In a few days, I’ll be covering one of my least-favorite events ever: a high school graduation.
Graduation is touted as a time of joy and celebration for those involved — which partially explains why I’m so bored by them as a spectator — but I can all but guarantee even the cap-and-gown-clad teens will very soon forget damn near every detail of this special day.
A mere six months after I graduated from Falmouth High School (Class of 1988), I’d forgotten everything that happened at commenceent. Quiz me and I’d have been unable to tell you the names of the speakers or what they said, what sort of music the school band played, et cetera. All I remember was that the FHS field house was hot and stuffy, and that I just wanted everyone to shut the hell up and give me my damned diploma so I could escape that misery factory once and for all.
Celebration? Not so much. More like a profound sense of relief at the end of a long, arduous journey. Commencements, to my mind, are not terribly conducive to full-throttle celebration.
While my friends typically have more pleasant recollections of their high school commencement activities, the “big day” seems to have likewise deteriorated into a soft mush of vague quasi-memories. If they still remember their guest speaker, chances are it was some sort of minor celebrity. Or he dropped an F-bomb during his speech.
What this says to me about graduation is that it is nothing more than the last rote exercise people as public school students will have to endure before marching off to a new set of rote exercises as adults. Graduation is no more than a bland, unimaginative checklist of perfunctory non-moments:
* Entrance to Pomp and Circumstance, one of the most lifeless tunes meant to convey pomp and/or circumstance.
* The principal’s welcome, in which he/she mangles a slightly dated pop culture reference in a doomed effort to appear hip (“As the kids from the show ‘Glee Club’ once sang, don’t stop believin’.”)
* Speeches from the salutatorian and valedictorian, who invariably begin their speeches with, “[Famous person] once said…” or “The dictionary defines [word setting tone for rest of speech] as…” In-jokes about favorite teachers, idealized memories of senior year, and shout-outs to family and friends for their support are standard.
* Speech from the guest speaker, who offers graduates an optimism-tinged gentle warning about their futures.
* The endless parade of students taking the stage to accept their diplomas. One out of every eight graduates will make a face or flash a victory/peace sign or thumb’s up or call out to someone in the audience to disrupt the otherwise dry, dour atmosphere.
* Final speech by the class president, who follows the graduation speech formula.
* File out to, again, Pomp and Circumstance.
* Progress to a be-set site to throw mortarboards in the air so photographers can get their shot, which has all the spirited spontaneity and rebellious verve of any rock guitarist who isn’t Pete Townsend has smashed his guitar on-stage.
Yep. Real memorable.
If by some chance there are any high school students reading this: it is time to kill graduation as we know it.
High school graduation is in desperate need of reinvention. It needs to be seriously shaken up, ripped off his comfortable foundation, changed to something that resembles an actual celebration and not some empty exercise that exists largely for the benefit of parents who want to see their kids get a diploma.
Ditch the caps and gowns. Skip the speeches and let kids put together musical montages or short films or run a PowerPoint presentation of photos they’ve taken throughout the year — something alive and artistic and meaningful. Marching in to Pomp and Circumstance? Screw that. I want to see students enter like they were pro wrestlers on their way to the ring, with ear-splitting theme music, pyro, and a video projected on a massive TV screen.
This, high school seniors, is your day. You only get this day once, so it up the way you want it to.
The views and opinions in the Enterprise blogs are those of the author and are not neccessarily shared by Falmouth Publishing.