Is Academic Competition Healthy?

Tyrone valedictorian Emma Hoover shares her thoughts on the issue of academic competition

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Is Academic Competition Healthy?

Salutatorian Hannah Gampe and Valedictorian Emma Hoover

Salutatorian Hannah Gampe and Valedictorian Emma Hoover

Salutatorian Hannah Gampe and Valedictorian Emma Hoover

Salutatorian Hannah Gampe and Valedictorian Emma Hoover

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As graduation approaches, like many seniors I have started to look back on my high school experience.  I like to remember how far I’ve come and how hard I worked to earn the honor of being valedictorian of the class of 2019.

Recently, I learned that a high school in Cincinnati, Ohio plans to eliminate class rank and the valedictorian and salutatorian honors.

Citing an unhealthy competitiveness among its students, Mason High School is making the change in “an effort to improve students’ mental wellness…[and] help reduce the overall competitive culture to allow students to focus on exploring learning opportunities that are of interest to them,” said a press release issued by the school.

I have personally felt this pressure and while I agree that some students do take academic competitiveness too far, I still believe that class rank and honoring a valedictorian and salutatorian is important for academically motivated students.

I have personally felt this pressure and while I agree that some students do take academic competitiveness too far, I still believe that class rank and honoring a valedictorian and salutatorian is important for academically motivated students.”

I have always been conscious about my grades, but in eighth grade, when they announced the top GPA in middle school, I set a goal and became determined to be the class valedictorian in high school. I decided nothing would stop me.

Looking back, especially on my freshman and sophomore year, I realize just how crazy I was about my grades. If I lost a point on an assignment, I had to know why.  If I could argue to earn the point back, I would. I would fight for every single point.

Announcing who is top of the class can spark brutal competition, which is what the school in Ohio is trying to dispel. I can understand the reasoning behind this school’s decision. They want to reduce the competition between students and the pressure they place on themselves.

However, I believe that as long as schools provide a safe environment for students to cope with competition, it is healthy and motivating.

In life, there are competitions. People compete for jobs and promotions throughout their working lives. Athletes compete to see who is best every time they step onto the playing field.

Rather than eliminating grade competition in school, schools should teach students healthy coping mechanisms and prepare them for the real world.

Without having class rank to fight for, I would not have had nearly the drive to succeed, especially this year as a senior.  My motivation stemmed from a desire to be top of my class. I believe that it is important to give students a goal and to have some healthy competition.

However, students do need to maintain a healthy outlook toward grades.  If losing a point on one homework assignment is the end of the world then it will make for a long, grueling high school experience.

A word of advice for underclassmen: get good grades and be happy with them.

Do not strive for perfection or stress all of the time. Enjoy your time in high school. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but it goes fast. When it’s over you have to grow up and be an adult, so enjoy your time as a kid. There is plenty of time to be a grown-up later in life.

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