Do high schools still choose superlatives? Has anyone gone back to see if those deemed “most likely to succeed” turned out OK?

My friend who was voted “neatest” (a cool ’70s term for “best dressed” — as if anyone in that decade wore reasonable clothes) must have dressed in the dark the next morning.

As a result, I could have been recognized as “the only student to receive corporal punishment from a math teacher for laughing at the designated best-dressed student wearing mismatched socks.” But it would have been hard to fit all of that in the yearbook.

Journalists pay attention to superlatives — not the high school students chosen by their peers, but other designations.

We like to write about the first, oldest, tallest, fastest, busiest and longest. That’s why smaller newspapers often show smiling people holding big fish.

I’ve written features about the oldest person to swim the English Channel and the first female Baptist pastor in Alabama.

Superlatives can give institutions and organizations some braggin’ rights.

My home is near Wesleyan College in Macon, Ga., that takes pride in being “the first college in the world chartered to grant degrees to women.”

The historic women’s college is also known for birthing the modern sorority system (through formation of what became Alpha Delta Pi) and creating the first alumnae association. Pretty good braggin’ rights.

So, is Wesleyan the oldest women’s college in the U.S.? Well that’s harder to answer according to numerous sources.

Salem College in the beautiful old Moravian village in North Carolina is older. Its roots go back to 1772, making it the oldest women’s college “by founding date.”

However, it was a primary then high school before offering college degrees in the 1890 — after Wesleyan and 11 others.

Wesleyan was chartered on Dec. 23, 1836; classes began on Jan. 7, 1839.

And Mount Holyoke College, founded in 1837, prides itself on being “oldest of the Seven Sisters” schools.

In whatever realm of life, people seem drawn to superlatives. That’s why applications will increase at the University of Alabama for next year — even though a high school senior in the class of 2010 played no role in the achievement of a national football championship.

Is it not fair to say that we all like to be winners? To run the fastest, catch the biggest fish, to finish at the top of class?

Achieving our greatest potential is certainly a worthy goal. Yet one of the challenges for people of faith is to do so while remembering that personal ambition must be tempered by a call to concern for others.

Among the more challenging things Jesus said is: “But many that are first shall be last; and the last first”(Mark 10:31 KJV). Now that’s an odd way to be a superlative.

[Photo: The statue of superlative Henry Louis Aaron — the greatest home-run hitter of all times with a record 755 steroid-free dingers.]

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