The Controversy of Naming a Valedictorian Misses the Point

A reporter asked me the following question last week: “Do you have an opinion on if high schools should name a valedictorian and salutatorian?”

After some careful thought, I decided to post my response: “I understand wanting to reward a student for the pursuit of academic excellence. That’s commendable. But can we define academic excellence solely through grades, especially given the frequency of cheating, not to mention grade inflation, on high school campuses today? Debating the issue of whether or not high schools should name a valedictorian and salutatorian somewhat misses the point. In an ideal academic climate, we could come up with a system that rewards students for being lifelong learners over straight-A stars. In my opinion, the kid who stretches himself by taking a class in high school that is completely outside of his comfort zone, not worrying if his resulting grade will help or hurt his chances of graduating valedictorian, or if the class will help him look good on his college admissions application, rewards himself far better than any certificate of merit ever could. When a student steps outside his comfort zone and succeeds imperfectly, he will become a more confident risk-taker. Taking risks goes a long way toward creating success and happiness on your own terms.”

What do you think about this issue?

~ Maria Pascucci, founder & president, Campus Calm

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