Removing valedictorian and salutatorian honors from high school is just another step in the long process of setting our students up for failure.
Removing valedictorian and salutatorian honors from high school is just another step in the process of setting our children up for failure that started with the participation trophy back in the late 80s to early 90s. The participation trophy is something that is mostly associated with millennials and the late 80s to early 90s as the start of this concept. The idea behind the participation trophy is that everyone that participates will get a trophy no matter if they are the winner or not.
I believe this to be the start to the down slope to our students mental health. Teaching a child that no matter if they win or lose they are going to be rewarded has a negative effect on a person's ability to cope with failing or not. Currently we have built a process that puts our students into a type of bubble that prevents them from experiencing aspects of the real world. These students are in these bubbles for the majority if not entire education until they reach adulthood. When they reach adulthood, these bubbles pop and the students are expected to cope with all the realities of life. A person must be able to handle adversity and obstructions in life.
Recently I read an article from the Cincinnati Enquirer and Fox News that discussed the idea of removing valedictorian and salutatorian honors from a local school district. Within the Fox News article they stated that "the superintendent of an Ohio high school has defended the district's decision to eliminate valedictorian and salutatorian honors in an attempt to improve the mental well being of their students." The idea that removing competition is going to improve our students mental health in my opinion is ludicrous. Students must deal with competition in an environment where they have supports and be used to the idea that they may fail before they enter the adult world. The superintendent stated that suicide is the second leading cause of death for students in the United States.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Reports, in 2017: Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States with a total of over 47,000 people from ages 10 to 64. According to data provided by the CDC, in 2017 suicide claimed the lives of roughly 517 10-14 year old, 6, 252 15-24 year old, 7,948 25-34 year old, 7,335 35-44 year old, 8,561 45-54 year old, and 7,982 55-64 year old.
Suicide has been an issue for years. Removing stresses and obstacles does not seem to show any real improvement in decreasing the suicide rates for individuals in the United States. The unfortunate truth is that as we try to put these "bubbles" around our students and then release them into the real world, these rates continue to go up and I predict that if we as a country, stay on this path with the idea that removing certain stresses and obstacles will protect our children, we are setting these children up for failure.
When looking at the idea of eliminating the valedictorian and salutatorian honors from high schools, parents and administrators must understand that there are better ways of helping our students without removing competition. Competition is important for a student to experience and understand because in the real world a student may apply for a job that requires them to compete with many other qualified applicants that may have an even level of qualifications that they do. How do you stand out? How do you handle not being selected because you missed the job by one question or less? Do you give up and say it was unfair because that student went to a more difficult school and was provided classes that were not offered at your school district or do you find a way to not only sell yourself for that position but also bounce back after being rejected.
Students should not be put through as much stress as possible; however, they should experience some types of stresses. Rather than removing competition and honors such as valedictorian and salutatorian, districts should find alternatives to this problem. Students that are loading themselves up with AP classes that overwhelm them should be limited. Even in colleges there is different types of checks and balances to determining if a student should or should not be signing up with more than a standard credit hour amount.
Please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions. Please remember that the majority of this post is made up of my personal opinion.
Heron, M., Ph.D. (2018, July 26). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved May 14, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_06.pdf
Mason High will eliminate valedictorian honor in effort to improve students' mental health https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2019/05/09/mason-high-eliminating-valedictorian-honor-improve-mental-health/1154068001/ via @enquirer
National Institute of Mental Health on Suicide. (2019, April). Retrieved May 14, 2019, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml
Update to removing valedictorian and salutatorian honors from high school
My name is Joe Brooksbank. I am working on my doctorate in education with an emphasis in K-12 organizational leadership. I am a retired combat veteran. I have experience in retail, security, management, sales, and transportation. I am an educator, a father, and a husband.
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