Student ‘elections’ don’t really matter, do they?

While the rest of our nation deliberated over its choice for Most Likely to Succeed, the isolated, insulated democracy that is Bainbridge High School recently held its own elections.

The candidates were known to resort to suspect tactics, voting for one person for several offices, exchanging vows along the lines of I’ll-vote-for-you-if-you-vote-for-me, even sending text messages to friends in an unequivocal plea for votes. The contested positions? Winners in this election will be immortalized in the yearbook, handed a star in the Senior Hall of Fame, simply by being named anything from the Sportiest Spartan to the person with the Nicest Eyes.

One might reasonably ask why selections for the Senior Hall of Fame are of such importance. Indeed: in my last class on the day the ballots were distributed, nearly everyone brought up their choices at one point or another, and we passed our ballots around without regard for secrecy. They were discussed at break, at lunch, over Facebook. Some openly campaigned for a spot for themselves, while others curried votes for a friend.

Despite what some cynics might imagine, the most desired positions were not those which we might associate with the most popular, such as Loveliest Locks, Best Smile, Friendliest, Best Dressed, and so on. Students seemed to vie most for the superlatives based on abilities, such as Most Likely to Succeed and Musical Prodigy.

The fact that these honors were most valued – at least among my overachieving friends – might be considered a hopeful sign of teenagers’ values. But to me it seemed just another indication that we of Bainbridge High School are too focused on accomplishments and competition.

On the day we received our ballots, several of my friends informed me they were hoping to be considered Most Likely to Succeed. This upset me at first. First of all, if any such prediction is to be made, it should not be made by a bunch of clueless high school students, most of whom have little idea of what they want from life. Even those voted Most Likely to Succeed in past years probably were secretly unsure of themselves.

What does such a designation mean but that a handful of classmates considers the honoree a good student? What else can we judge by? As it seems to judge intelligence, this category, purporting to, essentially, forecast future earnings, also carries more weight than it should. Everyone wants to be thought the brightest of the bunch.

Essentially, that’s what these awards are all about, and why they matter so much. Everyone wants to be recognized for something, to think that somehow they stood out to someone. If we stood out, we think, we will be remembered, we will have mattered. Who doesn’t want to be noticed? Who doesn’t want to be acknowledged for who they are or what they do? If a designation as “Sportiest Spartan” in the yearbook is all we can hope for, some of us think that’s enough.

Nonetheless, it’s my hope that BHS students realize, if they haven’t already, how little the Hall of Fame matters. No one can say which of us may become the next president, or the next great performer. We seniors are going to move on to bigger and brighter things than we can currently imagine, and these superlatives will soon matter less to us than who won positions in this year’s homecoming court.

Nice as it might be to be acknowledged, this is hardly our only chance for recognition. As we wade through the school year, the world is opening itself up before us. Are you ready?

Julia Ringo, a senior at Bainbridge High School, is writing a monthly column for the Review.

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