class for next year.

The student body’s interest in Leadership-sponsored activities has declined, visible through Leadership’s recent failure to sell more than 16 tickets to the Blackout Dance, which they subsequently had to cancel this Monday.

Leadership’s lack of members and popularity seems to be indicative of its increasing inability to connect with the student body. A poll of 150 students from classes of all levels of difficulty and grade to whom we asked who the current ASB president is (the highest officer in Leadership), only 14% responded with the correct answer – ‘Justine Ferry’ – and 11% responded ‘Tyler Finn,’ a former Leadership officer who is no longer in the class. The fact that such a low percentage of the student body is aware of their student government demonstrates the inability of Leadership to reach out to the student body and take an active role in student life at M-A.

Because student governments only have very limited practical influence over actual school operations, the main goal of an effective Leadership class should be to establish a strong connection with the student body and foster school spirit through events.

One of the reasons for which Leadership has grown so far removed from the student body is its lack of platform or goal behind which the student body can rally. We believe that if both during the electoral process and the school year Leadership were to create a set of goals in response to student input, a strong link between the student government and the governed would grow alongside student spirit. Subsequently, given this enhancement of Leadership-student interactions, the student body will more readily respond to fundraising needs. For example in the case of the recent Blackout dance debacle, had Leadership established a healthy connection with the student body, they would have been able to incite excitement and participation in the dance.

We propose that, in order for Leadership to more effectively tap into the ether of student opinion, officer candidacy should be open to the entire student body. If students were to have the ability to campaign and vote for ideas in which they wholeheartedly believe, establishing a strong link between students and their government would face far less resistance than it currently does.

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10 Responses to “On the Decline of Leadership and School Spirit”

  1. Liviera on May 7th, 2013 5:08 pm

    I know leadership works hard for the student body but it’s true that it doesn’t seem as integrated as it should be to gain success as an organization/club. More efforts to become notorious at school and connect with the student body would be great. It’s the same idea as with past Winter Formals: no one is excited for the dance so they have to cancel it or drastically lower the prices. If the leadership group were more of a presence in everyday M-A happenings (as opposed to just spirited individuals), it might be possible to get students genuinely pumped for events like dances and rallies, instead of the normal tolerance or dread for such things.

    shoover Reply:

    I also think another problem is the focus on dances and other similar events. If the goal of the leadership class is to represent the student body, their power needs to extend beyond dances and into issues that more people care about. That alone will increase the amount that the student body is invested in the officers, and the level that the officers are invested in the student body. Of course, they do way more things behind the scenes than we know about, and I appreciate all that they do, but perhaps the things besides dances could be publicized better so that we could increase our appreciation for all the hard work they do.

  2. Alyssa W. on May 7th, 2013 8:51 pm

    I never felt like leadership actually did things that mattered to students.

    Though I will also say that even in college, where the student government makes changes that truly affect the students, they’ve been having a remarkably hard time getting votes or involvement from the student body.

  3. Anonymous on May 8th, 2013 7:56 pm

    We can also have faith in the glorious student ran 6th Man Club to help out with school spirit. Going strong since 2003.

  4. rgordan on May 9th, 2013 3:03 pm

    I completely agree, having actual elections where the student body is the sole factor in the outcome is the only way to make leadership relevant again.

  5. sparish on May 9th, 2013 8:01 pm

    I remember that in my freshman year, I had some friends who were excited to be in leadership for their sophomore years, but now the friends I have that are in the class don’t really seem to like it. It’s unfortunate to see that something that should be exciting and relevant for the school just isn’t.

  6. anonymous on May 23rd, 2013 3:59 pm

    While I respect the opinion of the editorial board, I felt it necessary to interject some missing information that is critical in looking at the full picture as I don’t think this article is fair in its evaluation of Leadership.

    The Leadership class over the past few years (a time period established in the article) has lost large numbers of students to the ever growing ‘mandatory course requirements’ of the UC/CSU system. As an elective course, Leadership does not have a consistent stream of students to pull from but rather is forced to compete with other elective offerings for student participation. A few years ago, several competing electives (most notably the journalism class that wrote the original article) was given a CTE designation – which instantly gave those courses an advantage over other elective offerings. Students have few spots available in their schedules to take electives – a course like journalism counts as meeting a CTE AND as an elective.

    Because Leadership did not receive the CTE designated ‘stamp’ many students chose to not take the course as they felt it more valuable to take AS/AP courses and fill their elective spots with a CTE. To say or even imply that the primary reason for the decline in student participation is due to poor program management is ignoring that there are far more layers to this problem. It is perhaps perfect that the editorial board of an elective that has thrived in recent years due to CTE designation completely ignored that key issue in their critiquing of a competing elective offering.

    Your comments imply that Leadership has done poorly because they fail to connect to the student body and that its poorly managed. That the solution is – try harder to connect with M-A students. This assumes that Leadership doesn’t already try hard to connect with M-A students (a campus notorious for a self-segregated population). When M-A Bear News does a web poll, how many non-journalism students actually know about and participate in those polls? How diverse and balanced is the M-A Bear News staff in comparison to school demographics?

    As the head of an elective with plenty of student members, ask yourself, honestly, how many fewer students would be in journalism if the CTE designation were taken away? Do students quickly sign up for journalism because they feel the teaching is superb compared to other electives? Perhaps even the current editorial board’s leadership is so well known that students will climb over each other for a chance to be in the journalism class. You sampled students randomly about who the Leadership president was – perhaps ask those same students who the editorial board is for MA Bear News? Will the numbers be so different?

    Your article submits the low participation and poor school spirit as being CAUSED by a failed Leadership class. I submit rather that Leadership has struggled to compete with other electives for reasons largely out of their control and the result has been students disinterested in spirit events and leadership activities.

    the M-A Bear News Editorial Board Reply:

    We agree that the decrease in enrollment may be the result of factors other than a lack of school spirit or interest in the class. We are glad that you brought this up and think that it is an interesting and necessary consideration for the topic at hand. In terms of the poll we conducted to evaluate Leadership’s connection with the student body, we did not use an online format and no journalism students participated. We polled classes of all levels of difficulty and grade in order to have the most accurate results possible.
    However, we do not believe that a comparison between the Leadership and Journalism classes is pertinent to this issue in terms of enrollment, CTE status, or responsibility. For example, a citizen of New York is expected to know the name of the Governor of his/her state yet is not expected to know the names of the members of the Editorial Board of the New York Times. We would just like to emphasize that our article dealt with observing, qualifying, and presenting a solution to the decline in the influence and effectiveness of the Leadership class in the past few years and had nothing to do with any other class at M-A.

    We appreciate your input and readership.

    the M-A Bear News Editorial Board

  7. amacfarlane on May 25th, 2013 10:53 pm

    Leadership has never been my cup of tea, but instituting real elections would possibly help restore some of its image. Yet the positions in student government, class president/secretary/treasurer etc., have never seemed particularly relevant to me. And I’m not sure that I would cry if rallies/dances were cancelled… But I do understand that these events are important to many people, I’ve just always been more the type that would rather read a book or do some math problems.

  8. alai on May 27th, 2013 6:27 pm

    I agree that real elections where students get to vote for their representatives would help make leadership relevant again. As of now I don’t feel any investment in our student government and I’m unaware of what it does besides publicizing dances and the like.

On the Decline of Leadership and School Spirit