I went to my best friends graduation today. 363 other seniors walked the stage with her, all in a perfect shade of evergreen. The girls’ high heels faded in and out as they moved closer and farther from the microphone, almost like the drumbeat of a military march.
The students filed in, directed by underclassmen, as though they couldn’t find their way to their assigned seats. I’ve always thought graduation and commencement ceremonies were ironic. Students are finally being set free from an institution that has assessed them from the moment they had any semblance of thought. It is ironic that their last act as a student is to walk into yet another regimented performance and gush about how wonderful the previous four years of their life had been.
You see, I moved away from this particular school district five years ago. I couldn’t help but feel a pang of hurt watching all of my old friends gather to celebrate their accomplishments. I also felt a pang knowing that these people had gone through the same pain I had suffered in high school. They stood at a podium and thanked their teachers, the people who had executed their torture and accepted checks for it. This may sound cynical, but I think all teachers know how wrong the system is, regardless of what they say. It’s just a matter of time before they realize that we’re herded like cattle.
This was the 118th graduating class of this school. 118 groups of students had gone through the same procession. Their individuality, creativity, and achievements all being grouped under Class of XXXX. All of their individual accomplishments are dispersed among the rest of their students under the umbrella that is their class. But just like many other western institutions, we value humility and generosity in all aspects of our lives. The school system has taken that to mean sharing efforts, even if the work to achieve them wasn’t.