Mason High School, north of Cincinnati, has eliminated the practice of recognizing class valedictorians and salutatorians. It was done “in an effort to improve students’ mental wellness” and ”it would help curb the competitive culture at the school and permit students to focus on other things.” 1
Competition is good for mental wellness just as exercise is good for the body. In the same manner that excessive exercise does harm to the body, extreme competition is bad for a person’s psyche. Moderation is the key to every beneficial activity. The practice of recognizing academic achievement should not be dropped because some take it to an extreme. Learning how to prioritize might as well begin when one in school.
Competition is Essential
“Life without competition is life without progress; a static society where the cream does not rise to the top because there would be no goals and no desire to march to the different drum beat and take something farther than it’s ever been taken before.” 2
What about the “dangers” of receiving awards?
“But after the award? The post-triumph realization that you are now everyone’s target until next year’s award ceremony, and, naturally, the paranoia of realizing that everyone else is questioning why you, of all people, received the award.
“Some will say it to your face, others behind your back. The award itself does little to quench self-doubt. If anything, you might begin to question yourself more now that you hold the award everyone else claims they deserve.” 3
Welcome to the real world! Whoever allows his actions to be ruled by the opinions of other suffers from vanity. The earlier in life we learn to deal with this, the better off we’ll be.
“Life Isn’t Fair”
Eliminating academic awards will not shield the young adults from the difficulties of the world later. “Life isn’t fair, but it’s unfair to everybody.” 2
After the school years, everyone will encounter many whose main motivation in life is obtaining human acclaim. Such individuals are willing to do anything, sometimes not always legal or ethical, to receive it. The problem is not with the recognition itself, but with the individual’s malformed focus on the transient things of this life instead of the eternal.
Removing Legitimate Incentives Does More Harm Than Good
Mason High’s decision to eliminate having a valedictorian and salutatorian is right out of the socialist’s handbook. Instead of working to improve the overall human condition by helping to raise everyone’s capabilities through fair competition, the goal is to create a “feel good” semi-parity by reducing the fruits of achievement. This inevitably leads to the stagnation and decline of a society.
History shows repeatedly that this doesn’t work: the “classless” societies which produced the widespread poverty of the former Soviet-bloc countries and China, the decline of Argentina and, most recently, the crash of Venezuela. Does Mason High have any non-revisionist history classes to teach this?
Two Ways to Thwart “Easy Rides” to Academic Awards
The school claims that some students take easier classes in order to enhance their grade point averages unfairly. This can be remedied by limiting the number of “filler classes” which may be taken for academic recognition and/or by applying a system of weighted degrees of difficulty which would make some high grades worth more than others when used to calculate class standing. Fair competition in academics benefits all in the long run.
1 – “Ohio high school removes valedictorian, salutatorian, honors in effort to better students’ mental wellness,” by Kathleen Joyce, 5/11/2019, https://www.foxnews.com/us/ohio-high-school-removes-valedictorian-salutatorian
2 – “Life Without Competition is Life Without Progress,” by Charlie Daniels, 4/10/2014, https://www.cnsnews.com/commentary/charlie-daniels/life-without-competition-life-without-progress
3 – “Grade Wars: Academic competition has turned high school classrooms into boxing rings,” by Megan Lunny, 5/1/8/2017, https://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/366330fc-34cb-11e7-8b75-8bbc4b841277.html