Most high school gradates can remember their valedictorian – for one thing, he or she was a brain, usually going to a top college. For another, the person got to make a speech at graduation. The valedictorian spot was considered the greatest achievement of a school career.
But Wake County school board members are right to consider doing away with those kinds of rankings in favor of the Latin honors system of summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude. More good students could be recognized. And changing the system would eliminate some of the cutthroat competition for the valedictory position that causes some students to take courses designed to boost their rank more than to expand their education.
Any parent who has seen the homework that ambitious high school students bring home knows well the stress good students are under – largely stress they put themselves under. Taking away the valedictorian and salutatorian spots might reduce that stress and still reward very good students with clearly recognizable honors. And that’s exactly the goal Wake schools should set and achieve.