Last night I had the occasion to attend a ‘high school graduation’. I have always found the expression a misnomer – leaving school is not a graduation – it just
means that you’ve stayed the distance and reached the age to leave school – Period.
However the annual event is always eagerly anticipated and last night’s
scrolled through with the usual predictable mix of pomp and tedium. The ceremony was replete with freshly scrubbed ‘young things’ in expensive dresses, pimply youths in ill-fitting suits and proud families at round tables littered with bottles
of cheap wine. The evening was choreographed and ministered over by the ‘Year Twelve Coordinator’ and the head master – oops - the Principal, both of whom were equally guilty of some of the most anodyne piffle I have heard since graduation
twelve months ago.
Listening through their insipid drivel gave me cause and time to contemplate the state of our contemporary education and the intellectual quality of the young minds
that have suffered it.
The educator in chief provided a homily to his soon to be released charges on the qualities he looks for in his staff. A capacity for hard work, respect for each
other and for the students, the ability to contribute to the overall development of the students and to the school and so forth ad nauseam. Not one mention did he make of academic excellence or teaching ability!
Indeed, one grim-faced and black-gowned young thing, on being presented her graduation certificate, observed that ‘cynicism’ was the greatest outcome of her school years! Perhaps she
didn’t know what the word meant.
I have long-lamented my views on the decline of many school standards – particularly concerning the curriculum, teacher and dress standards,
discipline, physical training and, significantly, the competitive edge. I have often aired my views on those many teachers who are little more than scruffy variants of the layabouts they are teaching. Of course, I am sometimes guilty of hyperbole. But the
essence of my point remains.
Last night I put my views to silent test. I considered the substance of the occasion. I considered a good place to start would be the chief teacher or Principal.
His oratorical skills were passable. The content of his oration was clichéd, its import vacuous and its inspirational quality zero. Thinking back this morning I cannot recall anything he said that gave me cause for thought.
The year coordinator looked and sounded as though she had herself left school last year and was trying very hard to be everybody’s friend. Her oratorical skills were again, passable but what she said was immediately
The Valedictory Address was shared, presumably, by the Head Boy and Girl. It was a most unfortunate, cliché ridden bromide punctuated by obligatory expressions
of thanks and totally wanting of substance. If indeed it was written by the students, it reflected poorly on their education.
The highlight of the evening was a video cum Power-Point
presentation, set to music, of the year in retrospect. This was poignant – I experience a certain sadness watching innocence waiting to walk abroad.
I wish them all the very best.
I might also add – the evening’s printed programme included a Parents Role Call!