High school traditions: NT vs the movies

Class rank and prom court not part of school culture



Before you get to high school, your understanding of it is a fictionalized version drawn from TV, shows and films. One that includes the perfect prom, being crowned king or queen, the cheerleaders and the football players, and the graduation where all the caps are thrown into the air after the cathartic farewell speech is delivered.

These iconic aspects of high school, such as a Prom King and Queen or a Valedictorian, have been notably missing at New Trier. With the absence of these acknowledgements, the question remains whether students have been held back from experiencing the “traditional high school experience”?

Sophomore Chloe Blesi doesn’t think so. “No, I don’t think we need a homecoming king or queen, or a valedictorian” Blesi said, “all of those things make this already-stressful environment even more stressful.”

During a high school graduation, the tradition of having a valedictorian means the student in the graduating class with the best academic achievements, gives a farewell speech to the class called a “valedictory.” The Valedictorian speech in a high school graduation has famously been portrayed in movies, and TV shows such as Legally Blonde, Gilmore Girls, and of course High School Musical 3.

“I’ve seen those speeches on TV and in movies, but I think it‘s not really needed, because our class is so big it’s hard to pick out who should or should not be rewarded for their work in high school,” said senior Maggie Graves.

Denise Dubravec, the Principal of the Winnetka Campus, said “we believe student accomplishments are broader than just grades, levels, and their ranking, and that there is more to an individual than a single indicator of their accomplishments.”
A Valedictorian requires the student to be first in their class. While New Trier has no such ranking system, there have been past systems put in place that attained this aspect of a class-ranking.

“In 2000 we stopped doing ranking and we went to a decile, but in 2008 we stopped doing the decile as well,” Dubravec said.
“Genuine student achievement is more important, and [the class rank] was unfairly affecting student’s prospects for acceptance to college.”

Dubravec continued,“Our students do so well nationally that if we narrow them through deciles and rankings, it would negatively affect them in admissions to certain colleges.”

While being awarded the role of Valedictorian is based on recognizing a person’s academics, Prom king and queen is a different type of recognition, recognition of “social” achievements. This high school tradition has been famously portrayed as well in pop culture.

Typically, the prom queen is chosen by voting ballots from fellow students, the prom queen is partnered with a prom king who is elected in the same sort of process. According to CBS, this tradition originated in the late 1800s at universities to promote social etiquette and manners in each year’s graduating class.

Junior Mason Werner likes the idea of having a prom king and queen. “It’s sort of that thing that we all picture high school being like before we actually are in high school,” Werner said, “I think having a prom king and queen would make the dances a bit more exciting and memorable.”

New Trier hasn’t had any sort of homecoming or prom kings and queens, dating back to even the very first homecoming dance in the late 1930’s.

“We want everyone to feel special at New Trier, and it just feels wrong to isolate one or two individuals out of a school of 4,000,” said Dubravec.

New Trier’s long-running traditions and educational systems have carried on throughout the years, and while some may argue that a valedictorian or a prom king and Queen might make the experience more like High School Musical, according to the administration and some students, these traditions and acknowledgements would negatively affect the already hyper-competitiveness in New Trier.