No Reward on Prize Day

Choate students applaud their classmates at the year-end Prize Day ceremony in 1997.

First, to all those students who will win a prize this year: Congratulations! We applaud your hard work and accomplishments this school year, whether they be academic, athletic, or artistic. Your excellence is undoubtedly commendable, and your contributions to the community should not go unrecognized.

That being said, we, the 111th Masthead of The Choate News, believe that Prize Day is an inimical tradition of Choate Rosemary Hall.

The candidates for the form prizes, which the school seems to value most dearly, are chosen by the respective form deans and a team of faculty. After they choose several final nominees, the “slates” are presented to the entire faculty during an all-faculty meeting. The faculty engage in discussions about the candidates, and an approval vote is held for each prize. The highest vote-getter(s) receives the respective prize. Faculty can make nominations from the floor if they feel a student is being wrongly left out.

While we’re sure that the recipients of such prizes deserve recognition, we worry that the faculty may not have a complete perspective of the accomplishments of the student body. The faculty, who, by the nature of a school as large and complex as Choate, cannot know all there is to know about individual students on the slate. It appears that teachers are not in a position to properly determine the winners of these awards. There are many members of the Choate community who contribute equally impressive and beneficial work as that of the award winners, yet these people seem to consistently not be given the credit they deserve.

Choate students come from a variety of backgrounds and have a myriad of interests and goals. For some, their Choate experiences are defined on the athletic fields; for others, it’s time spent in the PMAC; and still others involve themselves in the wide variety of clubs on campus. Though Prize Day does recognize some students for artistic and athletic achievements, the majority of the prizes honor academic and overall excellence, or contribution to the school. People are left out.

Moreover, Choate’s Prize Day puts undue pressure on students. For students to not receive a prize, especially when they feel as though their work should earn them one, can lead to low self-esteem. Students can also feel disillusioned when their accomplishments go unacknowledged. Too often, this engenders an unhealthy pressure to succeed — in their classes or elsewhere — if only to win a prize. 

There is a fine line between respecting traditions and being restricted by them. We implore the administration to consider abolishing Prize Day, given that the abundance of student talent simply cannot be recognized in one event.

We share the belief that students should be recognized for their hard work and excellence, but Choate is a community filled with motivated and brilliant individuals. We see this vibrancy in classrooms, on the athletic fields, and within dining and residence halls. Prize Day attempts to encapsulate months of these formative moments within a single day. Its promise — extrinsic praise for the few — is well-intentioned but ultimately pernicious.

This editorial represents the views of the 111th Masthead of The Choate News.

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