The second half of senior year is supposed to be a reward to all the hard-working students of high school. Having finally gotten into college, seniors tend to be able to coast by; the burden of maintaining college-worthy grades is just a flicker of a memory now. Even after being accepted into college, though, some people are still people working their hardest at school. When asked why, 99 percent of the time it’s: “I need to get a 95 GPA to sit on the stage.” THE stage is an esteemed privilege for students with highest honors and a way to gain bragging rights on graduation day. The stage is almost like a notorious fairy-tale told to students as early as freshman year. Work hard, maintain a 95 GPA throughout your four years of high school, be able to sit on the stage at graduation. The end. But that’s not the black and white end. What is left out is the pressure that the stage places on students. Students who worked hard want their achievements to be commended. They want to be able to sit above their peers in a position of respect and esteem, even if attaining that goal means years of unhealthy stress on themselves. The elevated seating of the stage places those with highest honors literally and metaphorically above the rest of the student population. Is it any wonder that students yearn to be able to grab a seat on stage?
Making the 95 GPA an unwavering and unforgiving toll bridge to the stage, however, isn’t a perfect way of determining who is worthy. Students who take on huge burdens in AP classes because they choose to challenge themselves and who receive a 94 GPA are barred from the stage, whereas if they had chosen less challenging courses they may have gotten that seat on the stage. Students who choose to donate their spare time to hundreds of hours of community service and fall half a point short don’t get the recognition of the stage. Students that help others in school, aid their community, and have good character may be sitting below others, the floor undermining their accomplishments and virtues. After years of being told by teachers and adults within our lives and school that grades don’t define you and that numbers don’t reflect all forms of intelligence, our final moment of high school is shadowed by a bolded, definite number that separates students based on school performance. The stage doesn’t care if someone has good character or is an amazing musician or can paint like the masters; all it requires for seating is a number.
Grades do matter–that is a universally accepted thought reinforced by higher education and college admissions–but they aren’t the measure of whether or not someone is more worthy of prestige than others. Some of the most intelligent people in this world have been master criminals or just awful human beings: Just because of their intelligence, though, should the general public hold these people in a higher regard than others? Similarly this applies to graduation seating. If someone who has infractions on their record or has had their academic integrity questioned is allowed on the stage due to their GPA, why then are the students seated on the stage regarded as superior? The students who worked hard to challenge themselves and push themselves to that 95 threshold do deserve some type of accolades but so do other students who have different strengths. It’s hard for schools to find a balance between wanting to reward hard-working students while also wanting to take into account differences in abilities across the spectrum–that is acknowledged. However, they should find a different way to reward students at graduation not only for academic strength but other strengths too. Why not ask teachers to recommend students who have demonstrated exceptional character in the classroom as well as received good grades. Or ask coaches and music and art teachers to nominate students that go far and beyond in their classrooms. There’s no reason to move completely away from needing a certain GPA but that shouldn’t be the only way people get the designation of stage seating.
In a time when students are taught to embrace their individual strengths, it seems hypocritical of the education system to place academically higher ranking students above the rest. There should be other areas or checkmarks met to determine whether or not someone would be a good addition to the stage. Character, academic integrity, and talent in another field should all be taken into account because these things are what define us, not a number we receive on a report card.