chelsea cookWellsir, it is graduation time again in the U S of A. While graduation ceremonies are not among my top favorite reasons for spending an evening among large crowds, that changes when it is one of mine. My senior grandson graduated in a class of over 300 and had earned valedictorian honors and other honors. We shall not even discuss his grandfather’s high school participation. But, he says with baited breath, his mother graduated from Moorehead University with a Doctorate in teaching online. As most of you know, this is a new field so she is at the top of her field. Herself and I went to the ceremony without leaving our rooms. We watched her get hooded on our computers! That, I think, was appropriate.
 But it seems to me we have taken a really nice and meaningful ceremony and are turning it into something else. Back in the beginning of graduation ceremonies, it was for those privileged men who had actually finished university. Graduation ceremonies started in the 12th century and have been going ever since. Just as a guess, the ceremony has changed a bit since it started.
My high school graduation ceremony seemed to have started in one century and droned on and on and almost finished in another century.
Graduates now wear gowns to signify they are the graduates and you are just a person in jeans sitting there respectfully quiet. Then, at the proper time, the potential graduates would walk across the stage and receive a fake diploma. The real diploma would be held until all records were checked to ensure the person have fulfilled all obligations. I did not know it at the time but there was at least one member of my high school class who did not receive his diploma.
Back in the lost past as the graduate walked across the stage and received their “diploma,” the parents and other family members, along with friends, would beam proudly and exchange beaming smiles.  
Not so much anymore. Now a high school graduation is like a rock show in that almost every performer gets loud screaming noises from the observers. Sometimes it seems as though it is a contest to see which one gets the loudest and most noise made. This type celebration, which is a departure of centuries of decorum, seemed to have started in the late 60’s. (If you have a better date, please send it to me.) I think it detracts from the seriousness of what the ceremony is supposed to represent, but I am just an old curmudgeon who believes in tradition.
To me, yelling and hollering and blowing plastic horns is not nearly so good as hugs and cards and being there. One lady behind me at g’son’s ceremony had such a loud and brassy voice that my ears were ringing before the evening mercifully ended. She must have known half the kids. The principal, in his principally voice, asked that each name be heard—and it worked. Thankfully, the individual yells did not overlap the next name called.
Also, as you have no doubt guessed, I am not in favor of having a “cap and gown” ceremony from Kindergarten, 1st grade and on up until actual high school graduation. Having a ceremony may be good, but there is the thinking that if a child has a long series of “graduations,” the real one will not mean much. What do you think?
Some schools have experimented with playing different music from “Pomp and Circumstance.” As a band member, and later a band director, I can tell you that song gets old after the 99th time through it. It started when the composer, Elgar, received his Doctorate and has been used ever since. But, he adds quickly, not every American school uses “Pomp and Circumstance” today, according to Google. It was, after all, just a march to provide the graduates a rhythm to march down the aisle to. In many places, it has become almost sacred. But, the march we call “Pomp and Circumstance” is really named “Land of Hope and Glory.” That seems appropriate.
One year, much to everybody’s dismay, I was put in charge of getting the graduates to march into the auditorium in some semblance of order. It would seem the think was that if “he” (me) could get 13-year-old kids to perform marching maneuvers, he should be able to get 18 yr. olds to come in almost organized. I asked, pleaded and begged to not have to do that.  To say it did not work for me or for them would be an understatement. As you can guess, I was never “asked” to do that again.