Every straight-A student is a valedictorian at some high schools, reports the New York Times. Principals say it reduces competition and bickering over fractional differences in GPA. Critics call it “honors inflation.”
Stratford High School in suburban Houston gave gold honor cords to 30 valedictorians, about 6.5 percent of the class. Cherry Hill High School East in southern New Jersey picked a speaker from its nine co-valedictorians by lottery; the others got space in the printed program.
In Colorado, eight high schools in the St. Vrain Valley district crowned 94 valedictorians, which the local newspaper, The Longmont Times-Call, complained in an editorial “stretches the definition.” And north of New York City, Harrison High School is phasing out the title, and on Friday declared 13 of its 221 graduates “summa cum laude.”
Valedictorian honors are an “anachronism,” says William R. Fitzsimmons, the dean of admissions at Harvard. “This has been a long tradition, but in the world of college admissions, it makes no real difference.”
I’d rather see schools replace “valedictorian” with an honors designation than name multiple valedictorians. Let the honors grads who want to speak submit a speech and pick the best one.