The lucky beat the best

School flag-bear­ers will be cho­sen by lot, rather than top pupils win­ning the honor

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

The gov­ern­ment has scrapped a long tra­di­tion of hon­or­ing top pupils by select­ing them to carry the na­tional flag in school pa­rades. From now on flag-bear­ers will be cho­sen by lot. Op­po­si­tion par­ties crit­i­cized this as part of the SYRIZA party’s as­sault on ex­cel­lence.

A pres­i­den­tial de­cree pub­lished in the Gov­ern­ment Gazette on Tuesday sets out the new pro­ce­dure for select­ing flag-bear­ers, and those flank­ing them, in pri­mary school pa­rades. Two pupils in sixth grade (the fi­nal year of pri­mary school) will be cho­sen by lot each year, with one serv­ing from the start of the aca­demic year un­til Jan­uary 31 and the other from Fe­bru­ary 1 to the end of the school year. This means dif­fer­ent pupils will carry the flag in pa­rades to mark In­de­pen­dence Day on March 25 and Oxi Day on Oc­to­ber 28, which com­mem­o­rates Greece’s re­sponse to an Ital­ian ul­ti­ma­tum in 1940 and the coun­try’s en­try into World War II. The pupils will be se­lected by lot, with all class mem­bers be­ing el­i­gi­ble. Un­til now, pupils with the high­est marks in their class were se­lected. After 1990, when many im­mi­grants came to Greece, there were loud de­bates when the top pupils were chil­dren of im­mi­grants, with the pub­lic be­ing split be­tween those who saw these flag bear­ers as val­i­da­tion of a cul­ture of tol­er­ance and oth­ers who wanted only Greeks to carry the flag.

New Democ­racy’s spokesper­son for ed­u­ca­tion, Niki Ker­ameos, ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of “over­turn­ing a decades-long tra­di­tion,” and added, “The mes­sage that we give our youth is that they don’t need to make an ef­fort to achieve suc­cess, they need only luck.” The Po­tami party de­clared that “each day, the SYRIZA-In­de­pen­dent Greeks gov­ern­ment shows in word and deed its ide­o­log­i­cal al­lergy to all forms of achieve­ment and ex­cel­lence.” Shortly after the coali­tion was formed in early 2015, its first ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter, Aris­tides Bal­tas, told Par­lia­ment that “ex­cel­lence is a stain.” Yes­ter­day, Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Costas Gavroglou de­clared that ev­ery pupil “should have the op­por­tu­nity to honor the flag and to be hon­ored by it.”

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