My husband and I have decided not to go to another graduation ceremony. We have no guilt about this. We really wonder why it took us so long to realize we had this option. We will happily attend graduation parties or dinners, but we will not again subject ourselves to the self-congratulatory speeches of government entities or those trying to mimic this in an effort to validate their educational journey. We will send gifts and offer heart felt congratulations for goals achieved, but we will not sit for painful hours waiting for the 5 seconds when “our” student is recognized as having jumped through all the government hoops. We will encourage the students in our sphere to go out and take life by the horns, but we will not be part of the charade about every graduating class finally saving the world from the rest of us.
We have had our fair share of graduation experiences. We both attended our own high school graduations. I had a college graduation for my Bachaelor’s degree in Nursing, but it was a class of 25 students that all knew each other from 2 years of close work. The graduation “ceremony” was very student directed, all of the nursing graduates were very interactive throughout; but most importantly, it was short. Hubby had no qualms about skipping his large college ceremony.
Then, we took part in graduation ceremonies for our first five homeschooled children. It had not yet occurred to us that this was just another facet of the very system we had already decided was inefficient and wasteful. Even these coordinators were often so worried about appearing legitimate to the government (that they ostensibly wanted nothing to do with), that they made all the pre-graduation meetings and requirements religiously suffocating. I was asked once to be part of running it for the next few years, but was not comfortable taking the pledge that I would maintain their standards, which ironically did much to strip away parental decision making. Even here, with their strict formality, the tedium of the event eventually broke down many in the audience, who ended up screaming so loudly when each graduate finally had his or her name called, that my head would jerk reflexively and painful at the sound, even though I knew it was coming.
We went to a public high school graduation “ceremony” for an extended family member in the local stadium. There was no attempt of the crowd to be quiet here. The singing and speeches could only be faintly heard from our high altitude seating. People were in constant motion in the aisles, blocking our view of the proceedings. I think I resorted to reading a book, while trying to wait for “our” student, that we were there to support.
Since we had not yet learned our lesson, we went to our son’s university graduation ceremony. That was longer and more exhausting than any of my drug free labors giving birth to our seven children. We listened to the attending professors congratulate themselves on their own accomplishments for a couple of hours (well, it sure seemed like a couple of hours – maybe it was longer?). While we sat in bleachers. After driving hours and walking from very inconvenient parking to honor our son. We tried not to lose our minds as they went on to talk about school improvements and goals. I will be forever grateful that our last name begins with a “B” and we were far enough up in the stands to slip out when we did.
We have nothing against celebrations and commemorating significant milestones in life. We do question the increasingly laborious rituals that seem to have as their main goal validating the need for government sanction of educational effort. Or is it the government validating itself by bestowing it’s approval on the work of the students? Did the students succeed because of the government or in spite of it? How do government awards, or awards from people in the community you have never met and will probably never see again, add any meaning to what has been accomplished? It’s like taxing us and then saying they are “providing” resources for us. Um, no. You are laundering my money and skimming some of it off before giving pennies on the dollar back, if that much. Likewise, with education, government is dictating how our children must spend their time, using much of that time to teach the children how to think in ways that suit the government, and then awarding us for being good slaves. With a printed piece of paper. Typical.
When it came time for our sixth child to graduate “homeschool high school”, she was in full agreement with us that the graduation rituals and ceremony were a waste of her time. We wanted to have a little party and honor her, but came upon the idea of our own version of a graduation ceremony in our living room. It was part spoof and part memorable words from both my husband and our graduating daughter. Sort of a debriefing from all we had previously been subjected to.
My husband, who is famous for his monosyllabic conversational skills, had prepared a speech a few minutes before our family activity. It ended up being the precious words of encouragement of a father that far surpassed any canned speech from a “respected community member.” Our graduating daughter also gave a short, jam-packed presentation of her perspective on life. For the first time, I came away from a “graduation ceremony” truly refreshed.
Now, our youngest and current graduate also emphatically does not want to be part of a standard graduation ceremony. She has sat through enough of them, and she loves her friends and family too much to ask them to go through it. If she needs encouragement about choices at this point in her life, she knows where to get it, day after day. We may watch the 20 minute video of the short family “proceedings” for her sister’s graduation two years ago, which is as inspiring as any entertainment out there. But, other than that, we will pass through the constantly occurring milestones in life without the empty, but mind-numbing, pomp and pretension carried out in the name of appearing “legitimate”.
Here is the video of Natalie is one sister’s kimono (costume from their production of the Mikado) “receiving” another sister’s college diploma case:
You might also find I Do Not Think This Word Education Means What You Think It Means and An Unlikely Introduction to Homeschooling interesting.