Who Are We Celebrating At Graduation?
I wrote this in May 2009. It is still relevant today.
Celebration for all graduates
I was a part of three life changing events this week. The first was my son 16-year-old son dropping out of Lee's Summit High School. The emotional and psychological damage of going to school wasn't worth the little educational benefit that he was receiving.
The second was my twin daughter’s graduating from Lee's Summit High School. They were average students that had to work very hard to achieve their success. That was something that we weren't allowed to celebrate at their graduation. The only students that were recognized were those in the top ten percent.
The third was the graduation of my nephew from Missouri University of Science and Technology. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and a bachelor's degree in computer engineering. He was a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. He is also a graduate of Lee's Summit High School.
The first graduation was a status symbol for the Lee's Summit School District. There were many speeches about how well the top ten percent did. The were many honors bestowed on the students that made the district look like it had earned it's reputation. There was no time for each student and their family to savor the success of their child.
Parents were not allowed to clap for their children. They were allowed to stand when their student's name was called. However they were made to sit down immediately. I had two graduates and was forced to sit before my second child got her diploma. The security at this graduation was stronger and more aggressive than that of the security where the president is making a speech.
The graduation at Missouri S&T was about four years of accomplishment and the celebration that comes with it. The students walked down the aisle very slowly. When their name was called they walked slowly across the stage and the audience was allowed to applaud and the band even played for band mates. They didn't distinguish which students had accomplished the most and they didn't speak about their student’s accomplishments as if S&T was personally responsible for them.
At the Lee's Summit graduation the students were rushing down the aisle at a near run. Two students were crossing the stage at the same time and parents were removed from the building if they applauded the success of their children. The audience was told that this was a team effort and that individual praise was not wanted. I certainly don’t remember any of the team members staying up all night to help the other team members accomplish their goals. This was not a team sport. It was an individual effort that warranted individual accolades.
Both graduations lasted for the same amount of time. Both graduations had the same amount of graduates. What was the difference? Missouri S&T were allowing the families and students to celebrate ALL of the student's hard work. Not just the top ten percent. Not the students that made them look good. This is applied ALL of the students.
I walked out of my children’s graduation feeling like their only reward for staying up all night to do homework and struggling through thirteen years of learning was to run across a stage and grab a diploma.
I walked out of my nephew's graduation feeling that I had attended a real celebration of EVERYONE'S hard work.