Separating by Gown Colors is not a Display of Elitism

Emily Wale, Staff Writer

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Graduation: a time of remembrance and celebration for the graduating class’ achievements and overall contributions to the school. During this upcoming time of ceremonial preparations for the graduating class of 2020, the school’s seniors began to contemplate the importance of gown color differentiation based on GPA. Some believe it is a traditionalist elitist practice, and others argue that it’s an honor befitting those who’ve earned it. 

“Yes [color distinction] does [promote elitism] because it shows, by color, that these students have a higher chance of succeeding as compared to the rest of the blue robed students,” said senior Zach Rothman. 

While supporters of Rothman say the same,this belief only reflects part of the twelfth grade. Others see the colors to be a division, but one without any gain behind it besides that of personal recognition for their academic efforts. 

“Robe separation does not promote elitism. Anyone from a different background can earn a white or blue robe alike, and the students who are wearing them earned them through hard work and sacrifice,” said senior Zack Van Blarcom. 

Elitism is defined as the belief that individuals who form an elite (those in a select group of people with an intrinsic quality, high intellect, wealth, special skills, or experience) are more likely to be constructive to society as a whole, and therefore deserve influence or authority greater than that of others.

Yet the color differentiation between robes and GPA does nothing to suggest elitism. Those wearing a white robe to signify a GPA of a 4.0+ doesn’t guarantee them anything besides prideful smiles from their teachers and family members. The robe isn’t a VIP ticket into the college of their choice or a golden ticket allowing them to be placed above their peers in blue robes. Likewise, those adorned in blue robes aren’t deemed any less of an important contribution to society, as all graduates have equal opportunity to shape their future to their aspirations after high school.  

Robe differentiation benefits no one but those receiving them. Yes, the white robes may single out a group of highly intellectual kids, but this speaks nothing about a “predetermined” future “promised” to them because of it. The white robe serves as an indication and congratulations for something they made happen in the past and nothing more. That is why differentiation of robe colors is an important tradition to uphold, it speaks to the excellence that those students have displayed in personally achieving such high intellectual achievement. 

The simple differentiation between those wearing blue gowns compared to those wearing white gowns is not that of an elitist society, but that of simple recognition for the hard work and effort put forth by those deserving to promote their academic scholarship within their year’s class.  

“The goal of giving people with 4.0’s white robes, or whatever other reward we may come up with, isn’t to make everyone else feel bad, it’s to make us feel like we’ve accomplished something. I don’t look at my robe and say, ‘You didn’t get this.’ I say, ‘Wow, I did that.’” said Victor Holcberg. 

I don’t look at my robe and say, ‘You didn’t get this.’ I say, ‘Wow, I did that.’”

— Victor Holcberg

This controversial topic prompts theories similar to those behind the debate regarding participation trophies. When asked about the subject, both Victor Holcberg and Zach Rothman commented that they found their participation awards to hold very little meaning and value- as everyone receives the award regardless of their attempts at whatever the competition required. 

Taking away white gowns for those who have earned a 4.0+ GPA turns something special and deserving into normal and unanimous- almost monotonous. Without a little display of achievement in regards to differentiating those who went above and beyond in school, there would be a stiflement of praise rather than a reward to look forward to and a goal to aim towards- much like the participation trophy, which mirrors this concept through rewarding all who merely show up. 

Wearing a different color gown doesn’t promote elitism, no one gains anything from the proud moment of recognition besides the person wearing the robe. Taking away the difference in color representing high GPA accomplishment, suggests that those students must hide this honor-that they need to be humbled and therefore shouldn’t outwardly and openly display their status.  

“That moment of pride comes from out-performing the best of the best, from knowing that years of relentless training led them to the performance of a lifetime. The pride comes from doing what they love and being the best at it,” said writer Jonathan Fader, Ph.D in Psychology Today.

Upon the day of graduation, few will think about the color of their robes in comparison to their fellow peers. Those who had worked to accomplish great things on a personal level, regardless of the color they wear, are going to feel pleased and satisfied for achieving all that they have. Graduation is a time to transition from your time spent in high school to the new experiences to come in college and beyond, and a robe color won’t take that away. So regardless of one’s GPA, graduating is accomplishment enough, and a robe color cannot take that away from anyone.

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