Thursday, November 17, 2005

First Class Citizens

Intesting article about a school that has a constructivist governance model. There's also a 6 minute video that goes along with the article you might want to watch.
At the core of Hudson's grand experiment is the community council, a committee consisting of elected students and staff that is responsible for making many decisions at Hudson typically left to the school principal or a faculty committee to decide. Meeting once a month, the committee (led by a student, rather than a teacher) discusses and recommends policy on everything from dress codes to lunchtime fare to parking policies and more. "Everyone on the council speaks with an equal voice," says Brian Daniels, a teacher at Hudson and executive to the Hudson High School Community Council. "It took a long time to get everyone ready for the change," he adds. Hudson students and staff discussed the new governance idea for two
years before holding their first Community Council meeting. One of the biggest challenges for students and staff was the shift of thinking -- and, in some ways, the shift in power -- that needed to occur in order for the Community Council to be effective. "It really pushes me to look at whose opinion should be valued more," reflects Sean Tanney, a Hudson graduate and head of the Community Council last year. "When the teacher says something, you normally think of it as right, and if a student says something, you always look to the teacher to reconfirm that," said Tanney. "However, in Community Council, whoever says something, it's automatically valid, regardless of who said it." The Community Council is governed by a three-page constitution, which lays out terms of service for representatives, election procedures, responsibilities, and areas of authority, which include "all matters at Hudson High School not controlled by school board policy, state policy, administrative regulations established by the Superintendent of Schools, and the collective bargaining agreement." The principal can veto council decisions, but the council can override the veto by a two-thirds majority vote, a move that triggers the creation of a Board of Conciliation, which includes the district superintendent, a Community Council member, and a third person with expertise in the area under question.


  1. Do you honestly think that we could give up some of our power to students? I know that there are a lot of great kids, and they would be the ones on this type of council. I foresee a problem with this type of council, where a couple top kids are speaking for the masses. I do not know if we would be ready for this type of ruling yet.

  2. I don't know if we're ready or not, but it's an intriguing idea. But I imagine that a few folks in 1776 were saying the same thing about "the colonies" and that you could never trust the "common people" to rule themselves.

  3. Every once in awhile, this does happen here, too. About 5 years ago on SAC, I watched two students (Eyler and Mercer) drive some of the discussion and decisions. The idea interets me as I have mixed emotions regarding the practicality of participatory democracy. On one level, I love the potential impact it can have on a community. However, all one needs to do is look at the mess caused by initiatives and referendums in a number of states where the people participated to see the potential for chaos. And, yes Karl, the some very uncommon "common people" did do great things, they also instituted a Constitution that protected the people from the people.

    Hmmm, I must be getting in Government mode for next semester.

  4. As always, I will defer to all things governmental to Brad. But does anyone else find it ironic that we attempt to prepare student to live, work and participate in a democratic society by making them attend a school where they have very little chance to practice democracy? If we preach about the power and rightness of democracy, why do we not let students actually get some practice with it? Wouldn't students become much more knowledgeable contributors to our democratic society as adults if they actually had a chance to participate in it at school? Would we maybe have less of a mess with intiatives and referendums if students had experience with governing and decision-making in high school, and then took that experience with them as adults?