June 11, 2008

no more homework, no more books...

It's the end of school time. And you know what that means.

It means that it's time for my annual almost-get-run-over-by-an-SUV moment in the school crosswalk. Ladies and gentlemen, the last two weeks of school is when you need to be extra defensive and pay extra attention to the rules. I saw a little girl almost get killed yesterday when her parents were in such a hurry that they had her run across the street through traffic. Now, I'm usually in favor of a little chlorine in the gene pool, but I really didn't want to see cute little Jenny splattered across the street.

But the end of school also means ridiculous graduation ceremonies for children too small to know how many syllables are in the word "graduation." (Many high schoolers also don't know, but that's a different rant.) What is the point, exactly, of a kindergarten graduation? A coworker told me today that their school has a full cap and gown graduation ceremony, complete with a procession across the stage, for kids moving from kindergarten to first grade.

Am I the only one who thinks this is a little over the top? (By which I mean flippin' insane.) Families should definitely celebrate successful promotion by their children, but really, are our kids now so dumb that we have to throw a Times Square gala for not getting kicked out? And what about the occasional kid who doesn't get promoted? The kid whose parents realized they put their little four-year-old genius into kindergarten one year too early, then woke up one day to become Good Parents and Do The Right Thing by having Junior repeat kindergarten? Does Junior participate in this farcical lunacy? Does he "graduate" back into kindergarten?

I give a little more leeway for the 5th grade "promotion ceremony" going on at my kid's school today, but only a little. At least in this case, the kids are moving from the small, safe environment of the local elementary school into the mean, raw, integrated environment of the local middle school. Plus, there's no cap and gown. But then I heard that parents are planning big parties with graduation gifts. I assume that these gifts span the gamut from a new iPod to a new laptop. Surely Aunt Josie will spring for the savings bond.

I am all in favor of celebrating accomplishment. Just the other day I defended giving medals or trophies to all participants on little kid sports teams. And families should have a special dinner or something, maybe a pool party with some school friends, to mark the successful completion of another school year.

But get a grip, America. Not even I'm a big enough Bush hater to think this is what our country's (mis)leader meant by "No Child Left Behind."

Do other countries engage in this mass lunacy? Is it yet another manufactured holiday perpetrated by Hallmark? And what the hell is up with pink for girls and baby blue for boys in that photo? Institutionalizing subtle gender bias.


Anonymous said...

All in the name of self-esteem I'm afraid.

Lily said...

Maybe some parents think they need to celebrate kindergarten graduation because they already know that their kid probably won’t graduate from high school?

You may remember that we celebrate the end of the school year with a an ice cream dinner party in our house. It’s a mini celebration of our freedom. And my kids (and their friends) think I am the coolest mom ever. Which goes a long way when you want them to take out the trash and mow the lawn. We also say goodbye to summer on the first day of school with another ice cream dinner party. Both dinners start out with an appetizer course that includes a fruit and vegi tray along with nachos or mini tacos or some other fun appetizer.

Which reminds me...I need to go to the store.

JaneyV said...

Uuum no - we don't do that here. There's normally a gathering of some sort - like a celebration at the end of primary school but cap and gowns? - that's seriously OTT! We don't even do the cap and gown thing at the end of secondary school - we save that for university.

I envy you being on Summer break - we have about 5 more weeks to go! Poo!

PJD said...

If it's in the name of self esteem, then I think it's misguided. When every tiny accomplishment is rewarded with a major celebration, then the rewards become diluted and meaningless, and the children become unable to distinguish between routine and extraordinary. Moving on from K to 1, or 5 to 6, is routine. Graduating from college is, well, not necessarily extraordinary, but significant.

ch@ndy, I miss the ice cream parties! sure you and your brood can't drive down for a pool party this weekend?

jane, five more weeks? when do you start school there?

Stacy said...

Totally with you on this. Besides, I think kids are too busy thinking about their summer vacation to notice they "graduated."

Stacy said...

You gotta wonder if these things mean more to the parents than they do to the kids.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

I don't get all the graduations they have. Umm, but I should also say that I was shunned by my kids' preschool classmates parents because I did not attend the preschool graduation ceremonies. You see, I thought it was a joke the first time and blew it off. Thought it was stupid with the second kid and blew it off and I promise you I will blow it off again for Youngest. Unless, that is, they serve brownies. I would do alot of stupid things for a good brownie.

Anonymous said...

i teach fifth grade and feel the same way about the promotion / graduation ceremony. my school had a good time with it and combined it with a talent show put on by my grade. parents came for the 20 minute ceremony, then the whole school came for the show.

it may have started with the self-esteem thing but i believe now we're simply following the herd. the other two teachers and i agreed it was silly but the parents / school wanted it (and all the other schools are doing it...) - ah well.

oy, now the voice of my mother comes to me saying, "if all the other schools were jumping off a cliff, would your school do it, too?"

Sam said...

It's flipping insane.
We don't even have graduation ceremonies for high school students' graduation over here in France.

Blogless Troll said...

I think Rustypants nailed it. This was started somewhere long ago and I think a lot people know it's ridiculous, but everyone's doing it, so people just go along. And yes, it is for the parents, not the kids.

PJD said...

freddie, yes I think it's more for the parents. Though apparently my son got an award for academic achievement in his 5th grade ceremony yesterday and was terribly proud.

Speaking of proud, he glowed about getting a letter from President Bush with his award, then he said, "If only it wasn't that president." *snif* that's my boy!

ello... you go! but brownies often take precedence over principles. I mean, priorities, right?

rustypants! great name! Yep, totally agree with BT. You nailed it.

Sam, thanks for weighing in on France. Now I'll have to go comment on your rant about virginity (it's a good one).

writtenwyrdd said...

gotta agrea about the over the topness of today's schools and parents. But I don't like trophies given out to everybody. There needs to be, should be, some distinction for actually winning. So, a participation ribbon or something.

I think any graduation except from transition from one school to another is just plain stupid. The grade school to jr. high one is a new one, but I'll stay on the fence on that; it's apparently here to stay anyhow.

Stacy said...

pjd, was the letter from the Prez riddled with grammatical and spelling errors and painful pauses of silence as he desperately tried to think of something, anything, coherent to say? Did your son proofread the letter and send it back with corrections? Did you?

At any rate, congrats to your son!