Humans are naturally competitive, and some people are more competitive than others based on the way they were raised, and their dispositions. Competition is healthy to a certain extent, and can help motivate people to do their best. Yet, competition is easily overdone, and has been known to drive people mad.
As University becomes more challenging to get into, students are responding with more competition. This competition probably started out as a good thing, and was a way to encourage students to excel. And somehow the competition has turned into a nasty system of outdoing one another, and creating a negative class culture. Each year students prepare more for the SAT and ACT, spending thousands on prep classes. Then they take more AP classes than should be legal, join so many clubs they can't remember all the acronyms, and join every possible sports team. Bottom line is, the competition level being created is not healthy by any stretch of the imagination.
Class rank is a huge deal to everyone at my school, and my class is ridiculously competitive. Class rank is a way that the education systems organize their students into levels of achievement, and could not be a more blatant way to say to students "here, look at this list and compare yourself to everyone else in your class". It's like producing a list of factory workers, and organizing them into levels of production. Yet we are told that high school supposedly isn't a factory. I don't buy it.
Everyone fights for rank one, and has begun to measure their worth based on class rank. Of course to be ranked one, a student must take classes that are weighted, like IB or AP, and must not take any unweighted classes. What this means is that students avoid taking classes that interest them like Bible as Literature, Film & Broadcasting, or Visual Arts because it would drop their class rank. That is just plain horrifying. Back when my teachers were in high school, most took minimal classes senior year, classes that interested them, and did not kill themselves to be at the top. They didn't study for months for the SAT, they simply signed up and took the test, only trying to do their best. They weren't worried about how many volunteer hours they had or how many leadership positions they held. They did what brought them joy, and found meaning in the classes they took (they had fun). That is normal, and the way that high school still should be. But I fear that as time progresses, the problem is only getting worse.
Besides being unrealistic, and totally ludicrous, students don't realize what they're losing in their attempt to be the best. Students forget how to have fun and enjoy their teen years, they lose themselves (or can't even even find themselves) because they are doing exactly as they are told and nothing else. Students are not trying out classes to see if they enjoy a new field or hobby, they are taking the classes that they know will boost their rank. So what does this all mean? That students are not truly getting the high school experience, they are just killing themselves truing to win, not getting meaning and joy out of what they do. No matter your class rank, if you developed yourself as a person in high school, and chose your own path, then you won the race too.
In my opinion, class rank should be eliminated to encourage students to do their best, and find love in the work they do. This would place an emphasis on personal accomplishments and discourage students from comparing themselves to others. Class rank one does not mean that you won the "race", it means that you were the best at following the right steps and failing to think for yourself. Class rank is the most atrocious way of putting students into "boxes" that literally measure their worth, and can change their future for better or worse.