National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version

Spring 2018


Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council 19:1 (Spring/Summer 2018), pp9-14.


© Copyright 2018 by the National Collegiate Honors Council.


In her lead forum essay, Naomi Yavneh Klos thoughtfully encourages us to reexamine our admissions practices in honors. She argues,

"We need a more nuanced reevaluation of standards that recognizes the role of systemic bias in traditional metrics of academic excellence and that holistically evaluates each student’s strengths and challenges in the context of individual and cultural experience. Such practices strengthen honors by identifying a diverse spectrum of students who both benefit from and enrich our honors community. (8)"

I would like to take that call for reevaluation one step further by asking members of the honors community to interrogate the way we narratively frame honors experiences so that these constructs are as inclusive as possible. Employing admissions practices that do not disadvantage students from underrepresented backgrounds is crucial, but also essential is that we do not unintentionally turn away such students even before they might consider applying to honors. The way we discuss honors and the stories we tell about it can signal to underrepresented students that they do not belong. One way to think about this issue is to pose a question, with apologies to Raymond Carver: What do we talk about when we talk about honors? Ultimately, I want to think about how success narratives are structured in honors education; ask how open or available these narratives are to students from underrepresented backgrounds; and make sure we are not simply reinforcing privilege when our narratives make promises to students about what it means to join the honors community.