Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Let's hope no one turned her down for a prom date
May 5, 2003 12:12 PM   Subscribe

Does being valedictorian still matter? A New Jersey high school student with top grades and a 1570 SAT score is suing her school (including a $2.5 million punitive damages demand) for deciding to make her one of three "co-valedictorians." Considering that valedictorian is an award given well after college acceptance letters are sent out, is the title actually relevant in the American education system? Has anyone here actually gained something (other than pride) via the highest GPA in their class?
posted by XQUZYPHYR (89 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
This girl seems to think she can gain $2.5 million, can't beat that.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:17 PM on May 5, 2003


The humiliation she claims she is suffering must be inhuman.
posted by archimago at 12:18 PM on May 5, 2003


Yeah, that doesn't seem right. Those awards are usually give to just ONE student. Especially if this student was disabled, I think it's totally right to give the award to that student alone.

I think nowadays school districts are soo scared to offend parents. For example, this high school I help out at had "co-drum majors" this year. The reason was that both parents in the music program were real influencial and both wanted their kid to be drum major. Whatever.......
posted by ericdano at 12:20 PM on May 5, 2003


According to the article, it sounds like the "co-validectorians" wouldn't have been ABLE to get the suing girl's grade point average, because of the way they weight gym credit. So that's really not fair.
posted by agregoli at 12:22 PM on May 5, 2003


she sounds like a great example of a 1570SAT-4.0GPA mensa who couldnt find her way out of a paper bag.
posted by H. Roark at 12:24 PM on May 5, 2003


It's not how your GPA compares to the rest of your high school classmates' GPAs that counts-- it's how it compares to the applicants' GPAs of your desired college.
posted by 4easypayments at 12:29 PM on May 5, 2003


These Valedictorian Wars are so very very unappealing...nothing wins the admiration of your teachers and peers like a nice frivolous lawsuit. OK, there was one case I thought could have a kernel of worth in it, re: a girl with a learning disability and weighted grades, but otherwise, forget it. Schools should do themselves a favor and stop giving the "award" for highest GPA. All "valedictorian" means is "person delivering a farewell address," or valediction. Have a good ol' popularity contest to decide that instead!
posted by serafinapekkala at 12:30 PM on May 5, 2003


she sounds like a great example of a 1570SAT-4.0GPA mensa who couldnt find her way out of a paper bag.

yup, and a very successful lawyer she'll be, too.
posted by quonsar at 12:30 PM on May 5, 2003


I, along with my spouse, was one of 8 co-validectorians at my high school, not because the school gave the award to anybody above a certain GPA, but rather because there were eight of us with a 4.0. It wasn't exactly a challenging curriculum. I hear that after I graduated they switched to a summa - magna - cum laude system. That seems more reasonable to me, rather than, or at least in addition to, one award for the highest GPA.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:31 PM on May 5, 2003


woah sorry, there is some major scrambling in my second sentence there, should read: "OK, there was one *part of the* case" etc.
posted by serafinapekkala at 12:32 PM on May 5, 2003


I wasn't the valedictorian of my class, but I did nail her.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:39 PM on May 5, 2003


she sounds like a great example of a 1570SAT-4.0GPA mensa who couldnt find her way out of a paper bag.

or a kid who has made the most out of being a disabled high school student and is proud of her work, who is now being told that it is doesn't really count as much as she thought it would and had been told all along it would, just because she didn't and couldn't take gym.

for everyone who thinks she doesn't have a case, please explain to me what she should or could have done in order to guarantee that she would be the valedictorian she so clearly wants to be.

I can't think of anything, myself. Should it be alright for the school to set a policy that prevents any disabled student who cannot participate in gym from being declared the head of her class?


(though, $2.5 million does seem a bit much in punitive damages to me.)
posted by jann at 12:42 PM on May 5, 2003


At the high school where I work, this whole GPA/class rank thing is the source of many headaches. We have "X" classes and AP classes, with "weighted" (i.e. higher) grades, which students take either for a challenge, for their parents, because it looks good on their transcripts, or in order to claw their way up to the "V' word. Some classes maight be great classes but are not offered in "X", so they're out. We can't stop offering "X" classes because all the other schools...well, you get the idea.

