“There’s a time for joy. There’s a time for tears. A time we’ll treasure through the years. We’ll remember always graduation day.”
On Thursday night, I had the honor of addressing graduates at two of our high schools. As I surveyed the audience, I saw both tears and an abundance of joy. I spoke about several students of the class of 2018, whom had overcome insurmountable odds to receive a diploma–a Congo refugee, who had been raped and fled to America with her baby. This senior mastered English in less than six months, worked, and went to school full time and earned a scholarship to nursing school. I spoke about a special education student who was a member of the golf and the tennis team and the concert band. I spoke about a male dancer who’s a character of the video game, So You Think You Can Dance, –yes, he’s that well-known, and a guy who invented a new guitar pedal, which will revolutionize modern music.
When I reflect on my high school graduation–over 50 years ago, I remember how special it was for the families of many of my classmates, whose parents were immigrants. I remember the fabulous graduation parties with wonderful ethnic food. And I remember the brewing war in Viet Nam. While it was a joyous time, it was also a time for fear.
Last night, my neighbor (originally from England) asked, “Sue, what’s up with all this graduation bs? In England, high school graduation was expected. University graduation was cause for a celebration.”
Now, I could have launched into a long oration about the history of American education and the symbolic, significance of high school graduation, but I refrained. For me, high school graduation is the first educational mile marker on the road of life. Yet, I’m dismayed it has been both marginalized and commercialized by such ludicrous traditions of preschool, kindergarten, sixth grade, and eighth grade graduations. Caps and gowns, limos, and parties ad nauseam for mere children? Why?