Competition in High School: No More Valedictorian?

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.

 

 

 

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It’s Been Awhile…

I know…I suck…I haven’t been keeping up with my blog at all these past few months. Shame on me, too.  I told myself today that I need to get better with this, even if it means posting short posts.  I also told myself that this blog will be about more than just military-related content, although I will still post those things here.  I also plan to post about everything that is important to me and my world.  Which is why I’ve re-titled the site “Just James.”

Warning:  You may not like or agree with some of these posts.  That’s OK.  I invite other viewpoints, as long as the comments are respectful.  We can disagree without insulting each other.

In fact, my next post will be about this very thing…stay tuned.

Is the Black TV Family a Dying Breed?

Back in the Day…

I’m proud to be a true 90s kid, a millennial by birth year (1985, to be exact).  I think all 90s kids will agree when I say that the 90s were amazing.  From good music to legendary TV shows, the 90s had it all.  Great Saturday morning cartoons, SNICK and TGIF…ah, the good old days.  I believe in my heart that the 1990s was the Golden Era of not only modern TV, but black television as a whole.  I think about how black people are mostly portrayed on TV nowadays and frankly, I’m disappointed.  There are some shows that make me wonder if we are losing the image of intact and successful black families on TV that was more prevalent in the 1990s.

Reality Can Shape Perception…

I consider myself a conscious and successful young black man but when it comes to positive TV images of black people, I feel for this generation of black youth, especially my two little girls.  More times than not, black men and black women are shown at their worse, especially on reality TV.  Seriously, how often do you turn on the TV to see gorgeous black women throwing wine at each other and fighting over something that happened 2 years ago?  How about those same shows that make black men look like womanizers, aimlessly chasing after countless women?  Even the reality shows that have successful black people on them, in my opinion, tend to show more negative situations than positive.  I know some people may read this and argue that it’s just entertainment, but a lot of black people live their lives based on what they see on TV.  They are not able to separate the so-called entertainment factor from reality.  I guess another argument is that it makes for great ratings, but the people in charge at these networks don’t care that they are making millions of dollars at the expense of the reputation of the black race.  Black people are being perceived negatively worldwide, largely because of what is shown on the TV screen.

When Melanated Excellence Ruled the Airwaves

I remember shows like The Cosby Show, A Different World and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.  These shows were great because for many black people in my generation, these shows were the only time they saw a successful and intact black family.  For a good decade or more, you could tune into multiple major TV networks and see melanated excellence all over the place.  Sure, these shows had, and thanks to syndication, still maintain the entertainment factor with captivating storylines, famous lead characters and comedic elements.  More importantly though,  they showed America that black people are successful professionals, lawyers, doctors, college professors and judges with families at home.  It is abundantly clear that a sizeable portion of Americans still view black people negatively and these reality shows don’t help.  It seems that the Golden Era of intact and successful black TV families has suffered a setback.  Furthermore, recent legal events have dealt a major blow to the legacy of the gold standard of black TV dads.

Syndicated Punishment, Not Fair and Impartial

From the mid-80s to the early 90s, Bill Cosby was “America’s Dad”.  Not just black America, but a considerable number of American viewers from all walks of life tuned in weekly to watch The Huxtables.  Yet, The Cosby Show was pulled from TV syndication and streaming services at the height of sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby, none of which he has been convicted, by the way.  Now let’s look at Stephen Collins who portrayed Rev. Eric Camden on 7th Heaven, a successful family-oriented show from the late 90s and early 2000s.  He confessed…wait…let me repeat, he confessed to molesting a young girl in 1972 and exposing himself to 2 other children, but 7th Heaven still has a hefty syndication presence across the country.  Fair?  I don’t think so.  Let me be clear… if Bill Cosby committed those assaults, he absolutely deserves to be punished.  However, the fact that Stephan Collins admitted to his bad behavior and his show continues to have a widespread syndication presence baffles me.  Here’s my point…bring back The Cosby Show in mass syndication so that black youth today, like my daughters, can see an intact and successful black family on TV.  Yes, there are some networks that have slowly started to show the Cosby Show in syndication again, but it is not like it was before these allegations.

There’s Hope

The good news is that it’s not all bad.  Shows like ABC’s Blackish portrays an intact, successful and multi-generational black family navigating said success in a predominantly white suburb of Los Angeles.  Blackish hits on the comedic elements of its predecessors, with a modern twist, but also tackles serious issues that affect black people.  Other shows, like OWN’s For Peete’s Sake and TV One’s The Manns, show intact, famous black families in a reality TV format and how they handle real situations, some serious and some very funny.  Bottom line, there is some positivity, but it is often overshadowed by shows that insist on showing more negative images of black people.

…But Perception is Not Always Reality

To black people I say don’t let these shows dictate how you should carry yourself.  For every fight shown on reality TV, there is a young black woman building a successful and profitable business.  For every scene showing a black man at a strip club “making it rain”, there is a black man sitting at home with his wife, helping his kids do homework.  Even if the images of successful and intact black TV families are decreasing, real and intellectual black people do exist and more are becoming “woke” every day.  Black people watch more TV than any other demographic, so I think it will help for black people to be portrayed positively on the TV screen more, especially for those young black kids that are not always exposed to the possibilities of the excellence they can achieve.