We've waded so far into the swamp we can't find our way out.
posted by kozad at 12:45 PM on May 5, 2003


I'm from Moorestown, went to the high school there (class of '93), and I'm honestly surprised to hear this. It's a nice place to live, but I've heard it's turned into a cookie-cutter McMansion bedroom community over the last decade. This girl's father (Camden County Judge) is quoted to have said he doesn't care who he hurts, he'll stand up for the best interests of his daughter - to the tune of $2.5 million dollars being siphoned from a public school district that would otherwise pay for books, teachers and other things the masses apparently need less than his daughter needs an ego-stroking.
posted by phong3d at 12:45 PM on May 5, 2003


At my school we always voted for the valedictorian. No one cared, it was a silly popularity contest, but the popular, likeable guy who usually got it almost certainly gave a better speech than the uptight overacheivers that always had the high test marks.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:52 PM on May 5, 2003


Considering we have become a nation of fat asses, I think gym should count as much as AP English.
posted by alou73 at 12:56 PM on May 5, 2003


Yeah, that doesn't seem right. Those awards are usually give to just ONE student. Especially if this student was disabled, I think it's totally right to give the award to that student alone.

Traditionally, yes. However my high school was giving out co-validictorian awards due to ties back when I graduated in '89. Probably more fair that to create some sort of "community service" criteria as an add-on.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:57 PM on May 5, 2003


I'm not sure anybody else mentioned this yet in the comments. The girl's father is a judge. Guess he's taught her too much about the legal system.
posted by jasontromm at 12:57 PM on May 5, 2003


Grade weighting in my old high school worked the same way as kozad's - the top 10 of every class was determined on the basis of decimals, because everyone had over a 4.0. Some years, the competition was absolutely vicious.

And woe to the student who was well-rounded and took art/music/tech courses, only to get a "regular" A and drop completely out of the big "V" running.

Frankly, it was more fun being a slightly lower rank... and the one to introduce the valedictorian at graduation.
posted by Sangre Azul at 1:00 PM on May 5, 2003


or a kid who has made the most out of being a disabled high school student and is proud of her work, who is now being told that it is doesn't really count as much as she thought it would and had been told all along it would, just because she didn't and couldn't take gym.

First of all, her "disability" is chronic fatigue syndrome. Somehow, despite her inability to take gym, she was able to beef up multiple AP classes not offered at the school which were taught to her by private tutors at home, for which she was granted an "A+"-- grades which were not typically even given out at her own school.

Look, what's the big deal? It's not the first time that there have been more than 1 valedictorian in a graduating class, as other MeFi-tes seem to attest to.
posted by deanc at 1:02 PM on May 5, 2003


Weighted GPA's should be abolished. Simple as that. In my HS, GPA whores would take AP classes just for the added weight the grade inflation would affect, ignoring the other merits of those classes. If you choose to challenge yourself with a more difficult class, you do so for your own growth and at your own risk. Further, the college credit you can recieve from AP tests is a huge savings. I was two credits from fulfilling my uni's degree requirements when I entered as a freshman simply because of AP scores. That not only saved me thousands of dollars in courses, it also allowed me to take more advanced classes immediately (bypassing the requirements for graduation). That's reason enough to take AP classes. The GPA benefit should be eliminated.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:05 PM on May 5, 2003


This is yet more evidence that while fucking off in high school & college might've hurt my economic prospects, it's also a sign of psychic health. Buncha freaking tedious overachieving neurotic twits.

Actually, Crash, after reading your entry I recall that I had a huge crush on my schools valedictorian, but was too shy to go after her. She's a Ph.D. totin' professor now. Maybe, I shoulda tried to hook up and had her do my homework. I coulda made grades and still maintained my mental health.
posted by jonmc at 1:16 PM on May 5, 2003


Whatever, the question that fronts the original post seems to be less about whether she should be valedictorian and more about whether there should even be a valedictorian. I'm all for saying kill the damn thing - award, title, selection, whatever. No one should be this concerned over such a meaningless claim to status. She may make a great lawyer, but I hope it's working for herself, because I can't imagine a company wanting to hire her. I mean one pay raise too little and suddenly it's all about finding some financial wagons to circle. Then again, I was too dumb to be valedictorian, so maybe I'm just bitter :P
posted by hank_14 at 1:17 PM on May 5, 2003


Considering that valedictorian is an award given well after college acceptance letters are sent out, is the title actually relevant in the American education system?

Why even bother making that consideration? What do blue ribbons and plaques have remotely to do with education or merit under any circumstances? These contests are just early training in replacing genuine personal fulfillment with material crap and labels.
posted by badstone at 1:18 PM on May 5, 2003


I have a sneaking suspicion this fracas may follow her around for a few years yet and some sharp-eyed law-school admissions administrator or college newspaper writer is gonna have fun with it down the line. If there's any justice left in the world, that is.

Two and a half million dollars. Geez, what chutzpah.
posted by alumshubby at 1:19 PM on May 5, 2003


I was a lousy high school student. But apparently I'm the only one here.

And I only nailed my fellow "C" students. They were much more experienced.
posted by vito90 at 1:20 PM on May 5, 2003


Would she have a case if the school simply stopped naming a 'valedictorian' altogether? Are they required to? If valedictorian is a privilege and not a right, then tough knuckles to her.

