Public education in this country has changed a lot since my son was in school, and it bears little resemblance to what I experienced roughly half a century ago.
Case in point: Apparently it’s no longer politically correct to recognize individual academic achievement. At least one school system is doing away with class valedictorians so that no one gets singled out for recognition. Seriously. That’s what’s happening in Boulder (Colo.) Valley schools:
District officials eliminated class rank, valedictorians and salutatorians in favor of collective student honors starting this year. Principals are honoring high-achieving students — about 20 percent of a school’s senior class — by placing them in cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude groups. …
Fairview Principal Don Stensrud said he thinks the process has gone well so far, but it’s too soon to tell whether it’s encouraging students to balance their schedules with both academically challenging courses and electives like orchestra, choir and student council.
“To some degree, some kids were able to manipulate classes to get elevated GPAs,” Stensrud said. “Some kids chose to drop out of choir and orchestra because it was hurting their GPA.”
Well, we certainly wouldn’t want those kids to get high GPAs, would we?
I can’t imagine what they’re thinking in Boulder, trying to treat all students equally and discouraging individual academic excellence and leadership. In the extreme, honoring all honors none. Students are not all alike. Some will always be intensely studious. Some will struggle just to pass. Some will go to college and beyond. Some will be content with a high school diploma. And some will always drop out, no matter how much the standards are lowered.
We should be encouraging all students to be the best they can be, in whatever areas they choose. We should not be trying to pull all of them down or up to the same level and treat them all the same. We should not be striving for or settling for an “average” student. There’s no such thing.