The sheer disbelief I felt was short lived. Of course, 60% of high schoolers at SAS made the honor roll. And so it was that on January 25 the annual ‘Scholar Lunch’, also known as the ‘eat-as-many-PTA-baked-goods-as-you-can’ lunch, occurred as usual.
Without sounding too condescending, it had never meant a lot to me that I made the honor roll. There was nothing special, surprising, or ‘honoring’ about it. The Scholar Lunch was just the day when I got to eat palak paneer and watch others stuff themselves with patriotic cupcakes that made their tongues blue.
Only this year did it hit me that 40% of our high school remained in a strangely empty cafeteria.
After the lunch, I was innocently walking from the gym to my next class. A girl coming from the cafeteria noticed her friends among the crowd who had just enjoyed their free meal.
“This is the worst day of the year,” she declared, with an obvious light humor in her voice. Yet, I only registered the dark undertone of what seemingly harmless ‘awarding’ could lead to.
Needless to say, I have a problem with ‘awarding’. Firstly, I have to make it clear that it is perfectly reasonable to ‘award’ those who have high academic achievement. I see no problem with that. These people have worked hard for their grades. I hope.
The problem is when you are ‘awarding’ the majority.
Let me share a personal anecdote. The worst classroom experience I ever had was in a fifth-grade Chinese class (It was not at SAS, but I will not share the school name). We had just gotten back a test when our teacher asked those who got a 90% and above to raise their hand. I sat in my nylon chair with my hands in my lap as everyone around me basked in the glory, hands raised high.
When the majority is awarded, what is the purpose of the award then? Honoring those with above a 3.7 GPA seems deprecating towards those who can’t make it through those gym doors.
The obvious answer to this issue is to raise the bar. Those with a 4.0 or above get a special lunch. However, I propose something quite different.
We should be honoring those whose GPA has improved the most. Why are we honoring those who are ‘excellent’ when we could be honoring those who have succumbed the most growth. Or even better, award those who are brave enough to stay at SAS among 60% high achievers whom they are not part of!
On the other hand, it is quite impressive that so many SAS students are high achievers. It is great that we maintain such a high level of education.
Nevertheless, a school with students who have a majority of high or low grades does not mean the students are more or less achieving. In other words, high achievers don’t necessarily equal people who have a high GPA.
I love me some free food, but let this one day not have to remind 40% of students that they are not ‘honorable’.
This is just the result of our competitive SAS spirit, both good and not so good.