The word "valedictorian" in the USA and Canada, means the top graduate of the graduating class of an educational institution.

Usually the choice is made based on highest average grade (GPA), i.e. range voting by the professors on all students (with grades=votes, and professors who did not have that student, hence never graded that student, voting "blanks").

However, I was surprised to find from wikipedia that other choice procedures have also been used: such as a (plurality?!) vote of the senior students, the "amount of dedication to certain extracurricular activities," the academic weight of classes taken, or direct appointment by the school administration based on a more complex system of merit than grades alone.

Perhaps the first known use of the "valedictorian" in the English language was by Reverend Edward Holyoke, Harvard College president, who noted in a 1759 diary entry "Officers of the Sophisters [upperclassmen] chose Valedictorian." So as you can see, although range voting is now by far the most popular method of choosing college valedictorians, it did not start out that way. This consensus arose only after experimentation with other systems.

Range voting experience

When you add up the number of schools out there choosing valedictorians in this way each year, you realize that the total amount of human experience conducting range voting elections (measured by number of elections) actually is comparable to or exceeds the number of "conventional" plurality-voting elections choosing government officials.

So don't let anybody ever tell you that there isn't enough real world experience with range voting. And indeed once you know that honeybees use range voting each year to choose a new nest site, you realize that actually, far more range voting "elections" have been held by bees than the entire number of humans who ever lived.

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