PRO: Valedictorians

Valedictorian comes from the Latin root vale dicere, which means “to say farewell.” It is fitting, then, for the one named as the valedictorian to give the final speech at his or her graduation ceremony. Recently, however, the practice has come under fire, with critics claiming that the award may ignite unnecessary competition in an already stressful high school environment.

While the high levels of pressure that come with competing might be detrimental to the health of some students, the concept of a valedictorian is not enough to form these complications. Instead, these issues are a result of individual students striving to achieve success above their level.

Rather than bringing detrimental levels of pressure, competition allows for students to reach greater heights. Competition teaches students that they need to work for their goals, and those that don’t work hard enough do not achieve what they want. It allows students to reach for their limits and can also promote healthy relationships between people who work together to achieve their goals. Without the desire to succeed, students become much less motivated and tend to achieve less.

Additionally, students who do not experience defeat may actually suffer negative effects as well. According to journalists and psychology authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, children who always win eventually feel entitled to victory, and may be so afraid of losing as to not work hard and even risk defeat. In order for students to develop sufficiently for the future, they need to learn that losing is part of the game.

Competition aside, there is no such thing as a student who never stood a chance at being valedictorian. Everyone enters high school with a potential of a 4.0 GPA, and those who are unable to maintain it don’t deserve to be called the highest in the class, plain and simple. Academic success boils down to studying efficiently and being able to understand information. Contrary to popular belief, it is not enough to just memorize facts and formulas. Students unable to keep up with their peers aren’t cut out for valedictorian status.

Besides, the entire point of the valedictorian system is that not everyone is going to earn the award. Being the best in the class isn’t and shouldn’t be the norm; it should be a special honor reserved for a select few. Those students who aren’t able to make it at the highest level of competition are entirely normal; according to the system, the ones who are recognized as valedictorians are the exceptions. There isn’t meant to be pressure upon to entire school to become a valedictorian, but instead the title is an award meant to honor those who are the best of the best.

Valedictorians are a traditional and valuable component of high school, as the rank encourages students to work harder and allows colleges another angle at which to evaluate competent students. To do away with the system risks creating an overall decline in education.