The following is an op-ed by co-Editor-in-Chief Alec Brandel. All of the opinions and viewpoints expressed within the article are solely that of the author.
Lake Forest High School, like an increasing amount of schools across the country, does not do an official class rank. In other words, there isn’t a list that ranks every student in a certain year based on their academic achievements. Valedictorian and salutatorian aren’t even announced at graduation, but instead at a separate Honors night for award winners. There is no differentiation at graduation for academic achievements, and all students wear the same cap and gown. The reason for this is embedded in the values of our school.
“There was a committee that looked at it,” echoed Mr. Brad Naughton, a counselor here at LFHS, “We called other high schools and colleges. The driving force behind getting rid of it was more of the level of competition and stress that it created. There used to be a day, one of the saddest days, in my opinion, that the kids used to line up out the door and get a little slip of paper that said your rank. This is how bad it got: a kid gave not his own name but the name of the person above him in order to see their class rank.” Obviously, having a class rank fostered an incredible amount of competition between students and that is the exact opposite of what the environment at the school strive for.
“The other thing that got to people,” accounted Mr. Naughton, “was that some people knew who was directly above and below them. Their grade was never good enough, it had to be better than the people next to them. At the end of the day, it helps everyone in their college process.” Colleges cared too much about class rank than the actual student holistically. Getting rid of class rank was the best way to ensure that every student had an equal and fair footing.
Ultimately, class rank did not accurately reflect the academics of every student, as the overall worth of the education at LFHS is so high. Ending class rank is a symbol of equality, above all else, and I am proud to go to a school that recognizes the achievements of every student equally rather than creating an environment of immense academic competition.
Our generation is defined by our push towards equality, most recently in regards to gender and sexual orientation. Equality is engraved in the foundations of our school. A huge push in the right direction was removing the titles of Prom Queen and Prom King and replacing them with a gender neutral Prom Royalty. Now, two students, regardless of gender, are elected from the Prom Court to be Prom Royalty. This has been part of a movement across the nation to end the insensitivity towards transgender or gender neutral students, and many other high schools have jumped on the Prom Royalty bandwagon just as LFHS has.
There is still one more step to take in pushing towards the equality that the school aims for, and that is to get rid of Prom and even Homecoming Court altogether. Traditionalists would argue that this takes away from the enjoyment of Prom, and that may be true for those chosen to be Prom or Homecoming Royalty. One thing to take into consideration is that the person who wins might not want to win. They may not want to have to stand on stage and be put on the spot in front of half of the school. In a school that strives for equality and recognition of the success of all students, why are the winners of a popularity contest recognized and celebrated above others?
Sure, Prom and Homecoming Court are a tradition, but do they really make the night that much more enjoyable? As a senior attending my 3rd Prom, I can honestly say that having a Prom Court did not add to my own experience in any way. There being a court of students with two winners doesn’t make either dance any more enjoyable. For some people, it could make the dance worse. That, for me, about sums up the effect it can have on students. The opportunity to spend the evening with friends is what the dance is all about, not waiting to see who is named Prom King or Queen. The controversy over having Prom Royalty rather than Prom King and Queen, or having 8 guys on Prom Court compared to only 4 girls, would not be an issue if Prom Court and Homecoming Court simply did not exist.
I encourage others to voice their opinion on the recent changes regarding this year’s Prom Court, and I understand that some dislike a discontinuing of tradition. Some traditions generate an immense sense of community and add to an experience, while others–like the aforementioned class ranking system–contribute to an atmosphere where some students are better than others. Which category do Prom and Homecoming Court fall under?