Reprinted from February 12, 1971 Oracle
Following the tremendous expression of concern born in the Thursday Discussion groups, it appeared that Woodberry’s students were finally motivated to do more than sit back and fill the air with the noise of their complaints. Suddenly, it seemed that people know what they wanted to do and where they wanted to go.
Committees designed to synthesize the attitudes of the entire community into workable programs for all areas of school life were planned, ballots were distributed to forms and then… nothing.
Of the approximately three hundred and fifty students here at school, only one-third cared enough to turn in their ballots, a truly sad statement about the motivation which seemed so strong only a few weeks earlier. Perhaps, the students’ lack of interest in electing representatives to the four committees reflects general contentment with the school situation, however it hardly appears so. More probably, it reflects the general self-centered and apathetic nature of what appears to be at least two-thirds of the student body. There remains however, the possibility that the pitiful voter response was a conscious statement of the dwindling faith which students place in the “committee”. Just as today’s youth culture considers only the immediacy, the “now” of a situation, so it appears that Woodberry’s students want change more rapid than that which a committee can offer.
Traditionally, the procedure for effecting any fairly serious change within the school life has begun with the formation of a committee. To many, particularly the older students, the prospects of four more committees, however, seems to offer little hope for change.
If the day of the committee has passed, then what will take its place in the future? Interestingly enough, the recent well-received experiment concerning voluntary breakfast appearch without the formation of some new group to study it to death; so too, the abolition of required weekday chapel. the Headmaster, should he decide to take the initiative obviously has the power to affect such changes even if only on an experimental basis at times. Despite the pettiness and exaggeration which sometimes grew out of Mr. Duncan’s assemblies, they did offer a unique forum to present and discuss such suggestions as a school. When reasonable proposals or complaints were registered, they were noted and something was usually done about them. Obviously, Mr. Sheerin’s temperament is less suited to these mass discussions, yet as a result, the students are left with no channels to express their concerns. The proposed monthly form meetings seem a rather poor answer.
Perhaps these new committees can offer a workable and permanent method of receiving and accomplishing needed reforms, however large or small. The difficulty of reaching a consensus and of gathering such a group offers, however, immediate doubt as to their possible effectiveness. What might, within our present context, be more viable is the designation of an existing group or individual as the instrument for this work. Several faculty members have offered the idea of having what they term an “expediter”, a person to whom ideas of all sorts could be brought with assurance that they would not be forgotten. Such a person could offer a direct link between the students, faculty and seemingly endless mechanization which supports school life. Perhaps, again, the students were wrong and these committees can take on that role, but it is more seriously worth considering the prospect of seeking a permanent “expediting force”. It would relieve many of the smaller burdens which Mr. Sheerin seems reluctant to shoulder, and offer all members of the school community hope for their plans, not discouragement.