Ben Kohler, a year 11 student and member of the Socialist Alliance and Resistance, is running for the position of school captain at Woonona High, in Wollongong's northern suburbs. He spoke with Green Left Weekly’s Patrick Harrison about his campaign.
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What motivated you to run for school captain?
I was reading Stupid White Men by Michael Moore. He talks about schooling, and basically encourages students to take over the school. He also said we should “mock the vote” and I thought, “I have to do that!”
I was curious just to see if I could win, but then I started thinking, “If I was elected, I could actually do some good!”
What policies are you running on?
What I want essentially is student control of student affairs. Students should have more freedom and more of a say in the everyday running of the school.
Perhaps the most essential policy regarding student control of student affairs is that teachers shouldn’t be able to vote in the student representative council elections.
Right now, each teacher's vote is worth twice that of a student’s; that is incredibly undemocratic and undermines our voice as students.
I will also push to repeal the rule requiring students to wear black leather shoes. A group of conservative parents on the PNC decided students should not stand out in the crowd.
To me, it’s just about making all students conform and be colourless. Currently, the PNC has more power than the SRC, which undermines us.
I also advocate the school investing in a condom service. In personal development classes, we are told we should never have sex because it is about as safe as walking through a mine field. If we do, they say, we should at least practise safe sex — so the school should put its money where its mouth is and put its advice into practice.
How do you hope to relate to students by running and possibly being elected?
I hope to shake them up a bit, I guess. By coming along and saying, “The school should get a condom machine and here is why!” I hope some students will start to think, “Christ, what’s this kid going on about?”.
Maybe they’ll think about what should be happening in the school. I want students to get involved and have their say in how our school runs.
I also hope that they will start thinking about what’s going on in the world and what should (and shouldn't) be happening.
Through campaigning for student democracy, I hope students will see the need to get involved in other campaigns that affect their future, like campaigns against climate change, war, corporate domination and homophobia.
It’s only when people get involved in community and political campaigns that things start happening and we can actually change society.