Too Many Valedictorians?

Ann Althouse points to a high school with 41 valedictorians and wonders if the trend to making everyone a winner has gone too far. An interesting discussing is going on in her comments section about AP classes, weighted grades, and whether high school class ranking much matters.

My high school graduating class (1984) had exactly the opposite problem. We had two girls with 4.0s and one with a 3.9something (one B in her career). Essentially randomly, one of the 4.0 girls was deemed “Valedictorian” and the other “Salutorian.”

Our class was the last or next-to-last before AP classes were introduced but there were a handful of classes–notably physics and advanced math (essentially, pre-calculus)–that almost everyone, including the two 4.0 girls–avoided.

We also had, beginning in 10th grade, a track system whereby some large percentage of the students voluntarily went to trade school, taking only English and some other course that escapes me now with the regular students. Their grades were weighed exactly the same as the rest of ours. The result was that I actually graduated behind one student who was a cosmetology major owing to two or three B’s I got taking classes like physics and advanced math.

In the long run, it didn’t much matter. The valedictorian is an OB-GYN and surely knows much more science and advanced mathematics than I do and I’m a poli-sci PhD and have forgotten almost all of the formulas that I managed to memorize twenty-odd years ago.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Your high school grades and being valedictorian doesn’t matter…except to get into college.

    Your college grades don’t matter (for the vast majority of us)…except to get into grad school or for that first job.

    Besides fresh outs or someone with only one or two years work experience, as a manager, I’ve never made a hiring decision based on the grades. Show me that they can do the job (the skills for which vary by the job) is number one. Character, ability to be adaptable, personality are the tie breakers as you usually could find more than one candidate with the minimum skill set.

  2. floyd says:

    yetanotherjohn;so grades don’t matter, only diplomas?how many highly qualified experienced people are passed over in favor of some “C” student with a diploma?