The map has long been a controversial and divisive part of Paly's culture and has been repeatedly called out as contributing to and fueling competition. And yet by all accounts it's also one of the most popular and anticipated features of the year.
The Gunn High School student newspaper, The Oracle, stopped publishing a similar map in 2015 in its "senior magazine" when editors reached the same conclusion as the Paly editors. Since then, the Oracle has continued to publish a map that only shows the total number of seniors going to each school.
It's never been clear how a majority of seniors or their parents feel about these maps, but as concerns about student stress and academic competition have steadily ratcheted up, the practice has increasingly been criticized as unhealthy and disrespectful of students who make other choices.
It is not coincidental that the Paly editors' decision comes on the heels of a college-admissions bribery scandal that included the indictment of two Paly parents and several others with children in nearby schools. This brought the dark side of the intense competition for college acceptances and brought the influence of wealth into clear focus.
The Campanile editors published their views about campus culture eloquently in the paper's April edition before then announcing their decision on ditching the map two weeks ago.
"The carrot of college corrupts," the editors wrote.
"Paly fosters a goal-oriented student mindset, and we often allowed this mindset to dictate our own self-worth and our view of our peers. As seniors, we have emerged from the dark cloud of the college admissions process and have witnessed firsthand the way that it erodes one's senses of value and place.
"Frankly, no one can be blamed for valuing the glitz and glamour of a prestigious institution or high GPA. But there's more to being human than achievement — we think the drive for traditional measures of validation can force students to miss some of the most valuable lessons an experiences high school can offer.
"Whatever you wish to call it — toxic, competitive, cut-throat — the dynamic set by skewed values can result in students missing out on a crucial part of the high school experience: building relationships, discovering passions and developing soft skills."
Killing off the college map, which was an action the Campanile editors took on their own but which can be reversed by future editors, won't suddenly change the high school culture. We hope student government leaders and administrators also persuade students to drop other traditions that draw attention to college acceptances, such as T-shirt day, when seniors wear T-shirts or sweatshirts from their chosen college, and the decoration of graduation caps with college names. (Gunn administrators did away with the graduation cap celebration several years ago.)
To parents who love these traditions, we suggest engaging your student in a conversation on what they think and on how isolating these traditions can be for students who choose a different and less celebrated path, whether it be community college, a gap year, the military or some other alternative.
Just three years ago, then-editors of the Campanile defended the map as just a factual list that "does not foster competition but rather encourages seniors bound for higher education or alternative paths to take pride in their postgraduate plans."
Congratulations to current Campanile editors Leyton Ho, Waverly Long, Kaylie Nguyen, Ethan Nissim and Ujwal Srivastava for getting it right and having the courage to act on their beliefs. As Long told Weekly reporter Elena Kadvany: "We realized that it's really the students who need to take a stand against the culture. The more we talked about it, we realized there's really no reason why we shouldn't be those students."
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