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The recent letters to The Sentinel-Newsconcerning seating of honor students at Collins High School commencement reminds me of the same controversy two years ago at SCHS. At that time we were parents of an honor student whose seating was to be based on class rank.
We had expected this, as this was the tradition at the high school when our older daughter graduated in 2005. The message this sent was simple: There is competition in the academic world, it is important, and excellence will be recognized.
My daughters learned the value of working hard and competition through their schoolwork. My oldest is two years out of college working for a high profile, competitive consulting firm in New York City. She got this job not because of her love of learning (which we do value and was nurtured by some excellent teachers at SCHS) but because she out-competed the competition.
My younger daughter when applying for architecture school at UK this spring knew there were limited spots. She wasn’t going to get in by just being a good applicant or applying as a member of a team. She was going to get in only if she was better than most of the 300 or so other students applying for the 75 spots.
The ultimate irony to me is that we live in one of the most sports-crazy, competitive counties in the state, where competition is expected and success is weekly celebrated on the pages of this newspaper.
Why are we all OK with this in sports but not academics?
At the basketball games we only announce the names of the starters, not the bench. We don’t hide the ranking of our tennis players for fear someone will feel left out.
And in boy’s baseball and girl’s softball the kids in the dugout who don’t start, don‘t hear their names announced.
But somehow, we don’t want any kid to feel slighted or parent offended when it comes to academics. Let’s be honest, out of this year’s senior classes, there will be few if any professional athletes.
But all are going to have to compete in this global economy for jobs.
We can lament that some kids seem to focus on GPA more than learning, but let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. If the grading system needs some tweaking, tweak it.
But it isn’t intellectually honest to say that a student’s GPA is valid for their college application, but not for graduation ranking. Grades, test scores, and competition do matter; whether one is applying to college, a competitive grad school or to be a police officer.
Seating students at commencement based on academic rank, of course does not a good school make, but it does send a message that this school system gets it.
Those who work hard, compete hard, and succeed will be recognized. I’m afraid that if our kids don’t start learning this here, they are in for a rude awakening after high school.
Kenneth Gardner lives in Shelbyville.