When my oldest child graduated from middle school last week, several people asked me, “Did you cry?”
Actually, I didn’t — although I wanted to, after witnessing the way some people behaved during the 70-minute graduation ceremony —and I’m not talking about the students.
First, Superintendent Hardy Murphy made a quick departure following his speech. Believe me...I was watching. We all were. Now, if he was ill, I'll cut him all the slack in the world. But if he was not sick, Dr. Murphy’s exit – stage right – demonstrated a lack of respect. While he surely had several graduation ceremonies to attend on Tuesday evening, the tufted, leather chair he left so blatantly vacant on-stage didn’t “sit” well with me.
Later, the audience was asked to hold applause until every graduate’s name had been announced.
Yeah. That didn’t work so well, either.
After several names were called, one student’s entourage screeched for her as she walked across the stage. Figuring it was an anomaly of excitement, I was surprised when it happened again…then again. One enthusiastic woman even rushed the stage, climbing up to get a better view of her graduate. Her behavior stunned the crowd into (momentary) silence until another screeching throng whooped it up for their favorite graduate.
Let’s be honest. Graduation ceremonies are boring as hell except for the moment our loved one struts across that stage. Believe me, I’ve done my share of clapping, whistling, hollering and screaming at graduations, but just as audiences today are reminded to turn off mobile devices for the courtesy of others, so too are we asked to withhold cheering until the end. Part common courtesy (so everyone can hear the graduates’ names), it’s also about getting through the ceremony in under ten hours. When the request is given to hold applause, I’m all for it, even for my own child. I’ll clap and scream and hug and embarrass him outside the auditorium, in the car, at the grocery store, etc., just not as the next graduate's name is called. Call me an uptight rule follower — just don’t call me rude.
Before you think I’m a total priss, I’ll concede things could have been worse: no one blared a bullhorn; no Silly String was sprayed; no Frisbees or tortillas whipped around; not a beach ball in sight. Still, the faux-crazed fanaticism strikes a nerve, and I know I’m not the only one who feels it.
To scream or not to scream? I did a little research. This principal in South Carolina makes no bones about anticipated inappropriate behavior, while some another South Carolina high school actually escorted screaming “yahoos” out of the building and charged one mother with disorderly conduct.
A discussion online at College Confidential reveals that many believe it’s inappropriate to scream during graduation ceremonies...and some students in Cincinnati even had their diplomas taken away for raucous cheering by their friends and family.
Highland Park native Joanne Jacobs blogged on June 3 about this topic in a post titled “Graduation Etiquette: Sit Down and Shut Up.” The comments section included folks who fall on both side of the aisle, so to speak.
“In the olden days, we used to have these things called manners and a bit of modesty. Now, manners are for suckers and modesty for tight-*sses. Now, everyone must loudly and sentimentally display their emotions and minor achievements with an excessive celebration and a tattoo. We are a classy bunch.”
“I teach in Appalachia. Last year one nondescript graduate got a huge ovation from a dozen or so relatives. The teacher sitting next to me told me she was the first one in her very large family to graduate from high school.”
My child's accomplishment last week may not have been as dramatic or hard won as that graduate's in Appalachia, but I believe it’s a matter of fairness. Like all graduates, he deserves to have his name heard, loud and clear.