Valedictorians multiply

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.

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  1. I wasn’t quite a straight A in Grade 12 but was asked to speak as valedictorian. I turned it down because it was ridiculous and went to work my shift in the mushroom plant instead.

    Worrying about how many people are called valedictorian strikes me as even more ridiculous.

  2. Alex Bensky says:

    Well, if anyone is going to feel hurt we mustn’t do it. Oddly enough, I don’t think this principle applies to those who tryout for the sports teams.

    And I speak objectively here, as one whose graduation from Berkley (MI) H.S. was “summa cum lousy.”

  3. SuperSub says:

    Alex –
    Remember priorities. Sports are important and we need to be able to separate the chaff so the .00000001% of high school athletes can spend at least a day in professional sports. Academics? Nah, no need to maintain integrity there. Not important.


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