If she can still name 'valedictorian' as an honor bestowed upon her, then it shouldn't cause her any hardship that two others can do the same. The lawsuit itself tarnishes her image far more than any shared title.

Amusingly, from Dictionary.com, Valedictorian is: "The student with the highest academic rank in a class who delivers the valedictory at graduation."

It sounds like it's up to the school as to how to choose academic rank. Also, amusingly, the grammar of the definition is so bad that, literally interpreted, it means: "Of those students who delivered valedictories at graduation, the one with the highest academic rank is the valedictorian."

Harrumph.
posted by kfury at 1:21 PM on May 5, 2003


jann: Should it be alright for the school to set a policy that prevents any disabled student who cannot participate in gym from being declared the head of her class?

Should it be alright for the school to set a policy that prevents a straight-A student who is not disabled from achieving what a Straight-A disabled student can?

It was impossible for the students who were not disabled to compete with Ms. Hornstine, by virtue of them not being disabled.
posted by trharlan at 1:25 PM on May 5, 2003


God, this girl should have the chronic fatigue just smacked right out of her. What a whiny little brat.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 1:26 PM on May 5, 2003


or a kid who has made the most out of being a disabled high school student and is proud of her work, who is now being told that it is doesn't really count as much as she thought it would and had been told all along it would, just because she didn't and couldn't take gym.

That seems to me to be the absolute opposite of the truth -- that she received an artificially inflated GPA without the PE credit, and had the unfair advantage of extra study time during the day that the other students lacked.

This is truly petty, as are most of the cases like it. She's gotten into all of her schools of choice; she doesn't need this kind of super-validation when it's far from clear that she's more deserving than her able-bodied classmates.

(On preview, what trharlan said.)
posted by Epenthesis at 1:27 PM on May 5, 2003


Look - she was accepted to Harvard, Stanford, Duke, Princeton and Cornell, earned a 1570 out of 1600 on her SAT, and seems to have a bright future - in spite / despite of chronic fatigue syndrome. Now, why would you litigate over being the sole valedictorian? Cry me a river. Am I the only one who hopes that whatever school she attends people will remeber the girl who sued to get her way? She already was accepted at more Ivy schools than I have even lived by, and so this just screams [to me] of elitist selfishness. Read this quote again:

Hornstine, the 18-year-old daughter of a state Superior Court judge, has asked a federal judge to intervene, saying that being forced to share with students with lesser grades would detract from what she has accomplished.

If I were the other two students, I would be pissed. Ms. Hornstine has accomplished a lot, why tarnish it with litigation. But I guess she is just practicing frivolity, because she is becoming a lawyer.
< / obligatory lawyer joke>
posted by plemeljr at 1:28 PM on May 5, 2003


By this logic, I should have been the valedictorian of my high school. I moved there after freshman year, from a place that didn't have AP classes, so I had to settle for 7th place. Shit, man, I missed out on 2.5 million bucks! What's the statute of limitations on this? Who do I sue?

Seriously, though. When I found out that it was mathematically impossible for me to be valedictorian, I just reminded myself that life isn't fair sometimes and got on with my otherwise quite privileged white boy existence. If there's anything more unappealing than well-off, spoiled people whining about how unfair life is, I can't imagine what that might be.
posted by vraxoin at 1:31 PM on May 5, 2003


If getting rid of valedictorians means that I won't have to suffer through the valediction at my step-daughter's graduation next week, then I am all for it. I'm sure the parents of this young lady, whose life experiences are best described as uninteresting and whose vocabulary is peppered with "like," are about to wet themselves at the thought of hearing some brilliant words, but me? Not so much.
posted by alou73 at 1:46 PM on May 5, 2003


Well, I was valedictorian of my class. The only valedictorian. And by not naming co-valedictorians, my school deprived me of my opportunity to suffer the public humiliation I needed so I could sue it it for $2.5 million. The mental anguish I am suffering after reading this story is extreme. So now I am going to sue, for being deprived of a reason for suing. Where's my lawyer!
posted by Man-Thing at 1:47 PM on May 5, 2003


In my former high school, they had an Adapted Gym class for the disabled students (like me). We got a grade for it, and it was averaged into our GPAs like everyone else. Disabled students generally would have their physical therapy sessions during this class, or we could exercise based on the level of our ability.

My grades weren't quite good enough for valedictorian, but they were good enough to get me all sorts of other awards and into an Ivy League university, so it worked out just fine with me. That's what it's all about, isn't it... getting your foot in the door? That wasn't the issue with her; she had plenty of Ivy League offers already. So I fail to see how she's been substantially harmed by this; certainly not substantially enough to warrant $2 million in punitive damages.

