Let students take part in principled engagement


Danielle Brennan, Editorials Editor

With the midterm elections fresh in students’ digital- news-media-devouring minds, results and progress take on extracurricular meanings. We should capitalize on this mindset by evaluating our declared values and their fulfillment. The Upper School (US) should accommodate for one annual excused absence for attendance at a march, protest, or other event that calls for a student’s undivided attention, and lay out a procedure to distribute missed work over the following week.

Remember when the Eco Bash brought the Sunrise Movement to urge us toward action? Or when we gathered for workshops about identity in the gym? The administration has promoted this ideal: principled engagement, the term we all know and, well, read a dozen too many times in its debut during advisory slideshows. The term might sound bland, but the point reads vividly and clearly: our education in the US is meant not only to enable us as learners, but also as citizens.

That being said, how has the US accommodated this concept? Creating workshops and presentations is a start, but truly principled engagement demands time and space in students’ crunched academic and extracurricular schedules to be enacted. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, midterm elections, and the ongoing climate crisis among many current events, there are a lot of places where high-school students’ voices are needed.

As students, we bear both the burden of heavy backpacks as well as the often bleak news of the world and country we are inheriting. With all the varying brouhaha flooding the media about words we once thought had clear, quizzable definitions, it can be easy to just feel like a viewer bearing witness to the latest atrocities. But the reality is that as students, we are two-fold. We are not just absorbing information but applying it; we put it to test in our exams and in our daily lives. We are receiving information, seeking other points of view, and forming opinions from their sum that can translate into thoughtful, intentional action.

Administrative efforts to create not only critical thinkers within our community, but also earnest actors outside of it, have heightened in recent years among a flurry of mounting political and societal tumult.

If the US intends to implement principled engagement for its result, not just its basis, it must set aside or explicitly sanction opportunities for actionable tasks. This proposal for one demonstration’s excused absence achieves that. Principled engagement prescribes engaging in its pursuit of justice and equity. Teaching it is great, but actively enabling its application is greater. Let’s implement this proposal; let’s be as engaged as we are principled.