Calgary school ends honour roll program because of hurt feelings

St. Basil Elementary and Junior High School, via school's website

A Calgary school has ended its honour roll program so as not to hurt the feelings of those who don’t make the cut and, it’s official, success has become one of society’s dirtiest words.

According to an article in the National Post, Calgary’s St. Basil Elementary and Junior High School has stopped rewarding Grade 7 to 9 students for academic excellence by ending its honour roll program.

While the decision ostensibly punishes those students who would succeed by ending what little we currently do to celebrate academic success, it is made with those who fall short in mind. According to school officials, awarding excellence affects those who don't receive the award more than those who do receive it.

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“Awards eventually lose their lustre to students who get them, while often hurting the self-esteem and pride of those who do not receive a certificate,” officials said in a letter to parents, obtained by the Post.

Under that reasoning, doesn't this change simply ensure every student feels lousy for not receiving acclaim? Doesn’t it tell those who worked hard to become the best that society just doesn’t care and that doing enough is good enough? Is coddling mediocrity really so important that we should turn our back on greatness? Chris Hadfield commanded an international space station, and it wasn’t because he attained mediocrity.

But really, isn't the point of the honour at least in part to inspire students to strive for something? The difference between a passing grade and an impressive grade is entirely meaningless. But the difference between an unremarkable grade and being acknowledged as one of the school's brightest minds is something that can push those on the fringe, and inspire those who succeed to strive for the next level.

As the Calgary Herald's Naomi Lakritz writes:

What a shock when these kids learn that the real world hurts your feelings time and again. Not only that, the real world doesn’t care that it hurt your feelings. It doesn’t even care if you pick yourself up and go on — that’s something you need to do for yourself.

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Indeed, my great shame is that I did not make the honour roll when graduating from high school. Going into my final semester, only moderate math grade stood between me and a fancy sash on graduation day. So I retook my advanced math class and improved my grade – just not by enough.

Did I collapse in a pit of despair, never to be seen again? No. I learned an important lesson. Calculus is witchcraft. Also, I'm not the best at everything. Some people are better at some things than other people.

And also, if you acknowledge your shortcomings and work hard you can improve. And even if that's not enough to make the honour roll, it is better than living your life in a cloud of well-intentioned naiveté.

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