Now, if the Ivy League had refused her on the grounds that she didn't take gym because she was disabled, then I could see her point, and would be out there chaining my wheelchair to the courthouse door in her support. But this? This just makes disabled people look selfish and greedy, and will no doubt be trotted out as an example of why the Americans with Disabilities Act should be gutted by the Supreme Cour
posted by Soliloquy at 1:50 PM on May 5, 2003


I'm also a Moorestown High grad, class of '00. Because the administrators do not release class ranking data to the students, it's generally less competitive than other schools in the area. Luckily, we have the Hornstines to remind us of the joys of petty squabbling over high school politics.

In any case, I chose to take Latin I my senior year, which meant that I had the privilege of having a class with Ms. Hornstine. It seems to me that this Philadelphia Daily News column rather nicely sums up how she's now publicly displaying the disconnect between her projected image and actual behavior that her classmates have known about for quite a while.
posted by Fourmyle at 1:56 PM on May 5, 2003


At my high school (in Canada), being valedictorian meant nothing. The students nominated people and then each of the nominees had to give a speech and then everyone voted. Consequently, it was pretty much a popularity contest. The guy who won was barely a C student and a poor public speaker to boot.
posted by synecdoche at 1:57 PM on May 5, 2003


The article says that she is 'classified' as a disabled student because of an immune deficiency.

Isn't 'Chronic Fatigue Syndrome' just another way of saying bad case of Mono?

I got to sit out gym my Sr year because of Mono... ahhh yeah.
posted by dirtylittlemonkey at 2:03 PM on May 5, 2003


It's not how your GPA compares to the rest of your high school classmates' GPAs that counts-- it's how it compares to the applicants' GPAs of your desired college.

Actually that's not entirely true. Colleges recognize that different schools have different grading standards, and do attempt to account for that. Which quite frankly makes teh whole valedictorian thing a bit more meaningless.

For the record, my high school didn't award anything like a valedictorian, nor would it release to colleges a class rank (which was probably good for me, since I would have been around the 50% mark I think).
posted by piper28 at 2:05 PM on May 5, 2003


I found this article written last year about her numerous activities, including being an Olympic torch bearer. The article marvels at what an exhausting list it is, and there is no mention of her being "disabled". There is absolutely no friggin' way this girl has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I think her "disabled" status was a ruse to ensure she could inflate her GPA. And then she has the chutzpah to sue when the school tries to make things a little fairer for the kids who didn't bend the rules! Unbelievable.
posted by CoFenchurch at 2:12 PM on May 5, 2003


Look - she was accepted to Harvard, Stanford, Duke, Princeton and Cornell

All nice fallback schools for students who try to get into IIT. Let her get accepted there, then I'll be impressed.

It's a US public high school for goodness sake, curriculum for the lowest common denominator. The only way to stand out there would be to wear a peace t-shirt and get kicked out.

Public disclosure: I went to a US public high school. I graduated somewhere in the 60th percentile, this is not snobbery, it's just my opinion.
posted by m@ at 2:15 PM on May 5, 2003


what a fucking bitch.
posted by delmoi at 2:17 PM on May 5, 2003


I wonder how much her parents have to do with this. Behind every over-achieving student there are usually a pair of over-achieving parents who want their child to live up to their ridiculous expectations. Rather like the failed football player dad who wants his son to be the star quarterback.
posted by witchstone at 2:22 PM on May 5, 2003


According to the article, it sounds like the "co-validectorians" wouldn't have been ABLE to get the suing girl's grade point average, because of the way they weight gym credit. So that's really not fair.

According to the article, her "latest report card had four A-plus grades in five courses." So another student could have beaten her GPA by getting five A-pluses out of five.

Did the school's rules for choosing the valedictorian(s) change during her class's four years? If the rules didn't change, seems like she won fair and square.

That said, however, I oppose elitist crap like having valedictorians, and I think it's incredibly petty and small for her to be suing, and for an amount that's so ridiculously disproportionate to any possible damages she may have suffered.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:22 PM on May 5, 2003


I think delmoi pretty much sums up the thread.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:27 PM on May 5, 2003


lowest common denominator or not, she beat everyone else, m@ (maybe you skipped the lesson that discussed relative and absolute measures, eh?).

i was the top academic student in my school/year (uk comprehensive - a state run school, but in a rich-ish area). i was always vaguely bemused by these prizes (not that we had anything with such an odd name) since other people often tried harder than me (i was just enjoying myself in my little nerdy way), and they tended to single me out as "different" (inconvenient socially - i wasn't bullied).

