On May 31, The Lasso published an editorial, “High praise for Hills,”written by Editor-in-Chief Kate Karstens, as a way to thank Mr. Matt Hills for the way he handled his first year on the job as principal of our high school.
Unfortunately, what should have been praise quickly became a rant against the senior class, accusing the class of complaining throughout the year about changes made to the school this year, and thus making the job of the new administration more difficult. As a senior who is a writer and editor for The Lasso, and someone who has great respect for our Editor-in-Chief, I simply can’t condone this message being displayed on our newspaper.
In a well-functioning democracy, it’s necessary for citizens to be able to check on the power of any administration. Their right to question authority is inherent. A change in administration guarantees that there will be extra scrutiny. Turn on the television, and you’ll see a 24-hour news cycle analyzing the meaning of one of President Trump’s latest tweets (“covfefe” ring a bell?). So when seniors were unclear as to why the 18 year old declaration was being enforced for this class, we asked about it. Not only did we question the change, but we were dubious after being told that the previous senior class was not the reason that the rules were being enforced. We have a right to do that too. And in a school like Mason where the IB Learner Profile is drilled into our heads as soon as we enter the dark and dingy halls, it should be no surprise to anyone when we exercise our abilities to be “thinkers” and “inquirers”.
Although I’m using the 18 year old declaration as an example, it is typical of any incident where we found the senior class arguing against the administration. In fact, I’m happy that my peers felt empowered to ask why the alcoves were painted over when there are clearly other issues concerning our school’s maintenance (remember when that water fountain exploded?), or why we should tolerate underclassmen parking in the senior lot. Sure, these issues may seem petty, but enough people cared about them to actually say something. Let’s not ignore that.
Karstens’ editorial focused on the experience of trying to change the school’s prior review policy. That’s a huge and courageous fight to take on. But there are other ways, big and small, that the senior class has worked to improve the school. By engaging and challenging the decisions made by our school’s leaders, we create a culture at Mason where students advocate for themselves and others. Mr. Hills understood this, which is why he created time for us to assemble and talk about our concerns, and he deserves commendation for this. I’m proud to say that I’m apart of a class filled with smart, informed students that can advocate for themselves and demand more of their school. It simply isn’t accurate to reduce the Class of 2017 to whiners who just find excuses to use the principal as target practice.
It’s a good thing that Kate was able to develop a good relationship with Mr. Hills. The fact that students, faculty, and administration at this school can be so connected is something to celebrate. I was disappointed that the editorial dragged the senior class through the mud and treated Hills as the victim of all our torture. This was not fair to us and it’s not fair to him.
To next year’s seniors and all the classes that follow, treat your administration with respect, but also demand it in return. Speak out, speak up, and advocate for yourselves. It’s here in high school that you’re supposed to learn that you have a voice that is just as important as any adult’s, so don’t be afraid to use it. That is the lesson you should take from my class.
(GMHS Class of '17; Lasso staff 2013-17)
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