Friday, June 17, 2005


Graduation time often brings out weird stories about high school valedictorians. Here are two.
  1. Erin O'Connor notes that Garfield High in Seattle is graduating 44 valedictorians (valedictorii?) this year. This is not that uncommon, I guess. At many schools there are multiple students with 4.0s (or higher, with weighting systems allowing someone to get "more than an 'A'"). But 44? That seems an awful lot.
  2. You might want to find a tiebreaker, I guess, to establish a single valedictorian, but then you get behavior like this. Students will game the system; if the rules are a priori fair, then I don't see a problem. If the student takes advantage of a loophole you didn't intend, close it. In this case, the school got rid of the valedictorian and simply puts an asterisk on the top 10% of the class, which in this large school means 300 asterisks.
There are winners and losers in life, and winners are often those who devote the most resources to winning. The first couple of years I played rotiserrie baseball I lost because I was buying players who I thought were good, not the ones who generated the best statistics for the game. Students who want a 4.0 for their transcript, and who devote resources to that, aren't necessarily the smartest or the most likely to succeed in the future. Just ask these guys.