the cultural (us v uk) differences probably make my opinion invalid, but it strikes me as pretty petty to complain. if her self-worth is so closely wrapped up in getting gold stars then maybe she's trying to fund her future counselling bills (there's always, eventually, someone smarter than you).
posted by andrew cooke at 2:31 PM on May 5, 2003


I had the second highest GPA of my graduating class. I got my ass thoroughly kicked by Sandy Gillette. Of course, neither one of us got be Valedictorian, anyway, because you had to give a speech to a panel of teachers/judges and they picked the Valedictorian based on that. I'm not sure it was fair, but it sure saved several hundred people from having to listen to either Sandy or me drone on about boring crap.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:36 PM on May 5, 2003


I detest overachievers. They always manage to f up the curve. I went to law school with one of them (well, many of them, but one stood out) who gave birth on a Tuesday and was back in class on Thursday. Apparently f'ing up the curve is much more important than bonding with your newborn. Ms. Hornstein will be tres popular in college I'm sure.

(I will now take my bitter attitude out for fresh air)
posted by Juicylicious at 2:41 PM on May 5, 2003


Fourmyle: Tell us more about this girl. It would be intresting to have a first-hand account of her.
posted by delmoi at 2:49 PM on May 5, 2003


"My main focus will be on poverty law," she explained. " Unfortunately, the government doesn't provide enough funding, so (poor) people don't get the legal help they actually need. People who don't have enough money often get pushed aside in the legal system."

And those with too much money hire lawyers and litigate everything.

What I want to know is how does someone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome do all that stuff? If I accomplished all she has accomplished I would be tired too....
posted by szg8 at 2:50 PM on May 5, 2003


MetaFilter: Detesting Overachievers since 1999
posted by blue_beetle at 2:57 PM on May 5, 2003


Question: Does anyone here who was not valedictorian remember anything about their grad class valedictorian?

For the life of me, I have no idea who was valedictorian in my class, what he or she said, or even if there was a valedictorian.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:13 PM on May 5, 2003


What fff said. Except for a very small number of students, this brouhaha means absolutely NOTHING. 99% of the students, in my day and probably now, only care about getting the diploma and being done with school for a while.
posted by davidmsc at 3:27 PM on May 5, 2003


I'm amazed at how something that's so totally unimportant in the real world is such an enormous deal in her world.

That and I'm both impressed and severely disturbed by her willingness to sue over her rights.

But far less disturbed by this than by the all white proms I've been hearing about in the south. And then they have the audacity to say that they will have black people at their prom, they'll be serving the food! Shockingly disgusting behavior.
posted by fenriq at 3:30 PM on May 5, 2003


Has anyone here actually gained something (other than pride) via the highest GPA in their class?

Yeah. An asskicking a day and my milk money taken away.
posted by padraigin at 3:41 PM on May 5, 2003


blair.jpg Here's a picture of the student in question. Now take a look at some of her other achievements during her high-school "career." Now tell me exactly how this chronic-fatigue syndrome prevented her from attending a full day school. Cripes, from this small bio of her, it sounds like she does everything EXCEPT attend a full day of classes. She does charity drives, organizes prom-dress donations, travels to China...but she's too "fatigued" to stay on campus for an extra class or two? I don't get it.

Bonus: Here is a direct quote from Ms Hornstine - "It never hurts to try -- you never know what you'll win and what you won't," says Blair. And: "I discovered a gold mine!" says Blaire.

Oh, actually, those two quotes were in regards to a StudentRewards scholarship of $25,000 that she won.

Hey, I don't want to detract from the girl's obvious intelligence and ambition...but her (and dad's) lawsuit just reeks of "gimme gimme gimme" and "only I can be the best!"


posted by davidmsc at 3:43 PM on May 5, 2003


man i can't wait to hear the final result from this case. i hope the judge just laughs at her.

personally, i moved to the US halfway through high school and my new school didn't count my International Bacclaureate (IB) credits the same way as they count AP credits... this ranked me 32 in 11th grade, but by 12th grade, i was ranked 7th. i could have made valedictorian if i had taken AP spanish and AP us history, but that would have required far far too much work. so i just was happy with my no. 7 rank, and hey, i got to sit in the front row during graduation.

as for this girl: i hope she gets all Cs and Ds in her final semester of high school. what a bitch.
posted by ruwan at 3:48 PM on May 5, 2003


Soliloquy and five fresh fish are my new idols.

Grades have little necessary relation to one's intelligence, or to what one will do with one's life, or with whether or not one will be happy doing whatever they do, or whether or not society will be better off because of it. It might not be practical, but I'd love to see more of the undergraduates I teach equipped with critical thinking and problem solving skills rather than impressive GPAs, since the latter offers little evidence for whether most of them could do anything besides trying to kiss ass and live up to (already too low) expectations. So two quick hypotheses:

Students who care that much about grades and tests and academic standing are, for lack of a better term, idiots.

