The Valedictorian- An Honor or an Ordeal?
May 27, 2021
Many schools choose a valedictorian, or the student with the highest GPA, to give the graduation speech. ELHS chooses this speaker based on the merit of their speech. So is a valedictorian a great goal, or just a source of stress?
Pros-An Excellent Goal for Students
Hard-work, self-discipline, and diligence are important. So why not recognize the students that display these characteristics? Well, that is what makes being the valedictorian of your class, a position that honors these traits, an excellent goal and a great position for every school to have.
The title of valedictorian is given to the highest academic achiever in the graduating class. Schools often recognize hard-working athletes, so they should recognize diligent intellectuals as well. This position allows one student, who may not be the most popular in their class, to be recognized for their accomplishments and academic success.
Along with acknowledging academic success, being the valedictorian of your class also opens opportunities. Many colleges award those given the title of valedictorian with scholarships and even if someone is not planning on attending college, the title will still look good on a resume.
Schools can even choose to have more than one valedictorian if they would like to. This eliminates the pressure of having the highest GPA in the entire graduating class and allows for more than one student to be acknowledged for their high levels of achievement.
This position pushes high school students to strive for success. It encourages students to give it their all and although not everyone will be able to earn the title, in most cases, it can still motivate students to excel in their academics. The title of valedictorian is a really excellent goal and an important title for every graduating class to have.
The title of valedictorian is a really excellent goal and an important title for every graduating class to have.
Cons- What About A Good Speech?
Imagine it’s your graduation day–the proudest moment of your life, well, thus far. Your grandparents drove in from Ohio, you’re sitting in a sweaty satin gown in the MSU auditorium, and overall, you’re looking toward a bright future. That is, until the Valedictorian takes the stage. “The dictionary defines ‘graduate’ as…” he drawls on. He has the highest GPA in the school, but can’t say something original to save his life. You look into the audience at your little cousin and sigh…this is going to be a long ceremony.
Having the highest GPA doesn’t make you a good public speaker. Sure, you might be intelligent and able to engage in discourse for classes, but speech-writing isn’t an exact science to be mastered–it depends on emotion and human connection. At graduation, seniors need a captivating speaker to give an honest reflection on the high school experience.
The super-high 4.7 GPA required to be speaker simply isn’t available to every student. Some cannot afford AP tests, have to work a job or two and cannot study for perfect grades, or have a learning disability that affects their grades. A high school is full of interesting and diverse people- unique experiences make for great speeches. Everyone deserves a chance to say their piece, and this is why the class speaker should not be chosen based on GPA, but on speech merit.
While a Valedictorian spot recognizes the hard work of the top student grade-wise in a school, it puts all the academically-minded students against each other. At a school like ELHS, with 56% AP participation rate, competition for the number one GPA spot can come down to very close races–and tenths of grade point that really don’t matter in the long run. This competition is unnecessary–students already obsess about grades to get into selective schools, and they already compare themselves to each other. Why make it worse?