My daughter received her class rank the other day — for the first time since high school kicked off. She’s a hardworking, conscientious kid, who does her best to maintain a low A to high B average in her classes. And except for a tussle with Spanish as a freshman, where a grade in the mid-70s did her in, she’s done really well thus far. That’s why the class rank, listing her just under the 50-percent mark in her class of nearly 900, has her thinking she’s failed and has me shaking my head.
I’m not refuting the report. I’m sure it’s about right. It’s an ultra-competitive high school in which AP classes are the norm and the top 10 in each class are talking Ivy League — not Big 12 (no offense). I’m in sales, so I get why keeping score is important. But unless you’re planning a career in medicine or engineering, how much will class rank mean in your grown-up life?
Quick disclaimer: I was the valedictorian of the B students in Garland (don’t make fun). Yes, you read that correctly. I was ranked 85thand there were 84 honor students. While I thought I deserved to address the group of my average brethren at commencement, the school thought otherwise. But a funny thing happened after learning that I was probably one more 90 on a Texas history paper away from the promised land of being called an honor student … absolutely nothing. While I’m sure grades are important for certain career paths, a journalist-slash-marketing guy simply needs to fog a mirror to get to the next level in his profession (again, no offense).
Class rank is just one of countless landmarks that we believe are important when we’re kids but really don’t come into play once the rubber meets the road and the credit-card bills start piling up. Much like:
– The test you take when you’re in grade school that tells you what career you are destined for. Wow, what a monumental waste of time! We should have spent that time watchingOld Yelleragain. (Admittedly, Iwaspegged as a day laborer.)
– Cursive writing. I’m not really sure why this is part of any curriculum these days. The only word I can actually write in cursive is my name — when signing my life away on some form or another. If I try any other letter combinations, it’s like I’m writing with the wrong hand.
– Algebra. Again, it depends on your career aspirations, but I haven’t used algebra since Isomehowpassed the class as a college freshman.
– The periodic table. I hadn’t thought about that impossible-to-remember chart from chemistry class until I became addicted toBreaking Bad. Other than that, not sure why I would ever need to know that Au is gold. Isn’t gold just, you know, gold?
– Whether my kid makes one select team or another. Look, if your kid has the type of skills to play in college or the pros, he or she will have a shot at doing just that. But most kids aren’t that skilled (or blessed with good genes), so whether little Drew or Taylor plays super select or super-duper select really won’t matter in a few years.
– State-mandated standardized tests definitely matter to school district funding. But for any of us who’ve filled out the fabled bubble sheets, you know how much that test has meant to our futures. Not a darn bit. Meanwhile, my 10-year-old has a meltdown as soon as his teachers start harping on it.
– Sitting with the right people at lunch. Sitting with the right people during study hall. Sitting with the right people at Starbucks after school. In other words: the junior high and high school experience. Yeah, yeah, I know many of you still cherish those wonderfully hellish years and often return to campus for homecoming football games and really awkward reunions, so you can see how many of your friends are divorced. But other than some lifelong mental scars, were those six years as important as you make them out to be?
– Speaking of which, the SAT. If you’re trying to get into Harvard or Stanford, super important. If you’re trying to get into Texas State or the University of North Texas, not that crucial — despite the overload of time and money spent prepping for it. I still have nightmares about that test and I don’t even remember my score.
Kids today have more pressure on them than ever before. They are bombarded by more noise, more academic and athletic challenges, and more parental supervision than any little person deserves. I’m just trying to weed out some of the less important stuff. Of course, if you’re grooming a future neurosurgeon, please ignore the previous 800 or so words. For everyone else, the least you can do is tell your kids to quit practicing their cursive writing … immediately.
Rudy lives in Flower Mound, sells stuff to make the house payment, spends weekends on dusty ball fields and recently had a GPS chip attached to his daughter. Follow him on Twitter:Manifesto10.