The Graduate

The High School graduation of a grandchild prompts some musings on the state of public education.

In a few short minutes I’ll begin a trip across the great state of New Hampshire to attend my granddaughter’s* high school graduation ceremony.


M** has, as they say, completed one journey and is now about to embark upon another.

She is the first of my four grandchildren to take this step; the last one won’t complete it until 2033, which will be more than half a century after I did my own tassel flip.

To get the pro forma out of the way: CONGRATULATIONS! Not everyone makes it this far, not everyone does as well as you have and we are all very proud of you!

My own HS graduation was a political and physical nightmare; on the day of our last rehearsal (and we needed it – my graduating class had close to 1,000 students in it) several of the students, including at least one class officer, mooned the administration from the busses carting us away and it was announced that they would be banned from participating in the ceremony.

My class (to whom the school dedicated a plaque commending us for our spirit and fortitude, which translates to, “we’re not gonna take it!”) quickly organized a protest as we had many times before (walkouts, election scandals) and convinced the administration of the error of their ways, which eliminated the politics of the situation but not the physical issues: the school band, tapped to play Pomp & Circumstance, had to record themselves so they could take breaks because – no one should be asked to play Pomp & Circumstance for that long.

While High School, for me, was a pretty good experience, and most definitely a socializing, melting pot one that I remember mostly with fondness and that certainly taught me a lot beyond the book learning, I wonder how similar M’s was; I’ve read and witnessed more than enough regarding ridiculous school policies, teachers with hidden agendas, lack of proper funding and the whole “home schooling” debate (which I disagree with almost without exception) to believe that her High School journey was not like my own. (Most certainly not: I graduated in an era that was still teaching typing and slide rule and there was a smoking area for students.)

Public Education used to be, for better or worse, one of the few shared experiences the vast majority of US citizens engaged in, and a largely unifying one: when we held our class walkouts in protest against bad administration policy, it wasn’t just the student council nerds standing out on the school lawn: the jocks, the stoners, the cool kids, the slackers, the cheerleaders, everyone was out there. We were still able to find enough common ground to join together to accomplish common goals.

I’m not so sure that exists anymore, and I think we’re all paying a price for its lack.

*I have a complicated family: the HS graduate is actually a “step-step grandchild”
**M full name redacted because I did not ask her permission to name her prior to writing this.

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