Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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Commentary

May 6, 2013

High school honors are losing importance

(Continued)

It was decades ago that a school in the greater Boston area canceled its “student of the month” program because there weren’t enough months during the school year for every kid to be the student of the month.

For more than a decade, I have observed an erosion of what used to be a fixture of high school commencements — a class valedictorian. More and more often, there is either no valedictorian or the position is given a different name and is shared by an ever-expanding group of students. You know, because it’s not fair for a kid who is bright in science but not the humanities to lose the title to a kid who is smart in both.

So why should anyone be the least surprised at the elimination of an event that honors some students and excludes some others?

I have some personal knowledge of this school system, because I was the editor of the Ipswich weekly paper many years ago — from the late 1970s into the early ‘80s, when the trend was taking root.

It was during those years that my reporters and I noticed that the list of students making honors, which the schools sent over every quarter to be printed in the paper, was getting longer and longer. We eventually gave that file the sardonic title “Every Kid.”

I finally decided to check to see what percentage of the student body at the middle school had made honors. I was not terribly surprised, to find that it was 76 percent. That’s right — you could be in the bottom third of the class and still make the honor roll — supposedly reserved for only outstanding academic achievement.

I witnessed it with my own sons. When the oldest was in high school, the academic awards night took place in a relatively small cafeteria, and lasted about 90 minutes. By the time the youngest was a junior, it was held in an auditorium designed to hold more than the entire student body, and took more than three hours.

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