Christian Padula ’23
What truly defines a good, hardworking, leading student in the eyes of their peers and teachers? Is it their grades? Is it if they are the star athlete? Or maybe something more than that. In most schools, this might be the case, and while this is a fair status, one label is more sought after and more prestigious than the rest and that is being ranked number one. Salesian High School, similar to many other schools, is divided into four quarters with midterms after the first two and finals at the end of the year. In the ranking system freshman are put against freshman, sophomores against sophomores and so on. Your first placement can be seen on your second-quarter report card once your averages and mid-term grades have all been put together. So let’s say it was a rough start to the year, things aren’t going your way. When you finally see your placement it will read, you have been ranked ___ out of ___. Being a freshman with a class of 109 students I was ranked against all 109.
The ranking system has been used for countless years raking up various differing opinions. Some might say that in an all-boys school nothing gets a student really going like a good competition. The greatest sports games, boxing matches and everything from fashion to cars have been built on this competitive nature. Everybody wants to one-up their friends, show off their skills and get to say, “Yeah I’m the best.” To understand what truly motivates and takes to be number one I talked to our schools rank one in the senior and freshman class. I was curious to see how a freshman’s views might be different from a senior who has truly grasped the system and worked with it all these years. I first talked to Aaron Jiang, our freshman Math Leader and rank number one. When asked his thoughts on the competitive nature the ranking system brings out he told me that he believes “ In the strong positive nature the ranking system brings to a high school atmosphere”. Now, when asked what simply motivates one to be ranked one I was told about his strong desire to change the world and those around him. Aaron described being ranked one as a place of power in which one holds many responsibilities to use their authority to help and inform those around them. Truly a great view of the matter from someone who has taken full advantage of their role in the lives of others.
The next elite star of Salesian High School that I interviewed was Michael Krajncizyn, rank one of the senior class. Seeing that he has been here at Salesian High School for four years made me confident that he would know most of all the atmosphere created by the ranking system. When asked the same question he responded with a very similar answer saying, “ No I don’t believe there is a general atmosphere of “toxic” competitiveness present”. He went on to note the eagerness most students have to help each other rather than see the downfall of their peers. Now, this is not always the bottom line you see, put perfectly by Mr. Krajncizyn, “ You are dealing with highly motivated students, so naturally it’s not going to always be sunshine and rainbows”. Yes, it will not always be sunshine and rainbows, while you may find true students who push through their mistakes and strive to learn from them, there will always be those who look for another way. This idea brings me to another side of the story, the one that looks into the darker side of the ranking system.
For some, the ranking system might seem like a fun competitive race to be the best, but for others, it’s a shameful reminder of defeat. As I said before there are two types of people, those who learn from mistakes and move forward and those who do not. While it might be nice seeing your self ranked top ten or fifteen not everyone can make it here. For those who can’t, every report card is a reminder of the progress they just can’t seem to make. While some might fight to change, others may get discouraged and lose hope of moving forward. As many people know school is not always easy, it may come easy to some but for others not so much. For those that try but just can’t seem to grasp it, that rank is once again just a reminder of where they stand compared to everyone else.
Ms. Blandino had the following to say about the rank system “there is pressure placed on students especially the freshmen. It’s their first year of high school which is a huge adjustment period, in addition to just passing classes there’s now another emphasis placed on getting within the top ranks”. She followed this statement by pointing out that the system can and has caused arguments and fights. A student should feel comfortable in school as long as he is doing his best when he is put in an environment where countless students brag of their rank they just feel out of place.
Now I want to take a look at the students who try in school, do well in classes, but also have many responsibilities weighing them down. Everyone knows that high school is a time to try new things and get involved as much as possible. I myself have joined soccer, volleyball, drama and well, the newspaper. It is great to be a part of teams and clubs, it’s amazing being included in a family that lets you forget about your troubles. However as many understand all of these teams and some clubs require time and dedication. To make this easier to visualize I’ll use myself as an example. I go to school, I then go to volleyball practice until 4:30, then drama until 6:30, then I get home at 7, eat, take a shower and before I even know it, boom it’s 9:00 and I’m exhausted. This is all before homework and studying which some nights will barely be an hour, but others at least two or three. To someone who still thirsts for a high rank and wants to see themselves in that number one spot what are they supposed to do? Do they drop their clubs, forget about being ranked one, or just not sleep? As many freshmen want to take full advantage of the new activities and sports offered in school but also rank high, well reality will hit you quick enough. I have learned from a few seniors that to be the best sometimes you have to open your eyes and see that you can’t have it all. Choices need to be made and for many students, a social life might be traded for a high ranking spot in this school.