Can We Please Stop Celebrating High School Graduation?

Like it’s an amazing accomplishment that means something significant. Note to the graduates. We expected you to successfully finish all twelve grades.

For shit’s sake, my cycling training is suffering and I missed a triathlon in Portland last weekend because of the first of an endless number of graduation-related events that dot the Byrnes family social calendar.

We’re long overdue on updating our traditions. Forty-fifty years ago a high school diploma was meaningful. High school graduates could get manufacturing jobs and support families. Now, a high school diploma is simply a ticket to continue around the game board of life. That’s all. It’s not an amazing accomplishment. And to the well intentioned people congratulating me in church on Sunday, not necessary. I didn’t sit in boring class after boring class or complete any homework. I did inquire about school at dinner (to no avail) and I did drive the forgotten violin to school a few times, but that’s hardly grounds for congratulations.

Here’s what graduating from high school means, plain and simple. Instead of having most decisions made for you, you get to make more of them yourself. Enlist in the military or enroll in a vocational program, a community college, or a four year college or university. In a few more years, if you apply yourself in one or more of those settings, you will have sufficient knowledge and skills to begin making a positive difference in people’s lives and get paid a living wage. And you’ll be economically independent.

And then we’ll party hearty.

8 thoughts on “Can We Please Stop Celebrating High School Graduation?

  1. Bravo! I agree. A simple family BBQ to acknowledge the exit from one fine institution and a summer break before entry into the next (you choose!) fine instituion, and that’s what life is! …”Around the board we go”, love it!

  2. Amen bro!

    In this “backwoods ass backward” geographical area I live in high school graduations are celebrated with huge parties in rented halls with catered meals, etc. The vast majority of people involved (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, graduates themselves) have no plan whatsoever for life after graduation. It’s “party time!”

    i try to explain to everyone involved the graduates are still unable to achieve any type of employment leading to financial idependence but, invariably, am told that graduating from high school is a “fantastic accomplishment” and a “really big deal.”

    I don’t “get it” and I’m glad to see you don’t either.

    Keep up the great work!

  3. I’m sorry I tried to send you an email but I ended up emailing you your own contact page. I’m writing a speech for my own High School graduation and would like to reference ideas I got from this article. I wouldn’t call it by name or indicate you as the author (unless you wish it so). Would you mind if I commented on this piece in front of a crowd? Thank you.

  4. I’m from England and I just went to a middle school graduation. There were 13 year olds wearing gowns talking about how much they’d grown and achieved at middle school like they’d just received their doctorates in a natural science.. In England we don’t graduate anything until university so it was all quite bizarre to me. I did some research and a US high school diploma is equivalent to 5 GCSEs in the UK. The notion of ‘graduating’ with that is almost hilarious to me, we sit those exams at 16 and it’s comically easy to get 5 GCSEs. I’m not trying to take away from real achievements but in my humble opinion not every minor stage of life needs to be treated like you just got a degree. ^.^

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