Monday, August 03, 2009


I was elected to student council in sixth grade. I vaguely recall sitting in Mrs. Avenue's homeroom class, staring at my name where she'd written in white chalk on the green board. Ridiculously flattered when the other 11 students in my class elected me as one of the two sixth grade representatives, I nervously attended the first meeting.

I sat in the front of the room in seventh grade, acting as vice present for our small organization. I had won on a 'turn over a new leaf - Vote for Katie!' platform that incorporated a construction paper tree trunk hung in the corridor with masking tape. Said trunk contained 100 leaves with my campaign slogan.

"What does 'turn over a new leaf' mean?" Mom asked as she helped me print the phrase on the green bits of paper. I blinked at her and shrugged, adding an exclamation point after 'vote for Katie!' But, through no real planning, I ended up crusading for open enrollment in student council.

"Why have elections that hurt people's feelings?" I asked in a meeting. "We have these meetings on Monday and there's room for more people. We babysit at parent meetings and sell concessions at basketball and organize dances - we don't have enough volunteers so why not see if more people are interested?" Perhaps it was the memory of being crushed when I didn't make cheerleader, but I didn't like the idea that my student council brought others the same feeling of inadequacy and isolation.

I still find the concept of 'exclusive access' a bit ridiculous. If I have something that's more-or-less free to make and many people want it, I'm very likely to let them have it. I like people to be happy.

One of my counterparts very much favors limited releases. We should only work with a few sites, he insists. Nothing is free and it's not worthwhile to engage random people in projects. And he's at least partially right. Being inclusive takes a lot of energy and means I end up working with some people I'd rather avoid. But it also enables some interesting hypotheses and valuable feedback. I think we limit our inputs to our peril and rather enjoy hearing what new investigators think.

"No," said counterpart said simply during a converation this afternoon.

"Did you just tell me no?" I asked, incredulous. I'd had a long day of menial labored that required me to screw over multiple people to accomplish something I believed was mostly useless. I was tired and hungry. I had a number of things that had to get done - despite having worked most of the weekend - and due to my useless series of tasks during the day.

"It doesn't need to happen," he stated and proceeded to drone on about how he was right.

"I'm not having this argument with you," I finally said. "I know we disagree on this and accept that you're right in some cases. But I will not let you win this one. I'm too tired and frustrated to discuss it right now, but we will distribute this. Given that I absolutely refuse to lose here, you can waste your time arguing with me or you can find a way to give me what I want."

I reminded myself that I spent eighth grade holding a state office for our national student council organization. I was Best Leader in high school. And while my counterpart isn't completely convinced that I'll win, I'm positive. It's a core value. And just as junior high student council remains open to all interested at my alma matter, I will get my way.

(Not so cloudy yet - I'm working on it.)

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