Senior superlatives: Super sweet or superficial?
BY KAREN SUROS
As seniors, there is a lot to look forward to—or at least, there is supposed to be. The coronavirus pandemic has done away with many traditional high school activities like homecoming, spirit week, step-up day and more, but senior superlatives is one tradition that COVID-19 could not get rid of. While the class of 2021 has to hold onto whatever little victories are left, maybe senior superlatives are an example of a tradition that should have been eradicated long before us.
Essentially, the process of nominating and voting for senior superlatives boils down to a popularity contest. The more people you know, the more likely you are to get nominated. The problem is that even after four years of walking the same halls, you cannot expect to know all of your peers, especially when the school’s population is over a thousand people.
It has always been this way, but today social media magnifies this popularity contest. Students who follow their peers on apps like Instagram and Snapchat can see it in action. As soon as the nomination page becomes available, people rush to choose the category (or categories, as to avoid putting all their eggs in one basket) that best suits them, and then to encourage their followers to nominate them. It has turned into a team effort, where seniors sponsor each other, spamming feeds with senior superlative nominations.
Allowing seniors to nominate choices certainly aids the voting, as it ensures that the entire process is dictated by the student population. However, it puts those who are less popular or not as well-known at a disadvantage. Not everyone can be outgoing and extroverted, and not everyone has the chance to be.
Not everyone can be outgoing and extroverted, and not everyone has the chance to be.
In some cases, senior superlatives have proven to do more harm than good. At Arlington’s Washington-Lee High School, Ramon Machuca’s experience in the early 2000s underscored what he and his friends felt was a lack of minority representation in his school. Another issue besides discrimination that could arise depends on the categories schools put out, as some superlatives could potentially end up being offensive and problematic.
CCHS does a good job of avoiding the touchier traditional superlatives, especially by re-wording them to phrase it more kindly. This year’s options focus on compliments, like “Best Smile,” “Best Dressed,” “Life of the Party” and more. Seniors know they will not be hurting anyone’s feelings with their nominations or votes; it is sincerely flattering to be nominated for a category. It might sting a little, though, to lose after spending so much effort on social media canvassing to gain votes.
Who knows? One day in the future, one of CCHS’s own might become famous, and wouldn’t it be cute to track down our yearbooks and see that this person lived up to their superlative? Years after graduating high school with the title of “Class Clown,” Will Ferrell was voted Saturday Night Live’s “Best Member of All Time.” Talk about meeting and exceeding expectations.
On the other hand, superlatives have the potential to age poorly. Seniors have enough pressure as is, with entering the adult world and everything. Superlatives are not meant to be taken too seriously, but students already subject to high expectations might interpret their nomination as another tedious expectation to meet.
Perhaps allowing students to suggest categories for senior superlatives and letting everyone who was even nominated know what they were nominated for would make this tradition even more fun, as well as reduce the risk of people feeling left out or unrepresented.
Perhaps allowing students to suggest categories for senior superlatives and letting everyone who was even nominated know what they were nominated for would make this tradition even more fun, as well as reduce the risk of people feeling left out or unrepresented. Some schools have implemented systems by which every senior gets their own superlative, so no one feels excluded. With a student body as extensive as CCHS’s, this would be difficult to implement, but is a nice prospective solution nonetheless.
No one participating in senior superlatives has ill intentions, though; they are just trying to make the most of their high school experience, something that is not easy to do these days. The class of 2021 has missed out on enough and despite their underlying problems, senior superlatives are providing them with some normalcy during trying times. CCHS’s seniors seem to be welcoming it with opening arms. Fixing the flawed system of senior superlatives is a task better left to future generations.
Photo by The Lariat Photography