Politicians who care that much about grades and tests and academic measurement are, using the most appropriate term, idiots.
posted by hank_14 at 3:51 PM on May 5, 2003


I was valedictorian of my school, however that was somewhat diminished by the fact that there were 11 of us. We didn't have weighted grades for anything (AP classes counted the same as anything else, A+ same as A-, etc.). Some people were mad because AP students would be valedictorian along with students that didn't take AP classes. Looking back, I didn't seem to care then, and I don't seem to care now.
posted by split atom at 4:28 PM on May 5, 2003


Interesting. Of the nine winners of the American Assoc. of School Admins., only two are male. Are males dumber, or do school admins prefer junior girls?
posted by five fresh fish at 4:49 PM on May 5, 2003


Just to set the record straight, no, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not another way of saying "mono." Just like Alzheimer's isn't another way of saying "absent minded."

The article linked to doesn't state Chronic Fatigue as the cause of her status, either -- the immune condition mentioned could be something else entirely. (deanc, did you know that from somewhere else, or did you just decide on a diagnosis?)

The lawsuit is clearly weird and seems unnecessary, but for all you know, she has a compromised immune system that makes it unsafe for her to be in school. It seems fairly clear to be that her family is responsible for inspiring and supporting (and possibly mandating) that level of neurosis, so maybe a little compassion is in order. Can you imagine the train wreck this girl's headed for when reality eventually catches up with her?
posted by blissbat at 4:52 PM on May 5, 2003


"Does anyone here who was not valedictorian remember anything about their grad class valedictorian?"

Yeah.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:07 PM on May 5, 2003


When I first read (and posted) this story, my first reaction was the popular "oh my lord what a bitch" idea. Part of that is still there.

I guess the question going through my head was what mentality does a meaningless title instill in a person to make them such a psychotically-driven workaholic that they end up this way?

Does this story seem to anyone else to be reminiscent of a bad psychological suspense drama- that a girl who really, REALLY wants to get something (the guy, to be the head of the squad, in this case head of the class) happens to have a condition often associated with (gasp!) stress and exhaustion, consequentially over-reacting to a dangerous level when her expected goal is not reached?

In some grand scheme, I guess we should be lucky that this Kaplan's equivalent of Swimfan didn't just run the co-valedictorians over with her car.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:07 PM on May 5, 2003


What a torrent of confusion in this thread! I'm always too late in these things, but I can't keep quiet on this one...

First: the $2.5 million is punitive damages, not compensatory. Does anyone know if victims in Moorestown, NJ actually walk away with the punitive damages? I know that some places (scroll down to little j) don't just let the plaintiff walk away with the punitive damages, since, you know, they're eligible for compensatory damages to, you know, compensate them for their suffering/loss.

Second: the word "valedictorian" is derived from the Latin valedicere—to say farewell. The valedictorian is the person who gives the farewell speech. Many, but not all, American schools have traditionally selected a student to give the valediction through some generic measure of scholarship or academic performance. Generally, this results in dry, humorless speeches about how bright the future is and how hard everybody worked, &c. Presumably, the thinking is that more academically inclined students are more likely to be able to say something interesting, which sadly misses the point that very few highschool students of any ability have anything interesting to say. Other schools have auditions, hold elections, or have a panel of students, faculty and/or administrators select someone through some other means. This girl attends a school where the valedictorian is selected on GPA—in itself a summary measure of summary measures—which leads us to...

Third: those schools that choose to use some measure of academic achievement are in a quandary—every possible measure must reduce the various elements of an academic experience into a single rank-ordering. What does it mean, though, to measure "academic achievement?" Civil_Disobedient thinks that all classes should count the same, so that an A in a gym class indicates the same level of "academic achievement" as an A in a calculus course. Many people would most strenuously disagree. Some people feel rather strongly that PE or typing or other practical arts courses don't tell one anything about "academic achievement" and shouldn't be counted at all. Other people don't think "academic achievement" is all that important a thing to try to measure. Simple summary measures like the "standard" GPA (calculated in many different ways across schools) boil all the school experiences of a student into a single number for comparison against all the other students. I would go so far as to argue that there is no such measure that we could all agree ranked everyone in the appropriate order. However,

Fourth: it is idiotic and cliché to dismiss the hard work of some very dedicated students as vain overachievement and to brush off the kids with high GPAs as life-less losers. That just ain't how it works. I was valedictorian, and I was a lifeless loser (and gave a terrible speech, thankyouverymuch), but the girl the year before me was a beautiful, intelligent, champion swimmer and a party-animal to boot. I've met several valedictorians who were well worth knowing as human beings.

