Thursday, June 16, 2005

How many Valedictorians does it take?

I recall my high school graduation ceremony, as we stuffed 900-plus students and their parents into the sweltering gymnasium to escape the pouring rain outside ... blech! Although I can't tell you now the name of our valedictorian, I do know that it was one person.

Obviously the other outstanding students with 4.0+ averages, who were not selected for that signal honor were horribly scarred at being passed over ... Or not. After all - there is only one per class, correct?

Apparently not, and the current trend of "everyone who participates, wins" is alive and well in my own back-yard. This by way of Teresa at Technicalities, who pointed out that the Pacific Nut-West (love that term!) has done it again with the Garfield High School class of 2005. You see, one valedictorian was not enough for them, and so they have decided that all forty-four of the top graduates are equally deserving of the honor :

One high school — 44 valedictorians
By Lynn Thompson
Seattle Times staff reporter

Back in the day, class valedictorian was the standout scholar of the senior class, the acknowledged brain.

This year's 406-member graduating class at Garfield High School features 44 valedictorians. Forty-four students with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages who, over seven semesters of mostly honors and Advanced Placement classes, have never earned less than an A.

Even for a school with a reputation as an academic powerhouse, it's a record number: Last year Garfield had 30 valedictorians; the year before, 27.

I applaud Garfield High for creating an environment where 11 percent of the graduating class has not only attended courses in the Honors curriculum, but excelled. But what does this teach to the 44 students 'honored' in this way? That everyone who does the same level of work gets the same reward? Don't make me laugh! Let these poor kids out into the real world, and they will find out quickly that it just ain't so.

Farther on in the same article, however, I found this :
At Bellevue High School, seven graduating seniors earned straight A's, but the school decided this year not to name valedictorians. Instead, each will be given a medal, said Principal Mike Bacigalupi.

Auburn High School had nine 4.0 students but will honor a range of accomplishments at graduation and also will not name any valedictorians, said Terri Herren, assistant principal.

Okay, so no one of the 4.0 students at these two schools is outstanding enough to earn the honor of valedictorian?

I'm not sure which of these would bother me more if I were one of the affected students. How long will it take before the word valedictorian loses its meaning completely?

Or is it too late?