Wednesday, June 15, 2005

"Best in Class"

From the New Yorker:

Daniel Kennedy remembers when he still thought that valedictorians were a good thing. Kennedy, a wiry fifty-nine-year-old who has a stern buzz cut, was in 1997 the principal of Sarasota High School, in Sarasota, Florida. Toward the end of the school year, it became apparent that several seniors were deadlocked in the race to become valedictorian. At first, Kennedy saw no particular reason to worry. "My innocent thought was What possible problem could those great kids cause?" he recalled last month, during a drive around Sarasota. "And I went blindly on with my day."

The school had a system in place to break ties. "If the G.P.A.s were the same, the award was supposed to go to the kid with the most credits," Kennedy explained. It turned out that one of the top students, Denny Davies, had learned of this rule, and had quietly arranged to take extra courses during his senior year, including an independent study in algebra. "The independent study was probably a breeze, and he ended up with the most credits," Kennedy said.

Davies was named valedictorian. His chief rivals for the honor were furious--in particular, a girl named Kylie Barker, who told me recently that she had wanted to be valedictorian "pretty much forever."

Kennedy recalled, "Soon, the kids were doing everything they could to battle it out."
You can read Margaret Talbot's "Best in Class," on the lengths some young people will go to to be high-school valedictorians, by clicking here.

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