As for what I got from being named valedictorian, aside from the dubious privilege of giving a speech: I received a check for $40 and a line on the ol' résumé. And that prize was tax-free.
posted by dilettanti at 5:08 PM on May 5, 2003


crash, you're going to mention that as much as possible, aren't you? ;)
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:09 PM on May 5, 2003


One hopes that this comes back and bites her dad in the ass come next election time....
posted by notsnot at 5:19 PM on May 5, 2003


I took a bunch of AP classes, physics and such, struggled through calculus (which resulted in my lowest grade in high school... a *gasp* C) and busted my rump in high school. Yet the girl who took business classes, advanced typing and crap beat my 3.929 with a 4.0. I think the year after that they started giving AP classes a more-than 4.0 for an A to reflect its difficulty. In retrospect, if being a valedictorian was all important, I should've taken weightlifting and photography.

So instead of being valedictorian, I was salutatorian -- second fiddle to this secretary/valedictorian. Traditionally, that role offers the benediction ("Please lord, smite the gathered bullies, heathens, and drug users, open thy ground up and swallow them whole... in thy mercy.") I took a pass on that and did the welcome speech instead.

Yeah, delmoi has this chick pegged.
posted by Tacodog at 5:22 PM on May 5, 2003


Well, I was a "valedictorian" in college - one of about 30. Out of a graduating class of a few thousand, so it's all good. We got Mr. Rogers as our speaker that year, so the big benefit of being "valedictorian" was to get to talk with Mr. Rogers.

As for high school, we didn't have rankings or GPAs, so our student speaker was chosen by competition -- prospective speakers had to present their prepared speech to a panel of teachers, and they picked who they thought was best. You still end up with a cheesy speech, but at least the person knew how to talk in front of a crowd.
posted by meep at 5:23 PM on May 5, 2003


blissbat: but for all you know, she has a compromised immune system that makes it unsafe for her to be in school.

Possible, but...how about the non-stop charity work? The trip/s to Chicago? Travelling to China? If *school* is an unsafe environment, I'd be willing to bet that flying on an airplane would be even more hazardous to her health.

And (IIRC) didn't the story say that she spent PART of the day at school, but not the WHOLE day?
posted by davidmsc at 5:36 PM on May 5, 2003


I'm from the South Jersey area (Shawnee class of '96) and we had 7 co-valedictorians I believe out of a class of 570 or so. UPenn, UNC, Cornell, Princeton, MIT, MIT, and Harvard were their respective choices I think. Some really boring speeches by most, but some were pretty good from what I remember. What I don't get is why Moorestown can't take away the award since most have to take one gym class to pass. At least that was the excuse given for being in the worst class possible. In a school with greater than normal sports participation, if I remember correctly, close to 90% of my class played some sport during high school, gym was a no brainer A for those that bothered to show up.
posted by brent at 5:44 PM on May 5, 2003


My school didn't have valedictorian, it had "Top 10 Students," and our GPA's weren't weighted. I think they should have been, in some ways, because in the end our Top 10 were all people who took classes like "Weightlifting", "Leisure Time Activities" and "Parenting." It annoys me that my friend Melissa was kept out of the Top 10 by one of those (I think she ended up 11th in the class). I was nowhere near the top, but may have made it into NHS if they'd done that.

Of course I guess if your school doesn't weigh AP classes, probably the school you're applying to will, so it doesn't matter in the long run. Actually, that pretty much sums up high school: Hey, It Doesn't Matter in the Long Run.
posted by dagnyscott at 6:03 PM on May 5, 2003


Please stop calling this girl a bitch. The problem is with her parents, and anyone who doesn't realize this is a little too far removed from high school. She has spent her teenage years building up a resume. That's almost unbearably sad, and all too common.

All this valedictorian crap is overrated, anyway. Back in my day, one guy made a big stink about not getting elected to the National Honor Society, and threatened to boycott his graduation. The National Honor Society, for chrissakes! I would have given him my stupid key necklace, two-hour induction ceremony, and patronizingly insipid direct-to-resume "honor" any day. Can't anyone realize how ridiculous this all is?
posted by PrinceValium at 6:05 PM on May 5, 2003


What this girl needs is a long sea voyage where her yacht sinks and she is rescued by an incredibly decrepit fishing boat that is making its yearly trek across the Pacific, and she is made to become the cabin boy and gets the crap beat out of her when she whines too much, yet after weathering many crises, she manages to win the respect of the crew and returns to her life of luxury with a new respect for her fellow human beings.

It could happen.
posted by Poagao at 7:05 PM on May 5, 2003


"crash, you're going to mention that as much as possible, aren't you?"

