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Friday, June 23, 2006


Prom and Circumstance

We're slowly, slowly reaching the end of the school year in the New York City Public School system. That means that we've reached the time of year for certain rituals about which I'm not all that wild. I'm not talking about the endless field trips, although God knows I hate them. It's not those absolutely pointless three days of school we're going to forced to go through next week, during which most teachers will be having the kids who bother to show up help clean the classrooms. It's none of that.

The thing that really kind of irks me is how the eighth graders at my school (and elsewhere within the system) are treated like high school graduates. They had a prom on Monday. A prom. They had a big graduation ceremony this afternoon. Some of them even bought fucking class rings for Christ's sake.

Now, I probably sound like a huge asshole here, so lemme 'splain. I realize that (some of) these kids have worked very hard over the course of their educational career so far. Our school is a K-8 school, and some of them have been here since they started school, so it's a big change they're about to go through as they move to high school, I realize that. But calling this "graduation"?

We didn't do that when I was a kid. Maybe this is how it's done now all over, I don't know. What I do know is that, in the Bronx school where I work, the graduation and the prom and the class rings aren't just about acknowledging the work the kids have put in. I asked about the thinking behind all the hoopla last year and I was told that, for a lot of these kids, this may be the only graduation they have. A lot of them will probably drop out before they finish high school, I was told, and so they ought to have a big deal made out of this milestone.

Now, I know that that's not the only reason. There's also the fact that some of these kids will be going to high school in other parts of the city, so this is a nice community thing. There's also the pure greed on the part of the people who sell the class rings and the graduation robes and the prom dresses and such.

But to have such a large part of this be low expectations? What the hell kind of message is that sending? "Yeah, kid, enjoy getting this junior high diploma, 'cause nobody's expecting you to get any further than that in life."

I mean, yeah, have an "Eighth Grade End of the Year" dance. Throw the kids an "Exit Ceremony". But let them know that, if they want to go to Prom, if they want to graduate, they're gonna have to stick it out for four more years. And let them know that they're capable of it and that it's what we expect. Low expectations help no one.

Except maybe Adam Sandler. I saw Click today on another field trip and it didn't suck as bad as I'd feared it would. So that was nice.

The proms, the graduation ceremonies, the parties, the rings the hooplah...
These are all things that should be EARNED. What I mean by earned, is that one should recieve all these things once you have put in ALL 12 years it requires to recieve your H.S. diploma.
I agree here with you Joe. If some of these kids won't be graduating H.S., well then shame on them for being lazy and apathetic about their lives. It surely doesn't entitle them to have what so many others have had to earn.
Hang on. I'm not blaming the kids here. Yeah, some of 'em are fuck-ups and if they drop out, it's all on their heads. But not most of them.

The bigger problem is a system that tells many of them that junior high is as much as they need to complete.
No No No. I didn't mean it's the kids fault. I guess I should have been more clear. I just mean, that I think it is important to emphasise that just because someone might not be able to earn something later in life, should not be an excuse to give it to them now. It's because of the "fuck ups" that the system has decided to implement such programs.
It's all part of the dumbing down of America.
Hell, let the kids have their minute in the sun.
We don't do much else to encourage them to go on with school and all that cant about "deferred gratification" only works when you SEE the deferral pay off with the ultimate gratification. Lots of kids have very good reasons for hating and not being too damned impressed with the system and the rules they are forced to play by before they even understand what this society will do to them if they don't dance to the tune.

Too bad we don't offer a good, viable apprencticeship program for kids who aren't really knocked out by parroting the received view that Narnia is important, but would really respond to a chance to learn practically while seeing how monetary reward is directly tied to that.
Academia is basically an obedience game, and many kids are from backgrounds where they see too damned much knuckling under and too damned little reward.
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