From primary to secondary

In the past I’ve seen pictures of an American preschool graduation — in which they ludicrously dressed kids up in gowns and (mortarboard) caps. I’ve only worn a cap and gown once in my life — for my university graduation, after three years of (sometimes) hard slog earning my bachelor’s degree.

This type of academic dress dates back to medieval times, and is steeped in history. Maybe it’s just me, but it strikes me as devaluing the meaning and significance of achieving a graduate-level education if they dress little kids in the same stuff — particularly at kindergarten level where, let’s face it, it’s pretty much impossible to not pass. Why do we insist on dressing kids up like adults anyway?

Graduation 2007Isaac’s primary school graduation last night had none of that. Smart casual was the order of the day. The programme included a couple of musical numbers, presentations to the kids of a certificate (and they got to say a few words each — quite amusing in some cases) and a couple of speeches from staff members. The principal noted that this group was the first he’d seen go right through primary school, and that he believed they were a talented and genuinely nice group of kids — something that struck a chord with me since that day I saw some of the senior kids in action in the school yard. And he reckoned very few of them had ever been sent to his office!

It seems so recent that Isaac started primary school. Time really does fly.

A couple of weeks ago was his high school orientation day. High school, even government high school, is an expensive business, as it turns out. Some $600 in annual fees, $500 in books (some of which will last multiple years), and we haven’t even got onto the uniforms yet. But I’m confident it will be a good quality, effective education, which is the most important thing.

There should be a state government $300 school start bonus coming our way, which will help. Not that I’m scrounging; I’m sure there’s people struggling with the costs more than me, let alone those sending their kids to private schools next year, who could be spending tens of thousands of dollars.

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14 Replies to “From primary to secondary”

  1. Yes, having a fancy graduation ceremony for children is a farce. It’s like an adult fantasy that they’re living out in the children. Sick, almost, when you think of it in those terms. In this area, in our local schools, yes, what you describe above is the normal procedure for the celebration of leaving grade school. Here in Quebec, the kids go to a middle school for Grades 7 and 8, then high school for Grades 9, 10, 11. Then it’s CEGEP for a couple of years for either educational or vocational purposes. A lot like your TAFE, I believe? Not 100% sure on that.

    I saw something recently, as well, about birthday parties that were *WAY* over the top. i.e. clowns, magicians and/or pony rides for 2 and 3 year olds! Who’s running with a few cards short of a deck with that sort of birthday party for a child? Ridiculous in a word. A child needs love, time, and some fun on their birthday, not the “most” elaborate party of their parents group of friends. What a child really needs is the full attention of their parents, I believe, not toys/games/money/stuff. That doesn’t promote good bonds between parent and child. LOL!

  2. I’ve given up trying to understand the weird things they do in the US. Dressing up things as other things seems to be a source of constant amusement for them, regardless of whether it is children dressed up as graduates or dogs dressed up as ballerinas. I do wonder why, though, the people receiving doctorates in Australia have to dress up in Gilbert and Sullivan outfits – great big flouncy red velvet things and oversize floppy black hats with tassles on them that would suit perfectly the Lord High Everything Else. Perhaps it is a form of hazing.

  3. Not just America – they’ve started doing it here too :( My son just “graduated” from preschool – like he wasn’t going to??! – and they had a couple of homemade gowns & cardboard mortar board hats.. I noticed it on someone else’s blog too with a child the same age. And yes I agree it’s ridiculous. I’m not sure what’s worse – that or the huge “formals” that primary school kids have now – limos, fancy dresses, hair styles.. *sigh* – no wonder I’m going to homeschool!

  4. Daniel
    congrats to Issac. Going to a new school (where you are one of the youngest) is pretty scary, if I can recall.
    I notice that McKinnon Sec Coll did really well in the VCE rankings again this year, so there are “good” government schools in your area.
    Rog.

  5. We’ve had the same with Phoebe over the past few weeks (info night, orientation day, then on Tuesday night the Grad from Grade 6 and the ensuing party) Like you, I can’t quite believe it’s been 7 years since she started at Primary school.
    Also, I’m astounded at the fees and costs for public HS. I told my Mum the other day and she commented it had changed vastly since I was going to HS.

  6. I know of a school near me which is currently going through an anti-discrimination hearing because it refused (for good reason) not to allow a child to “graduate” from pre-school.

    So not every child gets to graduate at all. But graduation is a bit ridiculous – maybe its just a good way to get parents involved early in their kids education?

  7. A lot of this rubbish relates to the inflation of language and the deflation of meaning.

    While everyone does it (eg the garbo being the ‘municipal sanitary officer’), it seems particularly marked in education.

    Eg a college was a learned society, professional school (eg for teachers) or at least a TAFE. Now high schools are secondary colleges.

    Similarly pupils became students, again a term once reserved for adults (or near-adults).

    my school reports simply said ‘promoted to year 3’ or ‘promoted to secondary’, but now it’s apparenty graduated.

    As for the people who preside over this; well they just get ‘honorary doctorates’ without doing a scrap of the scholarship that real PhDs must do.

    While it reduces the ability of a vice-chancellor to fawn to public figures, the first university that abolishes honorary doctorates will have up-sized the prestige of its degrees, all of which will have to be earned properly.

  8. I have gone through four such cermonies myself. Junior high graduation (8th. grade) in 1982, high school (12th. grade) in 1986, my asociate degree in culinary arts in 1988 and my bachelor’s degree in foodservice management in 1990. My two university degrees were hard won and the graduation cermonies were a major family event. High school graduation is always celeberated in the USA and most Americans would be shocked to learn that this is not so in other countries. Cermonies for young children are rather new here. While graduation cermonies may seem silly to some it is important to encourage further education and recgonise the importance of young people’s hard work and achievents.

  9. Jed, I’ve got no problem with graduation ceremonies per se. You’re right – completion of a stage of schooling is worth celebrating. It’s the stealing of symbolism from other institutions that I’m not keen on.

  10. Formals are a farce too it’s designed to fleece you of all your money and patience. At our son’s school they have one in year 10 & 12. Why year 10? I’ve no idea. It’s apparently common for waspish mothers fly themselves and their daughters interstate to say…oh WA for their dress! It’s just plain wrong. I’m making my son pay for his year 12 $260 hire suit, he’ll be 18 he can work for it.

  11. I’m ashamed to say that we’ve just had such a pre-school ‘graduation’. Perhaps it is an achievement for some parents to get their little darlings through this far, but I do believe it devalues the the true graduation.

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