Patrick Welsh, an English teacher at a high school not too far up the road from here*, has another excellent observation on American education in the Sunday Post. He looks at high school graduation and comes away feeling something’s missing.
For most students there is little substance to the process of commencement, and possibly even high school.
A high school education has undeniably lost luster through the years. Back in the 1920s, when my dad was the only one of his first-generation Irish buddies to go on to college, getting out of high school was a real commencement. It meant the end of your formal education, going to work, and the start of life as an independent adult. Even 35 years ago, when I started teaching at T.C., graduation carried more weight, if only because, after years of segregation, many of the African American kids were the first in their families to earn a high school diploma.
In the end, despite the cynicism of many students and his own doubts as to the value of graduation as a rite of passage, Welsh and his colleagues still feels the emotions that some (like the many first generation Americans attending his school) bring to the ceremony.
For anyone who’s taught high school, this is an honest look at a show that, like funerals, is designed for the observers, not the participants.
*"up the road" if I was home and not in Philadelphia right now. :-)