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  • Seth Skaff and McCartney Minter

Valedictorian Robes: Should Be Here to Stay


Capistrano Unified School District decided to do away with the differentiation of robe colors based on GPA at graduation by the year 2026. In past years, students with a 4.0 or higher graduated in white, and those who did not match this standard finished in blue. 


In the 2018-19 school year, the district’s ASB presidents proposed the decision of white robe eradication.  It was later voted on in a district meeting with the president, superintendent and executive director of general education present. The initiative was due to be enacted much earlier than 2026 but was delayed due to COVID-19 and the hiring of a new superintendent.


Their motive behind this decision was to fabricate an environment in which everyone possesses equal status. A white robe, however, is a badge of honor to those who have worked hard and achieved, and it motivates students to apply themselves throughout their four years of high school. So, why should those who have pushed their nose to the grindstone for their entire academic career be stripped of their successes? They shouldn't; we should continue to instill the concept that hard work reflects results and not do away with white robes. 


Not every kid who signs up for Pop Warner football ends up with a Super Bowl ring on their finger, but the idea that they could reach that point one day is what motivates them to try. Without an incentive to achieve, what’s the point of achieving? 


White robes offer an incentive for academic performance, and, according to the Harvard Business Review, “positive feedback triggers a reward signal in the brain, reinforcing the action that caused it, and making it more likely to be repeated in the future.” By rewarding students for their academic performance, the positive feedback loop will help them repeat that performance in college, and this will be reflected by their work ethic in the workplace. Contrasting that to our very own grade system which is based on deductions instead of rewards and, according to the same Harvard Business Review article, “when we anticipate something bad, our brain triggers a ‘no go’ signal… Unlike ‘go’ signals, they inhibit action, sometimes causing us to freeze altogether.” When people take a hard test, they anticipate getting a bad grade which causes them to underperform their own abilities because the “no go” signal causes them to freeze up. Our contemporary grading system is flawed and does the exact opposite of motivating students. Getting rid of white robes only extinguishes one of the few remaining positive incentives for working hard. 


Our society is based on the principle that hard work reflects results. We have created championships, sporting events, award shows and competitions that prove this very idea. When an artist has the best-selling album of the year, they expect to win their Grammy. Once a student achieves a 4.0, they expect to be able to flaunt their successes in a white robe. It is not fair for an Ivy League-bound individual to be placed on the same level as those who have barely skated by. Students should acquire privileges that demonstrate how hard they have worked. This teaches future generations that they will not get far without dedication and effort. Allowing those who persevere to reap rewards stimulates a sense of motivation in our graduates. White robes should remain in the school district as an incentive and award to those who achieve a 4.0 or higher. 

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