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PRO: Valedictorian title recognizes outstanding students

School is winding down, and summer is so close you can almost taste it. For underclassmen, this interim is merely a respite from the arduous schoolwork that consumes their lives from dawn 'til dusk for nine months of the year.

For seniors, though, not only is their school year concluding, but so is their entire high school career and life as they know it. Soon they will be honored in a special ceremony commemorating their transition from teen to young adult, from high school to life ever after.

Graduation is a much sought after and worked towards celebration. It is full of time-honored tradition, but now, it finds one crucial aspect under attack: the title of valedictorian.

Some people believe there should no longer be a class valedictorian. They cite reasons such as potentially unfair selection processes among their qualms with naming one individual's academic superiority over his or her classmates.

For many other reasons, though, valedictorians should always have a place behind the podium and in front of the congregation at graduation.

To understand why graduating classes need valedictorians, you must understand what a valedictorian really is. The term "valedictorian" merely refers to the student who presents the closing speech, called the valedictory address, to the class. This speech is a crucial part of the graduation ceremony. Because of this importance, its giver, the class valedictorian, shall always have a place in educational society.

Also, to understand why the valedictorian system is viable and should not be altered, you must understand its selection process. Although it varies from school to school, typically the valedictorian is chosen for his or her academic rank.

Here is where the controversy begins. Opponents to the valedictorian system claim that valedictorians may take advantage of the requirements by finding loopholes (like taking easy extra classes to end up with more credits) to gain the smallest advantage over the other top competitors who are often almost identical on paper, academically speaking.

What this argument does not take into account, though, is that many institutions choose valedictorians not just by their grade point average, but also the level of difficulty in their classes, their extracurricular activities, their speaking abilities and by a vote of school administrators who carefully review each candidate.

In the event of a tie between equally well-qualified candidates, two co-valedictorians may be awarded the prestige of saying the final words to their graduating peers. Some institutions even divert from tradition and chose valedictorians based on their potential to give a great speech, regardless of their academic achievements. Although the practice of recognizing an individual for his or her outstanding achievements has recently fallen under scrutiny, most high schools will continue the time-honored tradition of naming a class valedictorian, as they should. Individuals should, without a doubt, be commended for their academic success. They should be publicly recognized as being at the top of their class and be endowed with the honor of being the final person to address their graduating class, reflecting on the good times they shared together and thanking the teachers and coaches who helped mold the class from childhood to young adults ready to take on the world.


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