The Virtual Hub for the Media of the The Benjamin School's Upper School

A Great Debate: How to Acknowledge Top Scholars

October 30, 2021

Pro-Valedictorian – Evan Liberman, Managing Editor

A growing trend in secondary schools across the country is the elimination of the distinction of valedictorian and salutatorian. While some may say otherwise, Benjamin should maintain these two distinctions for a variety of reasons.

While some may say that the titles create unnecessary competition and stress among students, the titles are beneficial because they serve as a valuable precursor for students. No college classroom or job field is without competition today. In an ABC News article published in March, Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, said that the large pool of unemployed workers (likely caused by the pandemic) is resulting in only the most experienced landing jobs. Who is to say that this kind of competition and selectivity won’t continue well into the future? If students are aware from a younger age that some parts of life are a competition, they will be better suited to face and deal with future challenges and stresses. Naming a valedictorian and salutatorian can do just that. 

On the other hand, getting rid of both titles is just another example of overprotection in an attempt to prevent peoples’ feelings from getting hurt. If the titles were abolished, nobody’s feelings get hurt and nobody feels left out. However, life is all about rolling with the punches. Students must learn to succeed with grace and be sportsmanlike when they do not. 

Moreover, the naming of valedictorian and salutatorian at the end of students’ senior year is a Benjamin tradition. The School has been using these designations since 1978, a time when Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin were still heavily involved in managing the School. Much of how it runs today is a direct result of what they believed characterized a good school. In the lower and middle schools, students play an instrument because the Benjamins thought it was beneficial. All students learn a foreign language because the Benjamins thought it was beneficial. To this end, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin likely kept the aforementioned titles around because they also thought they were beneficial. Unless there is some evidence to the contrary, shouldn’t the school honor its founders’ wishes and convictions as it does in so many other aspects?

The designation of valedictorian and salutatorian are necessary to maintain the very goals that Benjamin sets for itself: providing students with a firm moral base while also giving them a first in class education. 

Anti-Valedictorian – Clara Schor, Social Media Director

Benjamin should not maintain the distinction between valedictorian and salutatorian as it separates the distinction from all other students. 

The difference of being a normal Benjamin student versus the valedictorian or salutatorian is one’s GPA. GPA should not distinguish these two students from everyone else because as many students know, specific classes at the upper school are very grade boosted and some opposite.

This identification of the two students is misleading. Just because these two students have the highest GPA, grade point average in their graduating class does not mean that the third, and fourth, and fifth, and so on of the class shouldn’t be recognized. As this is the 21st century, 2021, all students should be treated equally and not compared against each other. Just because the valedictorian and salutatorian have the highest GPA, does not mean that they are top tier of the class. What about their morals and qualities? Every student of the graduating class should be honored and recognized for their unique at-
tributes to their high school career, not just GPA. Community service, leadership, activities, etc. What if the valediction of the class who has a 4.99 Benjamin GPA has no community service and or no leadership roles? The roles that are extracted with these
names are based upon GPA. What if an incoming freshman manifested becoming the valedictorian with their GPA, and failed to focus on community service? What if this valedictorian took a path to graduation that left him or her unchallenged and
unstimulated but still highly graded? Why does this title have to differentiate and highlight one student from the many wonderful students in each graduating class? Valedictorian and Salutatorian are just titles that ultimately prove nothing. Everyone has their own specialties, and solidifying this distinction only causes a feeling of false superiority.

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