As we approach graduation season for high schools, it is interesting to learn that 39% of U.S. schools have eliminated the traditional anointing of class valedictorians. Apparently this trend is continuing as several local schools announced that this year’s valedictorian would be the last. And why is this happening? Well, of course, because competition is not healthy for students. It’s not fair that many valedictorian races are decided by hundredths of a point. Further, it is noted that some students duck Advanced Placement classes so that they can “inflate” their grades by taking easier courses.
This is probably the right solution, because in the real world no one ever wins or loses by a narrow margin. Or sure, there is the occasional Olympic event, election, or bingo match. But it’s not like losses in real life ever carry the life-long emotional scaring of not being valedictorian. I know that even after 26 years, I and the 236 other students in my class who were not valedictorian are still licking those wounds. Oh, the humanity.
And this business of people taking easy way out in order to play the system to their advantage rather than doing the hard work which will prep them for the future? A cynic might say there’s a Darwinian self-correction to this. After all, it seems plausible that Harvard would rather accept the #5 person in the class who has A.P. Calculus and Chemistry than the valedictorian with honors in film appreciation and typing. But that aside, again there is the real world aspect to consider. After all, in my 23 years in the corporate world, I’ve never seen anyone favor office politics over actual work and be rewarded for it. That never happens.
So let’s keep our kids in this utopian bubble of equality where no one loses and no one succeeds for as long as possible. They deserve it. After all, when they grow up all those hyper-competitive students from India, China, and other countries that will be sitting in the jobs our kids wish they’d gotten will doubtless respect the culture of equality that our kids were raised in. Right? It’s only fair.