Emotional Abuse Courtesy of Our Education System

Caroline Daniel


caroline daniel

As every Freeman senior knows, the day class rank is released is full of emotion. Excitement, because you’ve worked hard and you want to see that hard work pay off. Nerves, because you know that 400 other students are being ranked too—and there’s no way to know how you’ll compare with them. However, the release of class rank galvanizes one feeling the most: the spirit of competition.

Suddenly, your classmates and peers are your competitors. For many, college is the end goal, and the “every man for himself” mentality seems necessary. Why help your fellow students succeed if their success could end up hurting you? Your goal should be to get ahead, to beat everyone around you. Stress runs high; there is no time to relax if you want to come out on top. This is not the environment a school should strive to foster. High school is an intellectual forum, a place of learning that brings together creative, original students who can challenge each other and make each other stronger. Rather than rooting only for your own success, you should hope to help the community as a whole flourish.

Class rank reduces students’ intelligence to an artificial number that often does not fairly represent them. Whether ranked 1 or 400, students tend to give their number more weight than they should. In a well-developed school like Freeman, many students take AP and honors classes. Many students work hard and challenge themselves every day. Due to this very strong academic atmosphere, not every student can get the rank they think they deserve—it depends on the other students at the school. At one school, you might be 50th, but in another, you could be the valedictorian.

In addition, a number solely based on grades cannot give a full picture of who someone is academically. Class rank does not account for progress. It does not show the improvement of a student who struggled as an underclassman but hit their stride as a junior and senior. It does not reward students for following their passions through electives and sports, but it helps students who choose to take a study hall instead of an extra class. It underestimates students whose intellectual strengths are not measured through stereotypical multiple choice or short answer tests.

So why does Freeman continue to rank its students? Not all schools do. At Trinity Episcopal School, the top ten students in the senior class are released, but no other students are given a class rank. At Maggie Walker Governor’s School, no one is given a class rank; there is not even a valedictorian. Freeman should follow in these schools’ footsteps and abolish the class ranking system, at least for the majority of the student body. Class rank does not positively incentivize students or accurately measure their performance; it pits students against each other and has the potential to diminish a student’s self-esteem.

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