Monday, June 8, 2015

More than one valedictorian?

Here it comes people . . . the encroachment of "everyone gets a trophy" to a high school near you.

It started with one or two, but now many high schools are starting the practice of multiple valedictorians.   Yup - more than one person is . . . the best.  Doesn't even make sense.  The reason?  Well, there are many, but they all seem to center around sharing the 'glory.'

Joe Prisinzano, principal of Jericho High School poses the idea like this:  

“When did we start saying that we should limit the honors so only one person gets the glory?” 

Well . . . a long time ago, Joe . . . like when the word was created:

Valedictorian: (n)
  1. a student, typically having the highest academic achievements of the class, who delivers the valedictory at a graduation ceremony.

See that?  A student . . . not students.  We have always seen the valedictorian as the highest ranking student.  Singular.  What is the big deal?  I was nowhere close to the valedictorian.  I married a valedictorian - so I guess you could say I got pretty close to one, but that is another blog.

Anyhow - In a NY Times article found here, principals argue that having multiple valedictorians reduces pressure and competition.  

Do we really need to reduce competition when we are 17th in the world in education?  Is this a burning need in US education right now - reduce pressure on being the best?

Even if it helps us feel better about ourselves, what about the prize of being the best?  Doesn't this move reduce the prize?

See now 27 young men and women at a high school in Florida can claim to be the highest in their class.  TWENTY SEVEN STUDENTS.  I can't believe that TWENTY SEVEN STUDENTS are the best.  In fact, you can't say they are the best.  They are among the best.  They are a crowd of great, but not the best.  Best becomes downgraded when we share it with others.

So for example, when you show up for a job interview and put "valedictorian" the job interviewer could say, "yeah, but so were 26 OTHER people."


I love professor Chris Healy's estimation of the whole thing as 'honor inflation.'  Nail on the head, brother.

The goal is too hard, so let's make it easier.

Trophies for everyone.
Don't keep score.  
Print money.

And now give the highest honor to lots of people.  

Let's just keep the best as the best - the rest of us will get over it.  Those ranking 2, 3, 4 and on down will have productive, meaningful lives - I am sure of it.  

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