Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh weighed in Friday on the Wake County school system’s plan to eliminate naming high school valedictorians by calling it an attempt to “punish achievement.”
The Wake County school board unanimously gave initial approval Tuesday to a policy that would bar high school principals from naming valedictorians and salutatorians – titles which go to the two seniors with the highest grade-point averages – after 2018. Starting in 2019, high schools would begin using a new system that recognizes seniors with Latin titles such as cum laude if they have a weighted GPA of at least 3.75.
On Friday, a person who identified himself as Pepe from Raleigh called Limbaugh’s national talk show to say that Wake’s change is “one more little thing that just shows the danger of progressivism.” Pepe noted how Wake school leaders say they want to reduce the “unhealthy competition” that’s resulted from students striving to be valedictorian or salutatorian.
Limbaugh responded that what’s happening in Raleigh and other school systems that have eliminated valedictorians is an effort to discard “recognition of the highest achievement.” He said that recognizing the highest achievement was intended to be rewarding and inspirational.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
“It was intended to honor that which was superior that involved effort and hard work and perseverance,” Limbaugh said. “It was merit-based top to bottom.”
But Limbaugh charged that the left considers competition to be “evil.”
“The elimination of competition is the objective, because, with competition, you have winners and losers,” Limbaugh said. “And that is seen as unfair.”
Limbaugh said “the left wants no part of elevating anybody.”
“The left is all about lowering everybody so that everybody is equal and the same,” Limbaugh said. “So you punish achievement, raise their taxes, you eliminate their awards, you stop recognizing them, you eliminate classes where they can excel, and you just dumb everybody down.
“It's easier to control that way, but it's insidious. It's anti-human nature as well.”
The Democratic-led Wake school board has disputed the criticism that switching to the Latin honors system is meant to dumb students down or punish achievement. More seniors than two will be recognized at each high school in the new system.
Seniors with a weighted GPA of 4.25 or higher will in the future receive the distinction of summa cum laude. Seniors with a weighted GPA of 4.0 to 4.249 would receive the distinction of magna cum laude.
Seniors with a weighted GPA of 3.75 to 3.99 would receive the designation of cum laude.
“We think it’s much healthier to set high expectations and high requirements for magna cum laude,” Wake school board Chairman Tom Benton said after Tuesday’s vote. “The students now have a target that they can shoot for and if they achieve that they’re recognized for that.”
But Wake school leaders also say the new system is not a “participation trophy” because students will still have to work hard to get at least a weighted GPA of 3.75. Recent statewide changes reducing the weight given to Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Honors courses will lower the maximum GPA that students can receive.