So…it boggles my mind how much things have changed in high school since I walked those halls years ago. Some changes are for the better, such as the amount of technology and how it is leveraged in the classroom daily. Even my elementary-aged daughters have access to tech that I could have only dreamed of.
But, some of the changes that are occurring in high school are disturbing. The one that comes to my mind is the disappearance of the class Valedictorian.
I remember that the class Valedictorian was something that students heatedly competed for from 6th grade until the day that the Valedictorian was chosen. I mean, kids closely watched their GPAs to ensure that they were still in the running. In most cases, the Valedictorian barely got the honor by fractions of points over the Salutatorian, who had the 2nd highest GPA in the class. I remember being happy for my class Valedictorian, who shall remain nameless. This person worked their ass off to get that GPA. This individual took as many honors and advanced classes as possible and earned that distinction. The rest of us high achievers graduated with honors or advanced diplomas. Everyone else got a regular diploma. I never felt bad about not being the Valedictorian because I never competed fiercely enough to be in the running. My goal was to graduate with honors and I did. I don’t recall anyone in my class feeling bad about not being the #1 student in the St. Martin Class of 2003.
The idea of the person with the highest GPA being honored and allowed to speak at the graduation ceremony never struck me as something that would make the rest of the class feel bad, but apparently this is the idea being increasingly floated in high schools across the country.
I found an article from 2014 about the Broward Public School District in Florida. Coincidentally, I attended Kindergarten in this district, but I digress. The article speaks to how the school board was considering getting rid of both the Valedictorian and the Salutatorian because it sparks “nasty competition” among student and parents. Instead, the school board was proposing that the top 15 percent of students would be honored as either cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude. I have not been able to confirm if they actually went through with this or not.
More recently, the Rowan-Salisbury School Board in North Carolina proposed an amended class ranking policy during the April 2017 meeting. The new policy would phase out the titles of Valedictorian and Salutatorian beginning with the incoming freshman class. If the new policy is approved, current high school students would still be able to compete for the #1 and #2 slots, but the Class of 2021 would not.
So the argument for this, I guess, is that the competition is too nasty and not good for the kids. It makes the other kids that do not earn the title feel bad about their grades. They also say it encourages students to pick the classes that will keep them in the running for the #1 slot instead of classes that will boost their college applications.
I say BULLSHIT.
Once these young people get into the world, they will see that it is nothing but competitive. From jobs to even the damn PTA president election, life is full of competition. What this will do is hamstring these kids to not be ready for the fierce competition that the world smacks the in the face with on a daily basis. This perpetuates the participation trophy mindset, which I disagree with. Everyone can’t be the best, everyone can’t make the team and everyone can’t win. It’s like how some people want to take money from hardworking people and give it to those who don’t do a fraction of the work. I don’t agree with getting something for nothing. Even in my household, my kids don’t get rewarded if it isn’t earned. Like Ricky Bobby said, If you ain’t first, you’re last.
Ok, not really…but my point is that rewards should be earned. The NBA Championship isn’t shared with the best team from the West and East. No, those teams compete and the winner is the champion. The National Spelling Bee winner doesn’t have a co-winner. Only one kid wins that competition. My daughter is a competitive gymnast. She tried out and made the team, a team that has only a few girls on it, even though over 50 girls tried out. Hell, even the President of the United States competed and beat out everyone that ran against him to ascend to the office. I could go on and on with examples…
If there are kids that are complaining about not being the Valedictorian or Salutatorian , they need to be told to COMPETE, DON’T COMPLAIN. They can’t complain if they are slacking off in class. It makes no sense to try to appease the kid that is barely going to graduate just because shit got real for them 2 weeks before graduation. That same kid could have done the hard work to be the top student in the class.
My opinion, keep the slots for the top 2 students in the class and let the top 10% of the class graduate with honors. In other words, leave it the way it is.