Charlotte Allen has commented on the Texas high school that banned wearing National Honor Society stoles at graduation because the Honor Society is not "inclusive," as if an inclusive Honor Society were not, as Charlotte notes, an Orwellian concept.
First, my sympathies are solidly with Garrett Frederick, who made the most of his high school years and now will not be able to wear the stole he worked so hard to win.
A local station reports:
Garrett Frederick has been a National Honor Society member since his sophomore year, dedicating himself to maintaining a high GPA and performing community service hours.
"I'm not just an honor student — I'm an NHS student. I worked hard. I put in the hours," Frederick said, explaining that he committed to 20 hours of community service every semester.
But he won't get to wear National Honor Society stole at graduation:
"I was really looking forward to wearing it and being able to say I was a part of it, because I have friends that go to [Plano East High School] and [Plano West High School], and they're all wearing it," he said. "So it's like, I don't know why we're not allowed to wear it. I don't get it."
Apparently, this is practice for the entire school district. In a statement the school noted:
"We are aware that many honor students may not also be members of the National Honor Society, but the school has opted not to include additional regalia per tradition. This long standing practice was questioned by students twice in the school’s history, once in 2004 and again around 2008 or 2009. Both times, the tradition of not including any regalia for various student clubs, honor societies, leadership roles or other activities was explained to them, and in 2008/2009, class officers and student congress were given the opportunity to consider a change in the practice. The student leaders opted to uphold the tradition. The campus will look at the practice again next year if students wish."
This issue is personal to this NHS member. I had the hard-earned honor of wearing an additional tassel on my high school graduation cap and although the piece of fabric probably costs less than $2 to make, I didn't come by it easily. It meant waking up early to study and do homework, committing myself to clubs such as the pre-medical society and the pre-law society, volunteering nearly every weekend at my church, teaching and serving the congregation, and leading my classmates in group projects. Being allowed to wear that tassel said to me that someone else recognized all of my sacrifice and wanted my family, peers, faculty, and those at graduation to honor that.
Perhaps that makes sense if it’s wearing a tiger mask if you’re part of the mascot club, but the National Honor Society is not just any school club. NHS is an academic institution started in 1920 and exists “to recognize those students who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of scholarship, leadership, service, and character.” Students don’t apply but their work and activities earn them nomination by teachers. NHS also spurs healthy competition for students who are not in NHS to work harder to get in and challenges those in NHS to maintain good academic standing and community involvement. The organization estimates that more than one million students participate in NHS activities.
School administrators are misguided in their attempts to sanitize the school environment of competition and difference in the name of inclusion. Inclusion should not be about making everyone equal but acknowledging the differences in individuals and allowing those to be on display. There’s also room for healthy competition in the classroom that disappears when we belittle the hard work of some by equalizing it the results and efforts of those who didn't give it their all.