“High school academics are a game that the players must learn to beat in order to climb the leaderboards of class rank.”
Jonathan Chu graduated high school in 2016 as Valedictorian – and gave a speech that went viral on YouTube.
In it, he lambasted the state of education – and the ‘game’ that high schoolers are forced to play to earn their place at college.
“The system, imposed upon us by tradition, has separated true education from academic achievement.”
When David Taylor Gomes and Kyle Holmes asked their theatre students about the top concerns they faced in high school and in life, the fight to get into college and the ‘game’ of GPA point-scoring was high up the list for many of them.
“David and I had worked together for about seven years, and we’d seen a lot of our students be really successful with college admissions and we’d seen a lot of them really struggle. But more importantly, I think we had seen the toll that that process took on them throughout the school year,” said Kyle.
And so, they wrote and produced Ranked – a musical telling the story of high school students obsessed with their grades and class ranking, and the impact it can have on their future. The show’s tag line sums it: “pain is temporary, grades last forever”.
At the end of Act 1, the twist is revealed: one of the student’s parents has been secretly paying to inflate their child’s grade.
“When we first suggested that idea we actually got a lot of pushback on it,” said Kyle, “people thought it was so unrealistic: how would he not know what his parents were doing? And we’re sitting there thinking, school is a lot harder than you remember.”
But, of course, David and Kyle were vindicated by the college admissions scandal – that broke out just before performances were due to begin.