STAFF EDITORIAL: Students must take action on issues they feel passionately about

 

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Nothing masks apathy like noise. And St. Paul Academy and Summit School is a very noisy place: from the library tables to the Opinion Board, students sound off on all topics, offering opinions on everything from foreign policy to alternative energy.

No doubt, SPA is a learned and impassioned community, but for the most part, its actions simply do not speak as loud as its words.

In a poll conducted this month, students reported that 57% consider themselves socially active, 35% consider themselves politically active, 18% consider themselves environmentally active, yet fewer than one-third have attended any kind of social activism event, fewer than one-quarter have volunteered for a political party or attended an event, and less than 1 in 10 have participated in an environmental protection initiative.  Furthermore, only 30% of students said they’d helped organize any event, big or small, to support a cause they care about.

For all our opinions on politics, social issues, and service, our actions do not meet our speech. Every year, the sophomore class struggles to finish their feeble 12 hours of required community service – an opportunity to make a mark on the outer community – yet we continue to condemn the SPA bubble or claim it does not exist. Our discourse in class or on the Opinion board is plentiful, but only a handful of students attend protests and rallies or volunteer in political campaigns.

Quite simply, we cannot passively discuss what is right and what is wrong. We must go out into the world and make things right.”

Even within our own community, we are quick to righteously criticize the world and faraway people, but rarely do we reflect upon our own individual open-mindedness, community activeness, or kindness. And, when we want tangible change within the community, rather than approach student council members and attend their public forums or contact the administration, we leave our criticisms floating on the Opinion Board, expecting someone, somewhere to do something about it.

But to some extent, the SPA community follows through on its values: Classes have mandatory discussions; faculty and students alike do their best to be inclusive in their language and curriculum; we have a plethora of affinity and student groups devoted to diversity or political discourse; and our administration regularly takes initiative to make our environment better for all students. Slowly but surely, we are beginning to stand up for each other and what we care about in our conversations as well.

What’s more, there are days we go above and beyond: following the emotional and divisive 2016 presidential election results on Nov. 8, students from Senior Art Seminar made infographic-part-aaffirmative and caring posts for every student’s locker in the school. These posts gave support and love to everyone, regardless of their political affiliations, race or ethnicity, gender, or beliefs, and showed that we are a community that is unified and cares for one another.

Of course, action cannot happen if no one wants to do it in the first place, and, at the very least, we are definitely at that point. But we must go further. Recent events have forced us to internalize the real pain and division that exists in the world we had once externalized in classroom discussions or lunch table conversations. In response, we must take an active part in that world.

We must embody our values in every choice at every moment. We must truly, if not physically, stand by the people we say we support.

Words are no longer enough.

If we truly believe in diverse discourse, we must look past our own personal or moral discomfort, and earnestly listen to other perspectives. If we believe in political or community involvement, we must go to social, political, and environmental organizations in the outer community and offer our time and our effort. If we believe in forgiveness, compassion, service, and open-mindedness, then these values must guide our actions, not just our words.

Quite simply, we cannot just passively discuss what is right and what is wrong. We must go out into the world and make things right.

Clearly, in our heart of hearts, we are moved when we hear the stories of the senior class through speeches. We are moved when we come together to express support on Hijab day or find positivity on love your body day. We are moved when we hear personal stories of pain from our peers. We are moved when experience speaks to what we care about.

But now, more than ever, we must move, rather than be moved.