Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Graduation, Part Deux

They Might Be Giants--"I Should Be Allowed To Think" (mp3)
BOAT--"I Really, Really Think You Should Rethink Your Life" (mp3)

I had occasion to go to the 5th grade graduation of my godson.

Now, I know there are plenty of people out there who don't see the merit in a 5th grade graduation or an 8th grade graduation or celebration or whatever you want to call it, but that's not what I'm about here. The ceremony itself is what is worth talking about.

I also know this was a Christian school (and all--as Holden would say) and that, as one of the mothers at the school told me, "It's a scary world out there." Still, I am wondering about the indoctrination of our children.

A few nights ago, I was listening to a children's book author on NPR and he was talking about how he had learned after many years working for Sesame Street that it was important not to talk down to children. And yet, the ceremony I observed did exactly that. The principal had the same "boys and girls" voice for the 5th graders as she did for the 1st graders. Every grade, every teacher was a safe haven that no student wanted to leave. And if I caught the messages correctly, here's what had been stressed to these children in grades 1-5 who participated in ceremony:

a. According to the song, all children are "stars," but while some stars are "bright and glad," some are "meek and mild." And that's just the way it is.
b. Perfect attendance matters more than almost anything, since the only certificates of merit handed out were to those who had not missed any school. Congratulations, children, on your genetics!

c. Boys play; girls dance. To demonstrate the Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts," the girls did the traditional Shaker dance while the boys played the musical instruments.

d. Friends out there in the world can be dangerous. You must choose only friends who share your values, and especially those who follow Christ.

e. The moment that absolutely creeped me out the most was when the entire student body from grades 1-5 stood in front of us and sang, "You Are In Control." Now, I fully understand that the song was directed toward God, but even so, I object to how many times during the ceremony the students were told to leave things in His hands, that He will always be there, that He will never let you down. God had such a presence that He was even responsible, according to the music director, for one particular song being repeated twice in the program.

f. School survival matters more than anything. I already knew this, but at a ceremony where a number of 5th graders were leaving for new schools, the students who were staying at this school were the most celebrated. Classic comment: "This is one of our nice boys and he's staying to make our middle school strong!"

You need to know, however, that my experience was slightly abbreviated. They brought up a stroke victim to award a prize to an essayist, but in the middle of his ramblings, the director of maintenance or the physical plant took the microphone from him and announced that the police were outside ready to give tickets to anyone on the wrong side of the road, which was us (in more ways than one, I fear), so we rushed outside and sped away.

The Boat song comes from their cd Let's Drag Our Feet, while the Giants song comes from John Henry. Both are available at Itunes.


Billy said...

Reading this makes my head itch. Like little mosquitoes are flying around inside my skull, and I can't get to them.

Bob said...

Billy, I think we are the only ones reading our blog right now, but, hey, I'm really enjoying your stuff and I think when I start posting naked pictures from Korea things will pick up.

Your fellow blogger, golfer, and 44er,

John said...

"I'm reading, too!" he said with raised hand. Loving the blog; it's like craigslist in its addictive powers. Except I'll probably never buy a lemon Volvo off of this site.