This Wednesday was Honors Convocation, an opportunity to recognize the achievements of students who have demonstrated academic excellence, including myself and 60-odd honors graduates.
Certainly academic excellence deserves recognition, but the most important feature of the honors program at Calvin was not explicitly mentioned Wednesday night: community. Honors programs can be a way to bring students passionate about intellectual growth together, and in my experience this motive tends to produce better scholars and people than simply the drive to do more work and get a fancy medal.
I entered high school from a lifetime of being homeschooled, which made it difficult for my high school to place me in appropriate classes. Specifically, honors classes were restricted to students from approved feeder schools, which I was not. In retrospect, this didn’t affect my academic career at all, but many of the people who later became my close friends were in those honors classes I wasn’t in.
A drive to succeed, perseverance and a steady supply of caffeine may help one’s academic success, but it is an involvement in communities of intelligent, respectful, courageous and wise people that helps one become a better person. Academic programs are hardly the only case of communities formed for the purpose of character formation, of course. If we want to take our personal growth and success seriously, our communities are key.