Staff Editorial: Decision to eliminate graduation cords not needed

February 1, 2011 — by Editorial Board

This graduation, forget academic recognition. Forget community service honors. Forget individuality—from now on, the administration wants everyone to be the same.

As part of a new policy, students will not be able to wear the cords that signify distinction in academic honors and community service at the graduation ceremony. Although students will still be allowed to wear the cords on Senior Awards Night, they will be conspicuously absent from the graduation ceremony this June.

Principal Jeff Anderson cited the desire to shift the focus of the ceremony to recognizing the class as a unified whole rather than as individuals as the main reason behind the change. While such an effort is admirable, it detracts from the true significance of the ceremony—a celebration of the culmination of one person’s efforts and struggles. After all, it’s only one name that ends up on the diploma—not all 300-some names of the class of 2011.

In fact, in high school, students often struggle to distinguish themselves from the crowd. Some students play sports; others excel in theatre or student government. Yet there are others—possibly the most inconspicuous—who quietly devote themselves almost exclusively to their studies, toiling late nights and long hours to achieve some of the highest GPAs in the school. Such students rarely receive the proper recognition they deserve—and with the new policy on cords, even that validation has been removed.

Similarly, many other students have clocked in countless hours giving back to their community. Other schools encourage community service by requiring a certain number of hours from its students. Saratoga, on the other hand, has made an effort in recent years to honor those who go above and beyond in terms of service. By getting rid of community service cords at graduation, the administration may unintentionally be conveying the message that it no longer supports such efforts.

A troubling aspect is that the administration did not make this announcement public at an earlier time. It is understandable that the school would hope to keep their decision under wraps in the hopes of avoiding backlash from angry students and parents. However, the fact that news of this decision is only being made public a mere four months before graduation is simply unfair to the students, many of whom had put in countless hours and kept detailed records of their service in order to meet the standards to receive the community service cord.

Still, much remains to be said about the value of service. It is true that students should not be doing service just for the sake of getting the cord. The truth is, most do not. It is unfair to take away the only special recognition that these students receive for their extraordinary efforts to help out the community.

While the administration has decided that graduation night should be about treating everyone as “equals,” administrators still will be handing out cords for the valedictorian and salutatorian. Perhaps one would be more inclined to understand the reasoning behind the elimination of the cords if this policy truly extended across the board. However, by keeping the cords for valedictorians and salutatorians, the administration is admitting that some students have made more extraordinary efforts than others—and deserve to be specially recognized on graduation night.

If the school truly wants to promote equality, this policy of recognition should extend across to high academic achievers and community-oriented students in addition to the valedictorian and salutatorian—just as it has in years past. The removal of the cords for academic honors and community service is simply unwarranted.

The Falcon voted 27-10 in favor of keeping the cords.

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