Valedictorians by the Number

July 1st, 2010

In the good old days, the top grade earner in any given senior class, in any given year, was always #1–a singular distinction that came with the title valedictorian.  Come in second and be named salutatorian.  But these are new days and the old rules apparently don’t apply anymore.  Which, to my way of thinking, is a shame.

Nowadays, competition is getting a bad rap and self-esteem considerations reign with the result that, across the country, schools are naming multiple valedictorians.  Really.

Take for example:

  • Stratford High School (Houston suburbs) honored 30 valedictorians this year–6.5% of the senior class!
  • Harrison High School (north of NYC) named 13 valedictorians in a class of 221 students.
  • St. Vrain Valley District (Colorado)  named 94 valedictorians!

As reported by Winnie Hu in her “How Many Graduates Does It Take to Be No.1,” Don Haddad, St. Vrain Valley District’s superintendent said, “We have not lowered the bar to achieve more valedictorians.  More kids are now getting over the bar.”

I just don’t see it that way.  To my way of thinking, doing so dilutes the distinction usually attributed to that honor, laying it to waste.

In the real world, there will always be a top dog, a numero uno, a star who steals the show–but, apparently, that’s a lesson a number of our schools refuse to teach.

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