Abolish Class Rank
A Top Ten’s Perspective
There is no escaping it. Class rank is a concept that is ingrained into the mind of every student in Lincoln High School. Even if students don’t spend their time worrying about class rank, they cannot avoid that final report card which bears their rank compared to their peers’. While to some it may seem benign, even a good way to judge how well you are doing, there is something very wrong with class rank.
Before continuing, I would like to establish the fact that I myself am a top ten student-- ranked ninth in the class of 2020. I do not bring this up to brag, rather to establish the fact that even as a person who reaps honors from the class rank system I still do not enjoy it. Although I wish class rank was something I could ignore, I cannot deny the fact that it is one of the many metrics that I judge myself on.
To me, the greatest problem with class rank is the fact that it breeds competition in a place where competition should not be. School should be an institution which facilitates learning and not one which makes education a battle. Class rank makes school less of a learning environment and more of a game. Class rank is a leader-board which inspires people, at least partly, to want to do well in school in order to be better than those around them.
Ever since middle school I had my perception of school shifted into seeing it as a game. I didn’t want to do well because I cared about the stuff I was learning, I did it because I cared about being better than my peers. I wanted to be superior. I wanted to have that special number next to my name that read out “1 out of 255”, a signifier that I am on top and therefore everyone else is below me.
I have grown out of this extreme and deplorable world view. I still care about class rank to an extent. While I (as well as my parents for that matter) enjoy my top ten ranking, I am at a position where I would be content if I stay in the top 25. To me, such a ranking would simply show that I have remained fairly consistent in my high school career.
Of course, I have the occasional desire to improve myself or habits in order to surpass those eight individuals above me. I suppress these desires, as I understand that they are not rooted in a mindset that desires personal betterment; rather, they are rooted in one that desires to be superior.
Sometimes I’ll hear people talk about their grades in the context of their ranking. In the stressful time which is junior year, many of my peers have been worrying about their spot fluctuating. I can certainly say for myself that I have had some very deep worries about that at some points this year. It is such a superficial thing to worry about. It is an imaginary metric to judge how a person does in all of their classes. It should be noted that grades in general are fairly abstract ways of representing how an individual does in a particular class. While I have issues with the grading system as a whole, I think that it is not as bad as class rank in terms of being a deterrent to true learning.
Many schools have already abandoned class rank systems. According to the National Association of Secondary School Principals, upwards of 50 percent of schools have gone away with ranking their students based on GPA. Not only is this because they feel class rank encourages competition, but another commonly cited issue is the fact that often the differences in GPA are very minor. Between the number one and number two spot there may only be a difference of one ten thousandth. The same can be said for between 2 and 3 or 10 and 11.
Despite there only being a small difference in GPA, there may be big differences in the praise these students receive. The top ten of the class receive special praise during the graduation ceremony. Additionally, the top one and top two get to deliver a speech during graduation. When considering how small the differences is between the GPA of people in the top ten it seems almost unfair to give praise to those few people when those who ranked around them may have been just as successful in school.
Additionally, the class rank system does not take into account things like extracurricular success or displays of good citizenship, such as community service. So, not only is class rank a debatably unfair system, it is also a non-representative system which purely ranks students based on their performance in grades and not in their performance in other aspects of student life.
I feel that class rank does more harm than good. It hurts the process of learning more than it does encourage it. Students do not learn out of a desire to learn, but out of a desire to be considered better to their peers. It does not reward people who are more studious than their peers, but rewards a select few based on minute differences in GPA. It does not rank people based on who is the better student, but instead ranks them on only one small piece of what makes a good student.
Class rank is not a valuable system to have at our school. It would be much better if it was simply done away with entirely. Perhaps people could still be recognized for academic achievement during graduation ceremonies. Maybe students who received first honors for most of their high school career can be recognized. However, the system of class rank in which the top ten alone is rewarded is a flawed and largely detrimental system.
In short: abolish class rank.