My alternative title: High School Graduation: A Tale of Two Schools.
In most Phoenix area high schools, graduation is scheduled before Memorial Day. For many of our students, the event marks the end of their formal, education. It is a celebratory experience for not only the kids, but for their families and friends. And since I’ve just finished steaming my gown for the 19th time, I find myself in a quandary about the intrusiveness of adults and their righteous rules. (Remember, students must buy their own caps and gowns. Their property, not ours.)
Case #1: A valley high school in the Dysart School District intends to ban a student for decorating her cap and gown to with beads and feathers to reflect her Sioux heritage. However, the school district’s policy dictates that caps and gowns cannot be decorated, and only “school-approved, academic regalia are allowed.” Then, the district added, ” We appreciate the desire of students to honor cultural traditions….traditional clothing or footwear under the gowns are welcomed.” In short, one tradition has been overridden by another’s culture or tradition.
Case #2: On Friday, I met with the principal and her assistant at the high school where I’m scheduled to present diplomas. Now, this is a large, diverse high school with students from a variety of cultures. Their number 1 graduate immigrated from Russia at the onset of her freshman year; she knew NO English when she entered. Additionally, this high school has the International Baccalaureate program, which attracts superstars.
“Dr. Skidmore, I must tell you when I became principal a year ago I was very uncomfortable with the graduation rules–as uncomfortable as many of our students. This is a celebration for kids. Almost two dozen will be the first member of their family to graduate. Our community prides itself on inclusion. I met with student leaders, and the rules were changed. In short, no graduate can insult, disparage, or display profanity. Drugs, or alcoholic messages are prohibited. But we permitted the decorating of caps and gowns to reflect culture and tradition. Students had/have the opportunity to buy stoles that are representative of the Native American or the Hispanic culture. Students may wear leis and other jewelry. In short, we adults worked collaboratively with our kids to permit reasonable self-expression.”
While some of you may be appalled by my reaction, I’m thrilled by these adults who recognize and applaud student diversity. What appalls me is the current head of our nation openly mocking a disabled news reporter, name calling senators and representatives, and bragging about evading paying his taxes. What appalls me is his latest demand for teaching Bible classes in the public schools, when the US Constitution clearly delineates the separation of church and state. After all, he certainly does not adhere to the Ten Commandments.
Yes, I’m 70 years old. I’m not a flaming liberal, nor a rabid conservative. I’m just an old broad, who believes in our children. And I will be very proud to shake their hands when they cross the stage, regardless of beads, feathers, serapes, or leis.