By Melanie Taylor
We have this idea in our heads that we must be validated for every action we take here in these hallowed halls of Seaholm high. This stems from the stigma that assumes if someone does not receive recognition for certain actions, they must not have taken part in them at all.
It is this stigma that ropes so many helpless souls into joining the National Honors Society (NHS) each year. You have to have a certain GPA to get in. You have to fulfill a certain community service requirement to both apply for and maintain membership. It’s a nationally recognized, not to mention nationally ubiquitous, organization, so the prestige is blinding.
Don’t get me wrong- NHS as a concept is great. Seaholm just goes about it in all the wrong ways.
Students who are selected as members far too often have the organization’s tenants (scholarship, leadership, service and character) as an afterthought in their minds. This is evidenced by the thoroughly ironic yet shamefully prevalent practice of students scribbling false signatures on their peers’ service logs the mornings they are due.
Those who are admitted to NHS should not begin doing community service as a caveat of their membership. They should not scramble to keep their GPA above water simply out of fear that they’ll be removed. Those behaviors do not demonstrate respect for scholarship, leadership, service and character, the values upon which NHS is allegedly built.
Such occurrences would never happen if students were selected with the tenants already in mind. Instead, every kid with a GPA passably high gets an in. After all, the more NHS members, the better Seaholm looks.
And though it may be hard to believe, the membership requirements encourage an even more passive nature than admission. You meet somewhere around 5 mornings each year, eat donuts and discuss your one mandatory event: Dodgefest.
NHS should not be proud of Dodgefest. The problem is not the participation in community service or donation to charity. Those are objectively good things. The Bottomless Toy Chest is a wonderful organization for which I’ve volunteered before… outside the confines of NHS.
The problem with NHS and Dodgefest alike is that if the club was actually doing what it claims to have set out to do- offer students the opportunity to participate in and be rewarded for community service- then it would be organizing more than one event a year.
NHS forces a crowd one night of the year and then calls it quits. Moreover, it shames those who are busy on that one night into dropping everything else they’re doing under the veil of “charity.”
Forced charity is not charitable; it’s a chore. Because of the predominant socioeconomic class in Birmingham, our service work seems inherently disingenuous. Tack on the fact that you’ve made volunteering a requirement, and no one will ever believe in our community’s altruism again.
Plus, there are so many other ways NHS could encourage service which don’t lock members into a corner. There are so many untapped resources and unadventured leads to which our chapter of NHS turns a blind eye.
There are underdeveloped initiatives at Seaholm left and right that could use the aid of an organization that gathers the students with the best grades and the most extensive civic engagement.
Not to mention the fact that Derby Middle School has an NJHS, for which this year’s graduating class were the inaugural members. Yet, no attempt at collaboration has been made. That seems like a waste to me.
NHS, as it currently exists at our school, is a scam. I strongly advise that underclassmen do not join without the promise of a massive structural overhaul. First, you need stricter qualifications for membership. Then, you bring students who actually care into the leadership positions.
You go beyond Dodgefest. You make the organization meaningful. That is the only way to convince me that I did not waste my time joining and staying in NHS.
The opinions of the writer are her own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stances of The Highlander.