Are today’s grade-school “graduations” celebrating mediocrity?

I had no idea my innocent (and brief) Facebook post yesterday would result in a deluge of valued comments from my friends and motivate me to write a blog post.

But that is exactly what happened.

I’m all about celebrating milestones. Births, deaths, birthdays, holidays–I’m your gal. However, there is a trend in our schools that disturbs me: the graduation ceremony.Link

Twelfth grade, college and even 8th grade Continuations should be lauded affairs, a recognition of many years of hard work. I have fond memories of my senior year revelries as my dear friends and I celebrated our journey together and toasted our future.

Now, can someone please tell me where preschool, kindergarten, grade-school et al. “graduations” fit into this formula?

Rites of passage are important and I don’t want to diminish recognizing that a child is moving from one grade to another. But it was when a friend sent a picture of his (albeit darling) kindergartner in her cap and gown that I couldn’t help but think, “REALLY?”

And I remembered this exchange from The Incredibles that has always resonated with me:

Helen: I can’t believe you don’t want to go to your own son’s graduation.
Bob: It’s not a graduation. He is moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade.
Helen: It’s a ceremony!
Bob: It’s psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional…

I don’t want to be Debbie Downer here. I’m all about throwing a party and having an academic ceremony to recognize the children’s achievements. When I was younger, I was a smart and athletic kid who cleaned up on the awards every year. My children are still young and have shown different aptitudes but they likely won’t be class valedictorians.

And that’s OK.

As a parent, I’m trying not to dilute the achievements of the overachievers by making everyone a winner. I’ve seen this a lot in my children’s sporting leagues. Yes, young children should have positive reinforcements but continuing with this pattern so as not to hurt their feelings is not teaching life lessons. There are winners and losers and the most important thing is how you are taught to play the game.

I truly mourn for children who do not have support at home but am in awe of engaged teachers and mentors. I hope I’m instilling in my children a strong work ethic and a life-long love of learning with the resolve to stay in school.

But if they need a ceremony with a cap and a gown to stay motivated, maybe we’re doing something wrong.

(Originally published at MileHighMamas).

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