Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The G Word

Last week my daughter graduated from 8th grade. Oh wait, I’m sorry…that “overuse” of the word offends some people, so let me try again.

Last week we went to the Moving Up ceremony to celebrate my daughter’s finishing 8th grade at one school and moving on to high school at another. That’s what the sign said…”8th Grade Moving Up Ceremony.”

But let me let you in on a little secret…as far as I’m concerned, she graduated.

So…to paraphrase the late Clara Peller, “What’s the beef?” Why so much controversy over whether or not Sofie graduated or simply moved up?

Well, part of it comes from people who think that an overabundance of graduations cheapens “the real thing.” They maintain that if you have graduations from pre-school, then who’s gonna care when the big ones of high school and college come along?

I beg to differ. And I differ on the grounds of venue.

In 1970 I graduated from Ashland School, in East Orange, NJ.

Or did I?

I didn’t see any reason to save the programs from back then, so I don’t know. Maybe we didn’t call it graduation at all. Maybe we called it that weird word I didn’t understand back then: commencement. Or maybe we called it a “moving up ceremony.” But we all knew, as did our parents, that we were graduating.

I said that I differ with the people who say that we overuse and cheapen the term and the ceremonies by overuse on the grounds of venue. Let me explain.

When I finished my nine years at Ashland, I was finishing the longest amount of time I’d spend in one institution as a student. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Furthermore, because of the odd placement of the school right smack on the line dividing East Orange between its two high schools, when I finished 8th grade, there were many friends that I wouldn’t see or hear from again until the advent of Facebook. Leaving Ashland was leaving a set of buildings, a set of teachers, and half of my friends. That’s quite the milestone.

On the other hand, for 19 years I taught at a school that spanned the grades of Pre-K to 12 on one campus. And when the move from 8th grade, at the end of Middle School to 9th grade at the beginning of Upper School is simply a shift in your homeroom and advisor, but keeping many of the same subject teachers and classrooms; I can see why we had moving up ceremonies between divisions. No one was going anywhere new. No one was leaving anyone behind. You’d be traveling in the same buildings and seeing the same teachers in 9th grade that you did in 8th. You’d only graduate when you finished at that institution entirely at the end of 12th grade.

Do we overdo it when we have “graduations” from pre-school? I don’t think so. I’m a big fan of marking passages, and noting when things are going to change. When my oldest daughter was leaving daycare to start Pre-K, it just didn’t seem right to me that she and her cohort would be there one day and gone the next, without anyone saying anything about it. And so I suggested that they have a ceremony for all the kids who were leaving to start school in September. Now…truth be told…19 years later, I can’t remember whether they called this graduation or moving up, but I don’t really think it matters. Did this “cheapen” her later graduations from high school and college for us? Not by a long shot. Each of those represented a major transition in her life.

So really…graduation, moving up…does it really matter what we call it?

This is one debate I wish we could all just graduate from needing to have.

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