It’s a fairly common belief that our current high school system is flawed; that it’s a system that rewards a specific type of student instead of one that accommodates all types of learners. Finally, after graduating from high school, I think I can speak about this topic a little bit.
A long time ago, I wrote a column about valedictorians (“The meaning of a valedictorian” in the Saturday, Jan. 26, edition of the Daily Journal) and the traditional meaning that schools have tied them to. When I graduated from Burlingame High School a few weeks ago, I expected to see the continuation of the deification of valedictorians. To my surprise, I did not.
One by one, the valedictorians were recognized on the stage and, after a brief period of medal awarding, they just went back down the stage. That was it. No words were said by them, and there were hardly any words said to them.
Then I stepped back a little and thought about the most glorified parts of our graduation, and realized that it was none other than our graduation speakers. When my parents were in high school, it was always the valedictorian who gave the final speech at graduation. While this is still the case for many schools, Burlingame chooses graduation speakers independent of valedictorians. While I hadn’t given it much thought before, it was clear to me as I was listening why the speakers were picked, and consequently, why they were glorified.
Each of the speakers were able to look at the world through a unique lens. The first spoke about looking at the world through the lens of an outsider, the second spoke of looking as a child and the final as a contrarian. By comparison, speeches made by valedictorians in the early 1900s were primarily about the school to attract onlookers to register their kids for the school.
To me, when I saw this, I knew that something had changed in schools. When I saw these unique perspectives presented, I knew that schools weren’t trying to reward the kind of student that conforms to the system of getting all As.
Schools today reward students on their critical thinking skills, and their ability to see more than just the system in front of them. By rewarding those with interesting perspectives, I think schools are shifting their focus for the best.
Seeing how this is my final column for the Daily Journal, I wanted to take the time to say thank you to everyone who has read my columns. It always amazes me when people at school, sometimes students and sometimes staff, come up to me and tell me how they liked reading my Daily Journal pieces. Journalism as a subject has given me a lot over the past few years, and I’m a little sad to be leaving. That being said, I’m immensely proud to have been a part of the community, and I look forward to seeing future columnists in my place.
Vishu Prathikanti is a recent graduate of Burlingame High School. Student News appears in the weekend edition. You can email Student News at email@example.com.