This is the first of many posts to come about why we have chosen to homeschool our 2 kids, even through high school. This story from the New York Times about multiple valedictorians caught my eye. It seems that high school principals are concerned about too much competition among students for the top-ranked spot. Rather than simply doing the math and awarding the honor to the student with the highest GPA, school officials in many districts call all students with straight A’s valedictorians, no matter if they took Honors courses, AP courses, or just the basics. Here’s a quote from one school principal: “When did we start saying that we should limit the honors so only one person gets the glory?”
Of course, this is nothing new. I’ve encountered this same sort of thinking from my kids’ earliest school years, before we made the leap into homeschooling. I can recall the science fairs which were not judged, so every entry received the same blue ribbon. My son has a shelf full of dusty baseball trophies, no matter that his team never came in first place. I’ve attended end-of-the-year award ceremonies in which every child in the class received an award of some kind.
When everyone gets the award or honor, it ceases to be an honor at all or becomes an “honor inflation,” as Chris Healy, an associate professor at Furman University, puts it. The title Valedictorian has no meaning if it’s given to more than just the number 1 ranked student, just like all of those certificates and dusty trophies given for participation have no meaning. What will happen to all of these children who have been treated like hot-house flowers when they leave school? Will they cry foul when a colleague receives a merit-based raise or bonus while they don’t?
So we choose not to participate in the American educational establishment. I think we can do a better job at preparing our kids for the real world at home.