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Editorial Archives The Altamont Enterprise, July 7, 2011
By Anne Hayden
I’ve had seven graduation ceremonies, but I hold only one degree.
That’s seven diplomas, and seven unflattering pictures of me wearing seven different mortarboards (OK some were only made of paper.)
The first time I graduated, I was 3, and I have no recollection of it. The second time, I was 4, and I vaguely remember wearing a hat with a tassel and making hand motions to go along with a silly song. When I was 5, the ceremony included a full-length play in addition to the diploma handouts.
When I was 11, in the sixth grade, I started to think graduation was a big deal. That was the first year my diploma came in its very own fake leather binding, and I got to do a reading at the ceremony, too.
In eighth grade, things got fancy. I had to get a floor-length dress and have my hair done at the salon. The ceremony was a full Mass, plus a class song and a cake-and-punch reception.
High school and college, those were legitimate cap and gown; leather-bound diploma; “Pomp and Circumstance”; big gifts from the family. And, of course, from college, my degree.
So, what is the ultimate significance of all these graduations? Personally, I think everything except the high school and college ceremonies is a bunch of fluff. It’s just an excuse for parents to “ooh” and “ahhh” over how cute their kids are.
Because really, what else has been achieved before those early graduations? Did I graduate from nursery school because I learned how to play with my Play-Doh instead of eat it? Maybe I graduated from pre-school (how does one even graduate from a school that comes before school?) because I didn’t color too far outside the lines. I am pretty sure they graduated me from kindergarten because I sat nicely on my carpet square during circle time (supposedly I also kissed a boy during circle time, which was against the rules, but thankfully I graduated anyway).
My mom, who taught elementary school for nearly 30 years, had some thoughts on the topic of graduation, which, to me, were surprising. She believes these graduation milestones are important to the kids and the parents.
“It teaches the kids that education is important, that they are progressing toward something, and working to achieve something,” she said.
Well, I don’t remember thinking any such thing, but kindergarten was 21 years ago, so perhaps that graduation convinced me I did want to finish elementary school, and heck, maybe even go to college someday!
On the other hand, my mom is concerned with the amount of attention showered on the young kids by their families after these less-than-momentous occasions. Five-year-olds are getting elaborate parties, expensive gifts, and even money, just because they learned the alphabet and played well with others.
“It fosters the attitude that every little thing they do is worthy of a party and gifts,” said my mom. Well, that may be true.
I do recall being slightly miffed that I didn’t receive extravagant gifts and exorbitant amounts of money after my sixth- and eighth-grade graduations, like my friends did.
Perhaps in the coming years, we’ll start to see a graduation ceremony after every year of school completed. That way, just in case any students had been thinking of dropping out, the graduation (and the money and gifts) would entice them to continue on through at least one more grade.
In the meantime, I’ll hold on to my seven diplomas in hopes of adding more to the collection. There must be other graduations in my future, right? After all, I went through seven in a span of 26 years that’s more than one every four years, on average. If I live to be 86, and continue on at the same rate, I could gather 10 more.
What’s next for me? Graduate school? Law school? Dog obedience class? (If my dog technically earns the diploma, does that still count?)