Pub PenThe Wake County School Board hit a new high (which equals a new low) in political correctness earlier this month when they voted to do away with identifying the valedictorian and salutatorian of next year’s graduating class. 

Members of the school board believe that by identifying and allowing the top ranking of seniors in a class they are creating “unhealthy competition among top-achieving students.”

Starting in 2019, high schools would begin using a new system that recognizes seniors with Latin titles such as cum laude if they have a weighted GPA of at least 3.75.

In an article in the Raleigh News & Observer, school board members said “The change will allow students to take more of the courses they’d like rather than just the ones that will boost their GPA and class rank.

“We have heard from many, many schools that the competition has become very unhealthy,” school board Chairman Tom Benton said in an interview. “Students were not collaborating with each other the way that we would like them to. Their choice of courses was being guided by their GPA and not their future education plans.”

I say this is ridiculous. Competition has always been, and will always be present among high achievers. It’s what drives them. It’s what makes them high achievers. In high school, I had two very good friends — Allison and Deidre. Both were incredibly bright and were neck and neck to be number one and number two in our class. They were best friends. They studied together. They did projects together. They knew that one would be number one and one would be number two. But it didn’t make them scheme to hurt each other or go to far extremes. Instead, they encouraged each other. And, at the end of the day when Deidre was number one and Allison was number two, they worked together to write speeches that complemented each other. They worked as a team.

Because that is what you have to do in the real world. In the real world, which for some reason or another, people have decided that this generation is too fragile to deal with, people are not always going to succeed. Not everybody plays and not everybody wins. In the real world, you don’t get trophies for just showing up. 

And, that’s where we have gone so far astray. Kids have got to be challenged. They have to learn how to work toward a goal. They have to learn how to stand on their own two feet and how, eventually, to leave the nest. We, as a society, have done no favors to the current generation by coddling them and creating “safe spaces.”

There are no “safe spaces” in this world except the ones you create by yourself and maintain by your own wits. Thinking that kids are going to be permanently scarred because someone else is number one is ridiculous. Instead, knowing that number one is going to have more opportunities should drive kids to perform at a higher level.

I’ll use my son as an example. He is an athlete, a scholar and a gentleman. But he works hard at being all of those things. He gets no quarter from my husband and I. But he isn’t stressed out. He isn’t worried. He knows that he is loved and because he is loved, he has the freedom to succeed. He challenges himself a lot more than we challenge him. Last year when he played football, he wound up with cramps during summer practice because he wasn’t used to running so much. At the beginning of this year, he started a running program on his own so that he would be prepared, so that he would not suffer the pain of cramps. A little pain went a long way.

Students who want to achieve academically are the same way. They have goals. They know that in order to achieve those goals — attendance at a particular college, acceptance into a specific field of study, etc. — they are going to have to put in the work. And, if that means working harder than the next kid in line, that’s what they are going to do. Whether the schools recognize it or not, they are going to know, and they are going to compete.

The decision made by the Wake County School Board does not improve the education of the students in question. Instead, it plays into the “everybody plays, everybody wins” mindset that is weakening our country every day.

Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

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