We Are All #1

SASD%27s+Class+of+2016+celebrates+graduation+in+the+Vollrath+Bowl.+South%27s+Class+of+2016+graduated+with+16+valedictorians.
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We Are All #1

SASD's Class of 2016 celebrates graduation in the Vollrath Bowl. South's Class of 2016 graduated with 16 valedictorians.

SASD's Class of 2016 celebrates graduation in the Vollrath Bowl. South's Class of 2016 graduated with 16 valedictorians.

SASD's Class of 2016 celebrates graduation in the Vollrath Bowl. South's Class of 2016 graduated with 16 valedictorians.

SASD's Class of 2016 celebrates graduation in the Vollrath Bowl. South's Class of 2016 graduated with 16 valedictorians.

Mackenzie Linger, Writer

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In Little League, everyone gets a participation trophy. At the Science Fair, everyone gets a ribbon simply for showing up. We are all winners. We are all validated. This society stimulates a need to be recognized and appreciated. Is this used to increase self esteem? While making sure each person feels included, are we making the true achievers feel cheated? There will always be arguments for and against each, but the current system in place is one that recognizes as many exceptional participants as possible.

This year, South High School’s Class of 2017 will be graduating with nine valedictorians. While this may seem like a lot, North High School’s Class of 2017 will be graduating with 24 valedictorians. These numbers often confuse people. How can there be more than one? Isn’t a valedictorian, by definition the one student who has the highest academic achievements of the class? Usually this is the case, but the Sheboygan Area School District treats valedictorians differently. Instead of determining the valedictorian by GPA, they have a set of requirements and each student that completes these is given the honor to be valedictorian. The current requirements are that the student must achieve six credits of a 92 percent in honors and 16 credits at the same percentage in regular level courses within the first seven semesters of high school.  

SASD has a committee composed of students, principals, parents, and teachers that determines these requirements. Every couple years, a new committee is formed. The newest edition of this committee happens to be meeting today, March 20, 2017. Is this because of the astounding number of achievers at North? Or perhaps they never intended for each succeeding class to create a steady inflation of valedictorians. One of South’s valedictorians agrees with the committee’s current implemented decision.

“I honestly like the valedictorian system. The requirements to get it [valedictorian] are pretty hard, and if there is more than one person that can achieve them, then they deserve the recognition” stated Senior Kylie Mallmann, one of the Valedictorians of the Class of 2017.

Some say that the valedictorian requirements are no small feat, but the way the students are being shaped from elementary school on is preparing them to achieve more than that. SASD has sixth graders writing argumentative papers instead of learning cursive. They now offer honors courses for high school freshmen. There is an increase in honors courses and the amount students are able to take. In order to complete the bare minimum, the student would take approximately two honors courses per school year. South High now offers honors courses to freshmen and the amount of honors courses students are able to take each year continues to increase. But one could ask, “Are freshmen mentally prepared for the intellectual challenge of honors/Advanced Placement (AP) courses?

There is also the factor of taking an honors class through aging. Eventually the next step for a student would be to take a honors course in math, science, foreign language, etc. For example, any foreign language Level Three class or higher is an honors course. Even if the student had started as a Level One their freshman year, they would eventually go on to earn at least one and a half credits in honors. Another valedictorian discussed how he feels after achieving these prerequisites and what it means to him.

“The title of “Valedictorian” is merely a summary of my high school career. We can sum up all of my accomplishments and hard work with a single word – Valedictorian. The title itself is simply a word, but the meaning behind it is priceless. I think any student can understand the struggle of being buried alive in assignments and somehow managing to rise from the dead. The achievement of this title was only possible through perseverance for the past four years. While the title itself is meaningless to me, the satisfaction of knowing how much I have accomplished is delightful” voiced Senior Dartagnan Her, one of the Valedictorians of the Class of 2017.

One of the most prestigious awards to earn in high school is Valedictorian. When one thinks of the valedictorian they assume this student is the absolute number one in their class. They have out-performed every single one of their classmates and persevered for four years to earn the title. Some school districts have made it the norm to have co-valedictorians. This is arguably a product of an overpraised generation. Although, today’s students are considered more academically accomplished than previous generations. Having multiple valedictorians seems like the ideal solution instead of having a bloodbath competition. The assistant superintendent supports another solution.

“Another idea would be switching to the Cum Laude system like Fond Du Lac’s district has in place” said SASD’s Assistant Superintendent of Student and Instructional Services, Mr. Seth Harvatine.

SASD’s Class of 2016 celebrates graduation in the Vollrath Bowl. South’s Class of 2016 graduated with 16 valedictorians (Archived Lake Breeze Publications photo).

The Cum Laude system seems to make more sense when the district’s goal is to recognize as many academically accelerated students as possible. Within the system, there are three separate divisions that recognize students between certain grade point averages. Cum Laude recognizes 3.5 to 3.7, Magna Cum Laude recognizes 3.8 to 3.9 and Summa Cum Laude is 4.0+. Each level would graduate with honors if the district changed how they assigned honors diplomas. Currently, the district requires students to have a minimum of 26 credits and a weighted gpa of 5.0. Switching to this system may diminish animosity between co-valedictorians. There is still talk of having a single valedictorian and a single salutatorian with the Cum Laude system. Senior Matthew Kittelson, one of the Valedictorians of the Class of 2017, interjected how he feels amongst his co-valedictorians.

“As much as I love being “#1”, I think that having co-valedictorians is a product of a society that now shies away from saying that somebody is superior than somebody else in fear of offending anybody. Valedictorian is meant for the person at the top of the class, and if they are willing to put in the extra work, then that person should be able to stand as the lone Valedictorian.”

People claim that having one valedictorian is “too much competition”, but that is the world we live in. Students will have to compete for their first job, promotion, and anything else they want. The co-valedictorian system in place only equalizes the playing field in the academic area. No one suggests multiple homecoming queens or numerous people taking turns being the lead in the school play throughout the show. It is true that academics take precedence over the other fields in high school, but that makes it all the more relevant to award the single person that deserves the honor rather than diluting the meaning.