Yeah.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:17 PM on May 5, 2003


Maybe it should be mr_crass_davis....
posted by Lynsey at 7:33 PM on May 5, 2003


It must have been truly memorable for you, Crash.

Did you get to put it in your resume?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:34 PM on May 5, 2003


You know, one thing that's struck me about this thread is that nobody's commented on the effect this would have on the school district. Is the title of valedictorian really worth completely screwing the budget of a school district? I'd have to say it's pretty petty to be suing for 2.5 million in punitive damages. But then, I guess for her and her parents, she's gotten her education, so who gives a shit about the school district anymore.
posted by piper28 at 8:46 PM on May 5, 2003


She has spent her teenage years building up a resume. That's almost unbearably sad, and all too common.

That comment sums up the thread much better than delmoi’s. It’s a sad day when you’re old enough to realize just how much TV (or social life, if you’re one of "those" people) you missed out on back when you had free time. Grades only matter as much as a means for getting into college. At that point it's all thrown away and you start over.

Luckily, I kept my high school gpa up by taking easy courses, and am still too young to realize how little university means in the long run.
posted by Gary at 9:33 PM on May 5, 2003


PrinceValium: Please stop calling this girl a bitch. The problem is with her parents, and anyone who doesn't realize this is a little too far removed from high school.

I agree that I don't know enough about her as a person to call her a "bitch" -- she may have a very sweet disposition. But I can certainly discern enough about her conduct to call it that of a flaming asshole. And this "girl" is 18, legally an adult and able to enter into contracts and make life-affecting decisions all by herself. She is choosing to let daddy the judge be involved in this idiotic waste of time and money.

"Disabled" or not, her conduct and attitude are repugnant.
posted by wdpeck at 10:05 PM on May 5, 2003


Maybe Mr. Crash Davis actually was Vito90 in a past life that ended when he was dragged to death after chompin' down on some fine, fine woman's junk?

Ah well. Classy, Mr. Crash Davis, classy. I salute you, and I for one welcome my new valedictorian-nailing overlord, who vibrates.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:08 PM on May 5, 2003


The valedictorian from my class is currently at a tuition-less Bible college in France, with about 11 students.
posted by dgt at 11:35 PM on May 5, 2003


Back in '77 we simply had the privilege of wearing a yellow tassel if we were in the top ten percent of the graduating class. We were given the opportunity of writing a speech and submitting it, and they picked the best one or two (I forget how many) and they got to give the speeches. I never bothered to try as I had way too much other crap to do at the time. But I still have the yellow tassel.
posted by konolia at 5:31 AM on May 6, 2003


"Disabled" or not, her conduct and attitude are repugnant.

Damn straight. We're feeling sorry for her now? I'll feel sorry for her when she realizes what a jerk she's become, but until that time, I'll just look forward to feeling sorry for her. In the meantime, I'll consider this chick a flaming asshole for trying to take away the accomplishments of two others in her class who did could not possibly have equaled her GPA (becuase of their gym classes, if I understand this correctly).
posted by Samsonov14 at 6:34 AM on May 6, 2003


The article linked to doesn't state Chronic Fatigue as the cause of her status, either -- the immune condition mentioned could be something else entirely.

According to an article in the Camden Courier-Post, she in fact was diagnosed with so-called chronic fatigue syndrome:

"Hornstine takes classes at home because she has been diagnosed as having chronic fatigue syndrome."
posted by terrapin at 9:27 AM on May 6, 2003


CFIDS is the preferred term these days, since "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" basically sounds like "Whiny Crybaby Syndrome" and "myalgic encephalomyelitis" is just too much of a mouthful. Though really, if this girl actually has the disease, it's a super mild case.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:32 AM on May 6, 2003


My high school had the token idiot savant (no joke, he must have had a form of autism or something) with the 1600 sat score and straight A average. Because he wasn't much of a speaker, they gave the valedictorian title to the second highest gpa. Where is his day in court?
posted by dr_dank at 10:05 AM on May 6, 2003


My high school didn't have a valedictorian. We also didn't rank and counted all classes as "honors" classes. I'm not sure if the school was trying to be progressive or if it simply wanted to avoid being sued.
posted by gyc at 12:02 PM on May 6, 2003


Follow-up here and here. While I don't agree with the judge's decision, she did make a good point about having a "disabled valedictorian."
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:32 AM on May 9, 2003


This puts the 'dick' into 'valedictorian', really. And no, I'm not talking to you, mr_crash_davis.
posted by riviera at 4:52 PM on May 9, 2003


« Older Warren Buffett calles on investors to rise up and ...  |  Terror and Technology Online... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments