Don’t ever get me started about graduation. It is a bad topic to bring up.
First, graduation should be 90% about the graduates, and 10% about the parents. It is, sadly the other way around. My mother is a prime example. She made it very clear to me that graduation was nothing about my work or me, and everything about a day that she had earned to enjoy. True, mom and dad footed half of my undergrad bill and my entire high school bill, and I guess I had always thought that was out of love or something like that. I guess they (mom) felt very owed, and graduation was her baby. Needless to say, I don’t have any happy memories about the ceremony. I remember my mom cheered at my undergraduate ceremony, and I felt terribly embarrassed … she didn’t care about my feelings, but then again, it was about her, not me.
The one thing I can say was that at least my high school graduation, being that it was a private school and such, was a dignified affair. It went quickly, there was no cheering for individuals. It was a quick nice ceremony.
I attended my brother’s graduation at the public high school, and it was really not a nice ceremony. There were kids putting on their gowns after they had entered the gym, kids were leaving their seats to go hug each other while they were waiting for everyone else to come in. Twice they had to stop th reading of names because things were too noisy. They had to put a rope, manned by a security guard across the back of the aisle to prevent parents from moving up en mass to take pictures and give things to the graduates which would have slowed down an already long ceremony. When the ceremony was over, the security guard pulled the rope aside a little quickly, knocking over the standard, ad yelled “Alright kids, shows over, get outta here!”
My first year teaching, I attended the graduation ceremony (I had seniors, so I knew a lot of graduates). It was worse than my brothers. The ceremony took (literally) twice as long as it should have because of the general disorganization introduced by the students who didn’t listen to anything at practice, and the reading of names had to be slowed to a crawl because parents just would not stop from cheering and yelling at every SINGLE NAME! When the last name was read, there was general applause, and people started moving toward the exits as the assistant principal attempted to read a poem (she chose a long poem that while nice was wholly inappropriate for this particular crowd, as it was impossible to hear here as the crowd was already getting choice places to stand to greet their kid. It was a mess!
At the new school, I managed to avoid graduation for a very long time, but had to take it up about three years ago. It was held at the beautiful Rosemont Theater. As soon as the kids hit the stage, the cell phones came out, and they started texting … they did not care about anything that was happening, and their only memories of the ceremony will be texting their friends and walking across the stage. The hooting and hollering wasn’t as bad as the last school, but, sadly, it tended to be the parents of the worst students who did the hooting and hollering … talk about embarrassing! Sadly, my number has come up, and I will be doing graduation again next year. This year’s ceremony was punctuated by a fistfight between fathers in the lobby during the processional (police intervention required), and one of our non-graduating seniors dashing across the stage dressed as Santa Claus. He was smart in that he wore the beard, but not smart in that he was registered to take summer school with us to make up his deficient credit, and now will be going elsewhere to do that.
That takes me toe the above story (for those still awake). A school in Cincinnati has decided to withhold the diploma of a student whose parents decide to hoot and holler when he walked across the stage at graduation. He can get his diploma if he and/or his family do 20 hours of community service.
On the one hand, the school is wrong for sounding like they are penalizing the student for the action of the family. Not to mention, this sets a bad precedent: if I was a mom, and a kid who my son/daughter didn’t get along with was walking across the stage, I would be temped to start hooting and hollering. Good luck trying to sort that out.
That said, I applaud that the school tried to do something. For one thing, they are simply withholding the paper, not the transcripts, so anyone heading to college isn’t going to be interfered with. If you can live without the paper (or if you have someone with a scanner and descent document manipulation skills, you can make your own), this isn’t that big a deal at all. Had this been me graduating, I could live without the paper, and if mom was so desperate to get it, she could go do the community service.
Further, this policy was not sprung on anyone. When ordering tickets, parents were required to sign off on this policy, so that they knew what they were getting into (I say, let ’em crash!). This family was not singled out, and three other families were in fact told that they would need to perform the community service for excessively long disruptions as well.
Further … is it really the kid being punished? The kid is getting everything he needs (transcript to college to get away from the parents who are obviously screwing with him psychologically). It is the parents who are upset that they are unfulfilled. The school is allowing them to perform the community service, so really, is the kid getting hurt by the school. I would argue “no”. Is the kids getting penalized by his parents? I would argue “yes”. In that case, it sounds like the guilty are being punished, and the innocent are being left alone.
WARNING: The following section contains language that may be offensive to some readers. Reader discretion is advised.
To rant further … I for one would like to see school move to a two ceremony system. One ceremony is dignified, quick, meaningful .. march in to Pomp and Circumstance. The other could be held earlier/later in the day or on a different day. Kids could enter to Entry of the Gladiators. Kids could be encouraged to express themselves within the boundaries of good taste: ride a bike across the stage, play a musical instrument, take as long as you want, and best of all the whole gym can be encouraged to hoot, holler, scream, set off air horns, fireworks, and even small amounts of C-4 to celebrate the kid sliding out of high school with a 2.0. I think this makes everyone happy! Go to one, go to both … but if you go to the dignified ceremony, you keep your fucking mouth shut and don’t make a fucking sound unless it is appropriate to do so.