Why Most Graduation Ceremonies Resemble a Pep Rally And They Shouldn’t!

At this time of year, many schools are celebrating the terminal stage of a student’s high school academic life. Many of us understand this celebration to be solemn ceremony honoring those who achieved the goal of completing high school. So, why is it that the celebrants are often overshadowed by the noise from the audience? Simple answer is — the audience doesn’t care about the sanctity of the celebration.

Students who have earned their time in the spotlight — the valedictorians, the salutatorians, the class presidents, and other honorees — are overwhelmed with having to prepare a speech and then they are disrespected by those who won’t be quiet long enough for them to be heard when they give it.

I recently witnessed this situation at a high school graduation and as I sat there, observing all that took place, I wondered, “When did a graduation ceremony become a pep rally?” Granted, most of the guests — invited by the students — were excited about a loved one making this transition, but did they have to drown them out with their raucous behavior? People had signs — with shout-outs to graduates, they stood in aisles creating obstacles for others, and they talked throughout the ceremony — catching up with neighbors and friends, forgetting about the purpose of their being there and then their conversations — were heard above the appointed speakers. How rude is that?

We have become such an insensitive, inconsiderate society that we ruin the celebrations of those who deserve our undivided attention as they are honored. Every student receiving a diploma deserves respect and consideration for their accomplishments, not just those with whom we have a relationship or affiliation with — EVERY STUDENT! This of course cannot happen when the audience refuses to adhere to directions given at the beginning — “HOLD YOUR APPLAUSE UNTIL EVERY STUDENT HAS BEEN RECOGNIZED.” Such simple instructions! It makes me wonder what kind of people wouldn’t understand it.

Let me see if I can illustrate the kind of people who don’t understand what this celebration means for the ones who are being honored:

They are the functionally illiterate who didn’t get a chance to be honored (because they chose to drop out of high school), so they do not know how to honor others.

They are the nightclub group who didn’t understand the definition of modesty at a family event and came with lots of exposure (from top to bottom).

They are the porch-sitters who just happened to see a bunch of cars heading to a school and were nosy and came in their daisy duke shorts, ragged cut-out jeans, garden-wear and loud, noisy, hungry children.

They are the arrogant who didn’t have a ticket, but thought they could bully their way into a crowded situation — just because!

They are the last-minute Lollies who thought a six o’clock start time meant they could come at seven and still be seated.

They are the people who have no order in their own lives and do not know how to respect order in other places, especially the order needed to function effectively at a high school graduation.

The bottom line was for this night — stress for those in charge and an embarrassment for those being honored. This one was so bad that a student who is graduating next year has decided she doesn’t even want her family at her graduation because of the behavior she saw this past weekend. That’s a shame.

Graduates at any level want those they love to join in their celebration, but it’s time we remembered the purpose and acted accordingly. Let’s act like mature adults — follow directions and listen to the speakers, honoring and respecting those who are graduating. When every student has been acknowledged, then and only then — let’s cheer their victory and accomplishment. After all, this is supposed to be a solemn celebration — a benchmark of life, not a pep rally!

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