Saturday, November 1, 2008


"There are high spots in all of our lives and most of them have come about through encouragement from someone else. I don't care how great, how famous or successful a man or woman may be, each hungers for applause." -George M. Adams

Rather than respond to individual comments about Success, I've decided to offer my opinion in a separate posting.

Some of you have defended the National Honor Society and my district's decision to recognize new inductees in a high school assembly. Others question the venue but not the underlying concept of rewarding academic achievement. My students did a fair job of presenting both sides of the argument when expressing their feelings on the matter in our Current Events class.

How do I feel about the NHS?

  • Nominees are evaluated on character and leadership as well as grades.
  • National Honor Society members perform a number of school and community service activities.
  • Inductees gain personal satisfaction from public acknowledgement.
  • Scholarship is emphasized and praised.

  • Teachers who review the applications for membership may not know enough about students' personal lives to judge them fairly in all categories.
  • Grades measure only a particular type of success in school.
  • The Society is exclusionary by nature.
  • The assembly was more divisive than inspiring.

This last point is the crux of the matter for me. The assembly speakers could have praised new NHS members as academic leaders, then gone on to challenge the rest of the student body to discover their own potential for leadership.

Making good grades the sole criteria for success means that some students feel they have already been labeled as failures. And this might well become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"Success is the maximum utilization of the ability that you have." -Zig Ziglar

"DSC_0498.jpeg" by alessandra


Lee Ann Spillane said...

Well put, Diane and I applaud your students who shared their thoughts in your Success post. I am reminded, yet again, of how important language is and how with an almost cliched comment educators can be exclusive.
I am working with my students writing today and got to thinking that the pro/con blog list is fantastic pre-writing piece to something more formal. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I missed commenting on your "Success" post, but have had similar experiences with NHS in the past. My sister started the "National Dishonor Society" while in high school for the very same negative reasons you have mentioned.

It's a tricky line. We all like organizations that recognize successful students, yet if we don't take the time to look things over closely we might not see that we're also pushing away students who could be successful, but aren't quite there yet.

I agree that those speaking at the ceremony shouldn't emphasize how wonderful all the NHS members are, how much work they've done, how they're all going to be the next batch of world leaders, etc. This basically is saying to everyone else, "Look how great you aren't, look how lazy you are, and you're going to be the next batch of bums." Time should be paid recognizing that anyone has the ability to make it into NHS and that ideally everyone would make it in. It can be a tricky line to walk, but it's important we don't marginalize those who aren't involved in NHS.

diane said...

Lee Ann,

Many of my students are reluctant writers, at best, but they can be quite eloquent when a subject moves them. This assembly touched a raw nerve for some of them, and they responded with passion.

I don't think any adult had asked their opinion about the NHS before.


I agree that success should be recognized. Perhaps a Leadership Honor Society, with nominees in different categories (Scholarship, Community Service, Peer Leadership) would be a more inclusive way to applaud outstanding students.

Dillon said...

Diane, I am weary of any organization in general. Whether it be DECA, SkillsUSA, or the NHS. At my school these organizations are so present, vast, and diverse none of them are ever really noted by students.

We even have a special Arts & Recognition night. Recognizing students for leadership qualities and specific deeds in the community. Based once again... By teacher ruling of some kind.

All these organizations and activities are meant to be divisive in nature. "Join us, we're the path to your success" is a message echoed by all these organizations.

However, sitting back and being in the background and just watching life pass me by... I have found the recognition to hold little to no value... Not in the big picture. Something no one seems to care about.

Sure, these members of the NHS were honored in front of the school. But what did it accomplish for the school as a whole but to divide the student body? What will this give these... Students, 'the future' to build it?

I feel schools need to stop the divisive forces that have began to feed off the youth in school. They're no better than the dreaded 'cliques' that form in schools naturally. Not to say that these organization's influence.... Isn't naturally occurring.

A community united is stronger and more well knit together than a community divided.

The fact I ever made it to Student2.0, or any of the things that I attempted to (someone had to believe in me to grant me the chance to do some of the things I've tried) must mean I serve some importance to the future... Yet... I have yet to be honored at anything like Arts & Recognition, NHS, or some sort of esteemed Honor in academic achievement.

I have several 'pet' projects that I haven't shared on my blog yet. I'm waiting for them to be finished before I do, because I decided it's better that way with the nature of the work.

It is nice to hear some rational reason on this concept though... I wish more teachers would have thought that way as I went through high school.

diane said...


Last week the same students who were angered by the NHS assembly used some free time in class to counsel a friend about staying in school. This was natural leadership at its finest and I hope to be able to build on these strengths in our Current Events class.

Half of the class was absent for a test; the 7 who were in attendance gave me some excellent suggestions as to what topics we might address in the future. I'm lucky not to be teaching a core subject - we're building the curriculum as we go, so we should be able to tackle some of the issues they raised.

Ironically, this year at the school talent show, rather than award prizes, all participants received certificates. It seems that competition was deemed too selective and might wound some students' self esteem. So far, the same sensibilities haven't been applied to the NHS.

Thank you for sharing your student perspective with us.