Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
High school to eliminate valedictorian honor over 'mental wellness' concerns (usatoday.com)
30 points by theBashShell 36 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 11 comments

Fairly recently, between five and ten years ago, I graduated from a fairly good, but not 'elite' by any measure, public high school. In the early 2000s the entire school system removed the valedictorian and ranking systems from their high schools.

I used my high-school counselor extensively during the college admission process and they made it very clear to me that the reason why the school system got rid of ranking and valedictorian was to help out the college admission outcomes for the school system.

The school wanted to portray themselves as a great school from top to bottom. By not ranking it would portray a more elite status for the school. If they ranked, a 50th-percentile student from their school may be compared to a 50th-percentile student from a 'lesser' school district. It was purely for helping reputations and not at all about 'mental illness' or preventing winners and losers. But in the end of the day I think the students win from this type of policy. The difference between a student in the 99th-percentile and the 90th-percentile is likely not much at any given high school. I agree with the policy, it could be the difference between getting into a top University, or being rejected.

This is good. They removed this at Palo Alto Unified School district because it doesn't have very many benefits. GPAs are already extremely high, and any title like 'valedictorian' would only incentivize an increase in already heavy coursework. All in all, it is net bad.

This sort of seems like outrage porn. We don't know anything about the competitive atmosphere in this particular school, so we should be careful about comparing to our own personal experiences.

My opinion: I do understand wanting to encourage students to lay off and enjoy their childhoods, but I feel like the accolades could have been preserved while encouraging a healthy school/life balance.

I've never really understood the popularity of this particular strain of outrage.

I thought the science supported rewarding effort rather than success to generate more success.

And even before that, I implicitly felt that rewarding one sports team of toddlers with medals and denying them to another was cruel and counterproductive.

So participation trophies seem like a good thing to me.

Is the idea that we need to be cruel to be kind? Or is there some hidden connection to "lesser" people being given advantages? Similar to how people turn against sensible systems for healthcare if they think certain demographics might benefit.

Does it just come down to a preference for hierarchies?

I feel like I need a "know your meme"-like explanatory site for these kind of things. Maybe I can find out why people think common core is the work of the devil too.

I suspect this is a form of delayed gratification, which is to say the gratification of achievement or disappointment of failure is delayed or momentarily avoided. This is bad. The cliche is: kicking the can down the road.

First of all, I doubt that high school is as competitive as the high school I attended which now represents the wealthiest mid-sized city in the US. The school is far wealthier now than when I attended although when I attended the high school football team was ranked #1 high school team in the nation. Our valedictorian received a full scholarship and invited attendance to Harvard due to the name recognition from the high school. Not many schools have this. The competition was real. The grade inflation was very real. The pressure put onto the school faculty by the parents (there was a lot of money riding this outcome) was extremely real. It is safe to say I have some perspective on this matter.

Delayed gratification is bad, because it is a developmental delay. Failure and disappointment are common events that occur in various magnitudes through out life. Teaching a child to accept and move past failure early is healthy. Giving everybody a trophy and pretending there is no failure has not proven to be developmentally healthy. Worse still the school doubling down on their bad decision by institutionalizing a form of grade inflation. This is the opposite of rewarding merit.

What is going to happen to the self-esteem of these students when they enter the real world and find they cannot perform as expected and that competition is a very real thing that mommy and daddy cannot save them from?

Yet we still worship top school athletes.

Edit: I am amused that math instruction is "irrelevant" and puts unfair stress on students, but spending many hours perfecting throwing a ball through an iron ring is somehow worthwhile because one has a microscopic chance at a short career playing pro ball. Even more amazing is that colleges consider rowing a boat as a leg up for qualification for admission. (There are even fewer careers available for boat-rowing than ball-throwing, if that is even possible.)

Is it a problem because there’s only one winner or because there’s no full ranking system. US systems are different from Asian systems in that they smear scores using Grades and then make that more “precise” (not in a significant digits sense) by turning that into a GPA.

If you have full scores throughout then you have greater dynamic range and even if you aren’t first, you can still be third and happy.


At my high school rankings (and thus valedictorian honors) were 100% gamed to the point that you wouldn’t even make it up to the top 10 if you didn’t plan for it since freshman year. And when I say plan for it, I don’t mean “go into high school wanting to do great.” I mean exploiting every single opportunity in the most unnatural and nonsensical way.

So everyone is familiar with a 4.0 GPA system, or at least most people in the US (for this not, 4.0 is the highest). At my high school, and basically all other high schools that I knew of from people I interacted with, classes marked as “honors” or “AP” classes were scaled to a 5.0 to reflect that these classes were harder or more advanced (physics AP vs regular physics). The rankings were determined based on some students having classes that awarded a 5.0 while most people had at most a 4.0 from them.

But wait, maybe that doesn't seem too unfair since it awards smarter and harder working people?

- So we had a fluffy extracurricular optional class called "yearbook" which are the people who spend the year "designing" the yearbook. For whatever reason, this was graded on a 5.0 scale.

- All students on sports teams were required to take a bullshit course that graded on a 5.0. We all suspected it was to give student athletes a better ranking if they weren't also honors students.

- Anyone in the student government was also placed in a special class, also graded on a 5.0.

- If you enrolled for a class at the local community college it would be added to your GPA, also based on a 5.0. You had to pay for these classes of course, so it's already pay to win to start. They also didn't bat an eye at say "Jorge Ramirez" taking Spanish 101 just for the extra 5.0 added to their average.

Then, you add in all the cheating. Lol if you think it's not rampant and widespread. You take the "smartest kids" and put them in a class and what do you expect? Why read the books they assign in literature, when someone's brother just took the class with the same teacher, and can just give us (or a select group of us, meaning you need to be "in" with the crowd otherwise you're the only one not cheating and you're at a disadvantage) all the material from last year? Why bother studying for a physics test, when you can just "be sick" on the day of the test, ask a buddy about the test and then remember exactly what they told you to remember?

There are so many more examples but the point is:

GPA rankings and honors like valedictorian meant absolutely nothing. Granted, i was bitter at the time because I didn't game the system by signing up for fucking yearbook making every year since freshman year or had parents able to afford paying for 5.0 grades for me at the community college.

Rewarding mediocrity has worked well so far ?

Other countries seem to do fine without anything like a valedictorian system.

Name them ?

Rewarding hard work creates people who work hard.

Valedictorians even admit that the most intellectual struggle in school while valedictorians are the most hardworking [6]


Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact