December 9, 2013
Written R.A.P. ~ Education
Title, Author, Supplemental Information and P/T Statement Best in Class was written by Margaret Talbot, current contributor for the New York Times, valiant nonpartisan, and active member of the New America Foundation. During her writing career, she has entertained the title of editor for a number of papers and won the Whiting Writer’s Award for her expertise in the subject. Talbot, in her essay, “Best in Class” argues the varying effects of the race to the title of high school valedictorian on the competing scholars and their environment. Acknowledging the situations of a variety of students who chased the accolade, the author provides a comprehensive view of high school’s academic food chain. Talbot, hinting through multiple examples contends that the title of valedictorian is an antiquated one that causes modern students to perform in ways that oftentimes are actually more detrimental to aspects of their lives than beneficial.
The passage begins with an introductory situation based in a typical high school in Sarasota, Florida and provides a prime example as to why the current system of choosing valedictorians is flawed. The problems emerged from the woodwork by the end of the school year at Sarasota High School, as there were still a small handful of seniors that were equally qualified to become valedictorian in their grade. Each one of them had worked as hard as possible, and were on their way to finishing their high school careers with perfect grades. One of the students, Denny Davies was especially dedicated to achieving the high status of valedictorian, and in fear of losing the title, researched further the qualifications needed to become one. He was well aware of the high GPA’s of his fellow seniors, and had inspected the school’s policy for a tiebreaker in case the competition was no longer just himself, but the others qualified for the title. Davies discovered that the school would choose, in the event of a tie, the student who had earned the most credits to be the valedictorian for that year. Taking this information into consideration, the boy enrolled in an independent studies class in algebra, a course that proved to be no challenge whatsoever but provided the necessary amount of credits to secure his accolade as head of his grade. Sure enough, Davies was selected as valedictorian, despite the fact that there were a few students that had earned the exact same GPA as he, and each failed to be recognized.
Following this event, many were dismayed and furious at the lowly move that Davies had made, and bombarded the principle of the high school, Daniel Kennedy, with a barrage of questions and accusations. Many of the children were disappointed that the whole process of becoming a valedictorian was actually something that you could win by strategy instead of a personal achievement. As Kimberly Belcher, one of the finalists from that year, speculates, “It never crossed my mind to approach it as a strategy, I just thought it was something you worked really hard for.” The tension increased with the students, and the entire student body seemed to be anxious to see the outcome of the protests and complaints. Eventually, in order to quell the rising aggressions, Kennedy provided a compromise that was only accepted grudgingly. This middle ground was to make both Davies, and his main academic opposition, Kylie Barker both valedictorians. As this choice would prevent one party from winning the fight, it was relatively unpopular, but it was accepted as the better of two evils. Later that year, Kennedy decided to do away with the whole tradition of appointing valedictorians in order to avoid such a competitive harshness from entering the already stressful academic struggle in any future year. In the man’s own words, “‘Valedictorian’ is an antiquated title, and I think it has more negative connotations and effects…