Friday, June 12, 2015

Is Salutatorian Really Necessary?

Disclaimer: This is not intended to offend anyone who has ever been recognized as Salutatorian, especially those of schools in which I have worked.

Wikipedia states the salutatorian is "an academic title given in the United States and Philippines to the second-highest graduate of the entire graduating class of a specific discipline."

I am not trying to break any long-standing traditions or diminish the honors recognized of both the past and present.

Nor am I attempting to upset anyone who takes ownership of awarding the salutatorian.  That being said,

Why do we recognize the #2 in the graduating class?

The competition of graduating class-rank has become a fierce battle of high-performing students, developing unnecessary rivalry and controversy.  If you are reading this, I'm sure you have read a blog post, journal, or article discussing a movement of eliminating class-rank in it's entirety.  While I have my opinion in that area of discussion, I'm not going to focus on class-rank as a whole.

You want to recognize the Valedictorian?  I'm on-board.

Why do we provide a title and recognize the "runner-up" for Valedictorian?  Why do I feel the need to ask this contestable question?

Maybe it's because year-in and year-out we experience when various Seniors become informed they are "in the running" for the honor, contributing to additional focus on class-rank, rather than learning.  Yes, this is also true for Valedictorian, but the additional "spot" broadens the gap of potential students.

Maybe it's because many of these students have to prepare a speech to be approved prior to the finalization of grades, to which most never get to use.

Maybe it's because I strongly believe the process adds additional stress and conflict at a time when these students should be at their peak of excitement and enjoyment.  If you do not believe this conflict exists, you are sadly mistaken.

Maybe it's because I've engaged in conversations with disappointed Seniors for finishing fourth or seventh (in a class of 310+), which should NOT be ever looked at as a DEFEAT (which some students take it that way; you tell a highly-competitive student they have a chance, they are going to be disappointed), but rather focused on as an ACCOMPLISHMENT.

While I'm all about recognizing the impressive academic achievements at the culmination of four-years, do we need to focus on title-based recognition?

Is #2 so much more worthy of recognition than #3, #5, or #10?

To traditionalists, I suppose.  "We've always done it" has never been an acceptable reason to me.

Congratulations to the entire Class of 2015.

Thanks for reading,


The opinions in this blog belong to Craig Smith and do not represent the school or district in which he works.

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