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23 Jun

My super cute 8 year old daughter came to me last Saturday morning, all excited. I asked her what she was looking forward to, and she said that Mommy was taking her to “Build-a-Bear Workshop,” to get a new super cute stuffed animal “because it was the end of the school year.”  I had no problem with that;  she worked hard this school year, and did her best at least most of the time.  It’s what she said next that got to me.  “It’s for my second grade graduation,” she said.

Hold on, back the truck up, Sunshine.

Second grade graduation? Really?

Once upon a time, when the world was young, you graduated from high school and if you were fortunate, college. If you were AWESOME you graduated from boot camp. An even more select few graduated from medical school, or law school.  And that was about it.

Too long ago, remembering my own life, I graduated from kindergarten (German for “small, occasionally smelly children”), eighth grade, high school, and the Naval Academy. Technically, I also graduated from University of Maryland with a Master’s Degree, but didn’t even go to the ceremony (for me, nothing was going to top throwing my cover in the air at my USNA graduation, so I saw no point in trying).

Now, it appears that children are graduating from kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, summer school, summer camp, and then high school before heading to whatever comes next. In some schools, there appears to be a graduation of sorts from each grade.


This has a funk eerily reminiscent of participation trophies, which is a subject for an entirely different rant. We are conditioning our children to do what they are supposed to do (work hard in school) and then turn around for a “look at me!” moment.  Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely think we should quietly praise and encourage children at virtually every opportunity.  But creating false milestones and calling it “graduation” deadens the term, and I think feeds an entitlement mentality.  Pat them on the back for finishing third grade?  Of course.  Make them a special dinner for the last day of fifth grade?  No problem.  A cap and gown and party because you pulled all “C’s” in sixth grade?  Starting to take it too far…

Here’s my suggestion. Celebrate the big stuff.  High School.  College.  Med School.  Law school.  Trade school, training academies (police and fire) or Boot Camp.  Maybe, MAYBE, eighth grade, if I’m in a good mood that day.  Everything else gets a pat on the back (IF the student made the effort), a hearty “well done,” and a smile.

Every completed educational step is not a graduation. If it were, I would have dozens of “diplomas,” and wouldn’t give a damn about any of them.

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