An Ohio high school has eliminated the titles of “valedictorian” and “salutatorian” to help benefit student mental health, but does the removal actually create the change they are seeking or is it simply a PC Band-Aid for a much bigger problem?
Mason High School, located in a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, has made the decision to eliminate valedictorian and salutatorian titles in the belief that such titles place too much pressure on students by creating a competitive culture.
As an alternative method of acknowledging achievement, the high school plans to recognize “students who have achieved outstanding academic success through a multitude of pathways,” Mason High School Principal Bobby Dodd said in a statement, adding that the titles will “be replaced by honors similar to those in college — summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude.”
“As our community looked at some unhealthy patterns the rise in anxiety and depression and suicide,” Dodd said. “It’s the second leading cause of death in youth today across America, so we started to look at what we can do as school leaders to make a change.”
While PC culture has led to an “everyone gets a trophy” approach to solving many problems, real-life is not like that. There is fierce competition in the real world. In the long run, shielding children from disappointment can set up false expectations that can be far more harmful because they aren’t prepared to deal with life’s realities.
Simply changing titles does not change reality. Students will still compete with one another for achieving the best grades.
Further, many colleges still weigh their admissions considerations on such titles and look for them. Removing these titles could actually be more harmful and prejudicial toward the most accomplished students in their future academic pursuits, than being helpful at removing pressure brought on by competition.
While the changing of titles may make administrators feel better, giving them a feeling that they have actually done something – the only thing it may have done is stop them from looking for better solutions that actually enact change.
For one, administrators may want to start a dialogue around why students feel pressure, as well as, making students feel more comfortable and less stigmatized about stepping forward and asking for help when they are feeling too much mental pressure.
They might want to look for ways to make students feel they aren’t inadequate or “not normal” for having such feelings. Making students feel comfortable in speaking about their issues might be much more productive than taking away titles.