Can We Please Stop Celebrating High School Graduation?

[From the archives. Four years later, one high school graduating class, I think it stands up pretty well.]

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.

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

  1. I haven’t Grand Slammed in awhile, but the TSA agent in MSP a few weeks ago did ask if I had a replaced hip or knee. I was proud of myself for maintaining my poise and not getting thrown in the airport clinker.

  2. Wow! Never saw HS graduation as just another day of the week. True, the day after you graduated from high school you still had to take out the garbage, brush your teeth, and, presumably, go to your low level job to save money for college, or to have beer money until you start basic training for your military career. But for many students, it IS an accomplishment to that school diploma. And IS a stake in the ground where mom and dad as well as the student get to let that thought officially ( not sure that’s best choice of words) sink in, that its time to say good to childhood and say hello to “holy crap! I’ve got to figure this stuff out on my own.” Also, the parents get to lament and rejoice that the little know-it-all is getting out of the home permantly(?), not counting when they come home to raid the fridge, do laundry, and borrow $ so they can get reconnected with their high school buddies they haven’t seen in 3 months. That could because they’re returning from collegefor a holiday, or live at the “man house” 2 miles away. Finally, remember when you graduated? Me neither, but I do remember thinking, ” I’ve got this figured it”, when in fact, you didn’t have much of a clue. So, sit back, have a beer and look the young whippersnappers, and smile at their next step forward, or sideways, or even backwards! And then go for a ride, a swim, or run a bit, and burn off those extra calories from the potato salad, jello salad, and the 4 brownies (don’t deny it,) you forced yourself to enjoy!

    • Thanks DANgenerous. Here’s another thoughtful counter-argument from a college friend who I taught high school with in the late 80’s in South-Central LA. Today, she’s a principal at a Humanities Magnet High School in Pasadena. “Have to disagree. Have labored alongside just over 700 students of color, many the first in their family to finish 8th grade, let alone high school. Their pride and that of their families, especially their little brothers and sisters who will come after them, is about the most privileged thing I’ve ever experienced….”

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