Students deserve to be heard
Editor: I am writing both as an experienced marketing research/public opinion survey expert and as member of the board of Citizens Information Service of Illinois (CIS). The views expressed in this letter, however, are my own and not necessarily those of CIS.
In the January 1991 issue of Illinois Issues, Richard Day and John Ross report on their survey of Chicago local school council (LSC) members ("Chicago local school councils optimistic," pp. 32-33). I do not take issue with the findings of the persons surveyed. But, I find the omission of the student representatives to the high school LSCs in the sample of survey respondents to be symptomatic of a generally held, distorted perspective. There are 72 Chicago high schools, each with a student representative to the LSC. It would have been easy to include a sample of these students large enough for the results to be valid.
The prime beneficiaries of our school system ostensibly are the students who attend the schools. Yet, in all public, and most private, discussions of school reform, the views of the students are not only overlooked but usually put down with a sneer. I can assure you from having met with the student representatives that their ideas and opinions are well thought out and should be taken into consideration.
There was great furor in 1989 as the first elections to the LSCs were held. Groups of all types were organized, monies were raised and political actions undertaken to represent each of the blocs of "interested parties." Community groups, teachers, the hierarchy of the school system, parents, principals, political organizations and a motley array of others all mobilized to be sure that their special interests were well represented. No one seemed to care about the students themselves.
CIS did care and assisted the elected high school student representatives in organizing themselves. CIS, by the way, did not have an agenda other than assisting these students in trying to have their views, needs and opinions properly expressed and heard.
I hope that those whom the reform activities are supposedly aimed to help are taken into consideration as this important effort continues.
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Caroline Gherardini, Editor
12/March 1991/Illinois Issues