Monday, June 14, 2010

Round Pegs Not Welcome

I went to a high school graduation ceremony last week. It was really long, but it was pretty good too. Harkened back to my own grad ceremony that I'm sure was not near as polished as this one was. We didn't get to wear the graduation gowns and caps and even though our valedictorian has gone on to be a successful actress, their valedictorian speech was a one act play compared to our obituary. No knock against our fine valedictorians who impressed me at the time, but these kids today are slick. The grad class even sang a song together. At my grad there was nothing I had to do but shake the principals hand and sit there and I screwed that up by wearing white socks with my suit that were clearly visible from the audience (how was I supposed to know this was wrong, I think all I had were white socks - regular readers will know of course that most of them were of the tube variety).

Anyhow there was one thing that kind of bugged me and I know these are just high school kids with their forgivable low confidence neurosis to deal with, so I say this knowing I shouldn't be expecting otherwise. The non-participant participant is a pet peeve of mine in any situation, and it stood out on this night. One particular individual who (and I'm sure there were others less visible) was sitting right smack in the middle was a particular standout. She not only decided she wouldn't wear the cap, but she made no effort at all to join in on the song.

Now maybe there was some religious objection to caps and songs that I am not aware of, however if you're going to show up to take part in an event then you should take part. If you don't want to wear the cap and sing the song and do the little choreographed entrance then maybe you should just give it a pass. If you're too hip to be square then take your round peg and hang out in some other hole.
Another thing that's changed at some point is graduation has changed from a one night event into a series of events that start in May and end in mid-June. There's prom (which we used to think was just some crazy American thing), the grad ceremony and dance (which I think is referred to as dry grad) and then Wet Grad (which I think is referred to as getting drunk). We used to have to do all that in one night. We had to change out of our suits mid-evening so we wouldn't spill our drinks on them.

And by "We", I mean the collective pronoun, because as you well know, Little Jackie Showers wasn't much of a drinker back in the day. Which is a good thing because studies show that high school binge drinking can impair the growth of your frontal cortex. And if you don't know what a frontal cortex is then shame on you for drinking so much in your high school years. However if you did so just to be a keen participate in the grad festivities then you are forgiven. Just that once.


  1. These grad ceremonies sound ridiculous. But I agree with you on the non-participant participant. I don't know if she should have skipped the whole thing, but why not sit unobtrusively off to the side? And furthermore, why aren't more kids sitting out the song and dance? But teenagers are sheep.

    Was your valedictorian Debra Kara-Unger? Funny that her Wikipedia entry says she was born in 1966.

  2. I was at the same ceremony, participating as a teacher for the nineteenth straight year at this particular establishment, and I would have given a pretty penny if I coulda skipped the ceremony.

    I kid, I kid. Of all the grad ceremonies I've attended, it was certainly one of them. And I've definitely been to many that were far worse ones. The valedictorians were indeed quite accomplished, and their message was both nostalgic and pithy. And I liked the grad's version of the FIFA anthem. The kids wagging the flags around six inches from my nose made me a little nervous (I was in the front row with the other lambs...I mean teachers), but it was a pretty good show, even with the threat of physical harm.

    What really grates on me about the ceremony (other than the length) is that it is something of a con job. It is supposed to be about celebrating individual student accomplishment (I suppose it is something of an accomplishment to survive 13 years of public school education) but with hundreds of students graduating, how can you really do that? I suppose the parents of each graduate will have fond memories of their child walking across the stage, but is the star of the show really the student? Seems to me it is the guy handing out the dogwoods who is at the centre of the evening rather than the students. Are celebrating student accomplishment, or patting ourselves (by which I mean, The Man, or The System, take your pick) on the back for having moulded such fine products of the public school system?

  3. Dan asks, "Are celebrating student accomplishment, or patting ourselves (by which I mean, The Man, or The System, take your pick) on the back for having moulded such fine products of the public school system?"

    Teachers also seem to want to take credit for a particular former student who has gone on to fame, fortune or success in their field, but distance themselves from the failures.

    Hey, I know you get a lot of cashiers reading here. Just wondering their take on the new self-check-out counters. I love 'em! I missed my calling. I rule at the self-check-out. I'm a natural.

  4. Oh Guy, now that last comment is, well, beyond what I would say, and ask Jack I'm not known for my manners or subtle comments.
    I never went to a high school grad', but have a masters degree, I quit school at the start of Gr 11 and worked and travelled before going back to school. I personally think the whole celebration of what has happened is silly.This would include retirement do's too! Live in the present, and celebrate it, be thankful of the past, hopefully learn, and feel good about it, but leave it at that. As for the future???? Ha, cheers, xelA.

  5. Guy, it isn't just the teachers who wanna take all the credit and distance themselves from the failures. It's the entire educational system, from EA's, through admin, trustees and the board office. On grad night is it any wonder that we have school trustees and local politicians delivering predictably self-congratulatory speeches and the principal garnering everyone's attention by standing cetre stage for most of the 3 and 1/2 hour running time (as well as delivering two speeches of his own)?

  6. Another thing that's changed: When I attended my grad ceremony (same as you, LJS, the whole shebang--ceremony, grad party, everything--was held over the course of one long night), the students actually knew that they'd graduated, because finals were over and marks were in BEFORE the night of the grad ceremony.

    I believe this lends a decidedly more authentic celebratory tone to the event.

  7. Indeed.

    That's why it is now called a "recognition ceremony" instead of a "grad ceremony." We are recognizing that these youngsters have in fact put in their time, and are now being parolled into society. They have not necessarily paid their dues, but we're releasing them nonetheless.

  8. It was called a recognition ceremony way back when I gradded, too.

    I have no issue with school trustees or politicians. They deserve the recognition. But don't get me started on the self-serving teachers.

  9. Ha! If this is more than a well aimed shot, and comes with elaboration, I'd love to hear it, cuz I've known my share of 'em, may even have been one from time to time, I dunno, but self-serving teachers had very little to do with what was off about grad night.

    However, none of them--trustees, politicians or teachers--should be delivering dull or predictable speeches. These are folks who deliver public speeches for a living for crying out loud.

    The 17/18 year old valedictorians delivered the best speech of the night. That's really cool, and ever so mildly embarrassing at the same time.

  10. So much emphasis on completing grade 12 by the age of 18! Life happens ... and there are plenty'o reasons why someone may not be able to complete K-12 by that time. Many go on to complete the Dogwood afterwards.

    Personally, I looked down on my own high school grad because I knew I would be going to university afterwards. I feel sorry about that now because the celebration is more about passing a milestone, becoming an adult, rather than graduating from high school. There are many separate awards ceremonies recognizing everything from top students in english, p.e., chemistry, foods, ...

    I say the world needs more celebrations, not fewer.

    And Xela, I believe your manners to be impeccable.


  11. I'm all for celebrations. Let's just be clear on what we're celebrating. Call it grad, or recognition ceremony, or sparkly things are pretty night, if it's supposed to be about the kids, they need to be at the centre of it. Push the adults off to the side and let the kids have the stage. Sez I.

  12. But it's not *just* about the kids, Dan. Or rather, it is, but they want to be accepted and recognized by the leaders in the community, and should be. Maybe they should get more dynamic adult speakers, but I think they should still be there lauding the "grads".

  13. Did you feel accepted into the community as a 17/18 year-old grad?

    Let it be a celebration, cuz the whole "you're an adult now" theme is really just so much hooey.

  14. No, but " I'm an Adult Now ", is a great song! Oh and thank you Sondra, even though "impeccable" is a word I've never had used in the same sentence as my name! Cheers, xelA.