Hypocrisy in “action”

Conner Kleinman ’24 addresses problems that have been caused by the LM School Board’s inaction.

As I sat in my English class reading over Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, I could not help but take notice of the numerous lines condemning white moderates for their inaction in the civil rights movement. The white moderate of MLK’s time preferred order and a semi-mythical status quo where everyone got along and nothing was challenged “too quickly.” These same moderates of our own time share many of the same qualities with those who came before. They know what is required of them, but do not take action, shying away from confrontation. These moderates described are the members of the LM School Board. Our area has an overwhelmingly democratic lean, with every School Board position occupied by members of the party. This is the same party that is supposed to stand up for equality, both for opportunity and education, and to advocate for students rather than ignore their needs. The ideological battles of our time are nothing compared to those faced by Martin Luther King in August of 1963. However, there is still progress to be made. Voter registration is one of the battles that King fought for in the South. Yet we still fail to effectively address the gaps not only between races, but between age groups as well. Young voters make up one of the largest segments of the voting population, yet vote significantly below the national average. Philadelphia passed a resolution (advocated by the nonpartisan organization PA Youth Vote) to make sure that all students would be registered to vote. When proposed to our own School Board, a similar resolution was expected to be passed, with Harriton and LM students coming together in persuasion. But what was the result? 4 bullet points. An extensive, multi-page resolution mandating education was watered down into a policy that merely encouraged voter registration, without providing the resources or backing necessary to actually register voters. The ideology of the supposedly enlightened moderate claims to be progressive but takes no imperative to act for racial equity. The same enlightened moderate claims to represent youth, but takes no action to register them to vote. The same enlightened moderate oversees an astounding legacy of racism in our school district yet does nothing to rectify it. And the same enlightened moderate lectures youth on why they should wait to have voter registration in schools. The School Board is by no means against voter registration, or actively taking steps to move us backwards in society as is increasingly common in other areas of the country. Yet, a lack of forward progress is still an unconscionable abdication of responsibility to the youth of this district. Registering to vote is an act supported by everyone in Lower Merion, republican or democrat, conservative or liberal. You can not have a functioning democracy without voter registration being taught. This is not about partisan affiliation or “bringing outsiders into our schools.” Groups like PA Youth Vote and Narberth League of Women Voters endorse the original resolution, groups that are non-partisan, local, and advocate for voter registration. Some school board members were clearly caught off guard by the rapid turn in events, and are now working with students to bring back some of the initial language in the resolution that would provide critical resources for voter registration. It is great to learn about government in schools, but greater still to participate in it.  

 

 

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