Monday, June 23, 2008

I Agree with Barack!!

You won't hear me say that often, but it is certainly true in this instance.

Jan Hoffman of the NY Times has written a story on the burgeoning celebrations that accompnay 8th grade graduation ceremonies. In regards to the "pomp and purpose" of these ceremonies Hoffman quoted Barack Obama who said:
Now hold on a second — this is just eighth grade. So, let’s not go over the top. Let’s not have a huge party. Let’s just give them a handshake. You’re supposed to graduate from eighth grade.
I agree with Obama 100%!

The size and scope of many eight-grade graduations has become ridiculous. As Hoffman writes:
Across the country, in urban and suburban school districts, in rich communities and impoverished ones, eighth-grade celebrations now mimic high school or even college graduations: proms, the occasional limousine, renditions of “Pomp and Circumstance,” dignitaries speechifying and students in caps and gowns loping across the stage for diplomas.
Good. Grief.

My favorite quote from the article, however, may not be Senator Obama's. Andre Cowling has just finished his first year as principal of Harvard Elementary in Chicago, one of the poorest-performing schools in the city. He called these exorbitant exercises “Easter Sunday on steroids.” That is a funny phrase, but there is nothing funny about this Cowling quote:
It’s a big business event: everyone has on a new outfit, manicures, pedicures, the hair - for a ceremony that can last two hours - And then kids go to 5, 10 parties in the neighborhood, in hotels.
Multiple parties in hotels because a kid is going from middle school to high school?!

Now I'm not blaming the kids for these immoderate celebrations of the routine. Most likely they could not coordinate, let alone fund, much of this nonsense. It's the parents, as well as some school districts, which should shoulder most of the criticism.

Take for example one parent of a student at Hommocks Middle School in Larchmont, N.Y. Two years ago the school's principal, Seth Weitzman, established a “no limo” rule. One parent defied the rule and his kid arrived to a class dance in a limo; to a middle school class dance. Hoffman reports that the principal "directed the limousine to the rear of the building, where the child debarked. Unseen." There have been no further violations of the "no limo" rule.

Now that does deserve some applause.

It is good to celebrate. Achievement should be congratulated, but transitioning from one grade to the next is no reason to break the bank. Don't go over the top. Forget the huge parties. Slap the kid on the back and shake his hand. He's supposed to graduate from the eight grade.

Just like Obama said.

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