Do We Need Class Day Awards?

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Iz Guis Managing Editor The end of the school year brings many things—final exams, Class Day, and Graduation, to name a few. Along with these culminating events comes the presentation of a variety of awards and societies to Latin students, predominately upperclassmen. It seems like a normal part of the annual ebb and flow of the school year. But what is the purpose of these awards and societies within the Latin community? Do the negative aspects of such recognition—namely, that the majority of the student body is left out of them—outweigh the benefits? Most students, or at least the ones that I spoke to, didn’t think that awards are inherently exclusive. “All of the people who won awards were absolutely deserving, and it was great to see their hard work acknowledged,” one junior explained. Chris Barboi, who received awards in Language and Visual Arts, said that “it feels amazing. You are constantly being told to push, push, push at school and there are some things that I can’t do or don’t do but there are things that I put my heart and soul into because I love them. It felt great to be recognized.” A variety of students called for more awards, or at least more character-based awards. “I know that a ‘nice person award’ sounds stupid, but it really means something to people if you smile at them in the hallway or ask how they’re doing. That’s more important than if you’re good at Chinese or something, I think,” Maddy Molina explained. The Latin administration, especially the committees who choose award recipients, understand these concerns that might arise. Ms. Dorer, who has been on the Cum Laude committee since 1981, the most purely academic recognition at Latin, explains that the exclusive aspect of the society “has been an ongoing question and concern for as long as I can remember.” She argues, though, that there is an important place for an academic society like Cum Laude at Latin—alongside other types of awards and societies, of course. “One of the things that’s very obvious is that Latin values a lot of different kinds of learners and talents, not to the exclusion of people that excel in different areas of achievement. But if you’re in a strong academic institution, for us not to acknowledge achievement is a mistake. If we’re going to honor all these other things [referring to the variety of Class Day awards], there’s no reason why a school like ours shouldn’t be measuring achievement. It seems disingenuous to take the academic piece out of it.” In addition, the criteria for admission into Cum Laude is more complex than just a numbers game. “Cum Laude’s motto—excellence, justice, and honor—matters. When our committee meets, it’s not just the people with top GPAs. We always ask the deans if there is any reason that people on that list don’t match up with the motto. We have actually bypassed people in the past if there’s reason to doubt their integrity.” The Erasmus Society is a newer, Latin-specific award which recognizes intellectual curiosity, devotion to learning, and achievement beyond a concern for grades or college admission. It seems like the perfect counterbalance to the negatives of award-giving—it’s focused on passion, commitment, and love of learning (even if that doesn’t reflect on a report card). Mr. Fript points out that Erasmus is “ethnically diverse and racially diverse. There are as many women as men. Erasmus is open to everyone. Theoretically, the entire school could be members of Erasmus given its reason for being.” And perhaps that’s where Latin is collectively heading. Instead of moving away from awards and societies as a whole, we are simply expanding the types of learners, achievers, and students who are able to be recognized each May. And that effort should be ongoing—whether it means more character-based awards, more doubling and tripling up on recipients, or more students inducted into Erasmus. As Latin continues to move beyond solely traditional modes of education, our system of awards and societies should do the same.]]>