EDITORIAL: For leadership, two is less than one

BP Editorial Board

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Fairness Committee, Choir, Boiling Point, the Senior class, Yearbook, SAC, Basketball. All of these groups have had something in common this year: co-chairs.

More and more, our seniors are deciding to split the bill. Rather than risk competitive elections against their friends or face the challenges of leadership themselves, seniors arrange to be co-chairs. Both students get to fluff up their college applications while only shouldering half the burden. It sounds great, except it doesn’t work.

For starters, the co-chair set-up is disorienting to the group. When a decision has to be made quickly, or when the mood is tense, we have a natural tendency to look to one person, the alpha male (or female). Members of the group don’t feel as obligated to two leaders as they would to just one. Everyone has at one point played Mom and Pop off one another for a later curfew.

Worse, the identity of the group is at risk. No one person takes responsibility for the direction of the group. Is the choir going to operate more like a Glee club or a Gregorian monastery? To what extent should the Fairness Committee publicize its decisions? What do we, as seniors, want out of prom?

These questions have not been answered because no one person has taken responsibility for answering them. As a result, the groups don’t evolve.

The real educational loss, however, is that seniors don’t learn real leadership skills. A co-chair rarely has to be decisive or independent. He or she graduates without knowing what it’s like when 10 or 15 people count on them for inspiration, or how to rely on their own vision instead of talking out every decision with friends.

Not that our seniors deserve all the blame. There are underlying pressures in our school’s culture that perpetuate the problem. The rhetoric goes something like this: “If you want to get into college and be respected by your peers, you have to be a leader,” or “If you’re the most talented member of the group, you should lead it.”

Our parents and teachers overemphasize leadership to the point where it seems like there is no other way to valuably contribute to the community. But a play can’t run with only directors. And good writers don’t always make good editors.

Our prescription: Juniors, run individually for next year. And if your group is led by co-chairs, read that as a void in student leadership and respond by leaning more on your faculty advisers. That way, at least someone will be leading the group.