The Problem with Parental Power
by Hannah Iafrati on Friday, June 6th, 2014
During one particularly chilly week in January, the students of Milton Academy were slogging through exam after exam, desperately attempting to avoid the campus’ snowdrifts. I, along with countless other burnt-out juniors, was excited for the week to be over, mostly because I had planned a trip that Saturday to Disney World, the country’s quintessential source of unadulterated joy. However, my beautiful plan crumbled when that week’s snowstorm moved all exams back one day, interfering with my Saturday flight and crushing my hopes of going to Disney. I did all that I could, pleading with the Administration to take my exam a day earlier and concocting alternatives to my predicament. Even then, the higher-ups ignored my cries. I found solace in the fact that I didn’t suffer alone. Despite wails of dissent, many other Miltonians had similar situations forced upon them. There was an exception to this pattern, however: when parents got involved, students suddenly found administrators more willing to compromise, move testing, and listen to opinions that students had already stated.
It seems we have stumbled on a phenomenon I have affectionately termed “Parental Power.” You’re a day student and want to stay home? Have your parents call in. You really want to move up to Honors Chemistry, but your teacher thinks it’s a bad idea? Have your parents meet with your teacher. The influence of a parent on a school-related conflict seems to be a panacea in the life of the Milton student. As a Class I student said, “When I was a day student, I could just sleep in and have my mom call and say I was sick or had a migraine. Anything would work.” She isn’t alone in this thinking. “Whenever I get in a fight about something with a teacher, he’ll ignore me until my parents get involved,” said another Class III student. “I don’t like having my dad fight my battles for me. When he wins, I don’t feel big: I just feel helpless.” I have come to a shocking conclusion during my time at Milton: despite being a student—a direct beneficiary and future member of the Milton Academy legacy—I have very little opportunity to determine my fate.
The question that should be on our lips is what can we, the integral members of this community, do about this problem? The answer is this: take the responsibility of solving the problem into our own hands. Think of the recent Dress Code controversy. After rumors of a new regulation that would restrict the wearing of certain types of clothing, SAGE (Students Advocating Gender Equality) was invited to an SGA meeting to discuss the pros and cons of this dress code. The board of SAGE argued that holding females accountable for males’ reactions to their clothing bore resemblance to victim blaming, and that forcing students to buy a completely new wardrobe would discriminate against individuals based on socioeconomic class. With nary a parent involved, SAGE managed to delay any dress code changes until 2016, provided that the club have input on whatever changes are made.
In the past, as I found through my exam week debacle, students have needed parents to fight their fights. In the process, we are made to feel like the children we no longer are. Maybe the uprising against a proposed dress code, with SAGE contesting the administration’s decision, signifies a shift in power. The winds are changing at Milton—at long last—and we need to take advantage of our newfound power to fight for what we truly want. Next year we need to hit the ground running in order to show the Administration what we want and how hard we’ll advocate for it. After all, we can’t remain children forever; at some point, we have to stand up and tell administrators what we want, and, well, they’re just going to have to listen.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=6135