A friend of mine forwarded this article to me recently. I read it and thought the subject worthy of discussion.
I have opinions that I will leave out of this post. If there is any interest comment wise I will share my views later this week.
This came from the Raising Kane column of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, by Eugene Kane.
BTW: Kane also wrote a follow up article on this one responding to the feedback he got from this original post. You can read here.
This is a much-anticipated time of year for hard-working graduates to celebrate their academic accomplishments with family and friends.
But eighth grade?
The sad fact is, in a city like Milwaukee, with its extremely high dropout rate, a majority of eighth-graders may never get a high school diploma. For some, eighth-grade graduation might be the highlight of their school days, which is pretty depressing.
Even President Barack Obama has taken note of the increased prominence of eighth-grade graduation celebrations.
“Now hold on a second – this is just eighth grade,” Obama said in his remarks about education last year during a campaign appearance at a Chicago church. “You’re supposed to graduate from eighth grade.”
I suspect Obama witnessed the same scene I did during visits to some central-city schools for eighth-grade ceremonies in recent years. My last visit, about three years ago, was an eye-opener.
There were 14-year-old boys and girls dressed to the nines, including formal wear, in front of an enthusiastic audience of friends and relatives. When the students received their “diplomas,” most were so demonstrative you might have assumed they were finished with their formal education.
I did a quick survey this week of some African-American friends with school-age children – mainly mothers – and discovered this particular issue has been drawing attention for some time.
“Yes, I think some black people are guilty of going too far with graduations, period!” said Tina King, who has a daughter graduating from the eighth grade this week. King said her daughter’s school wasn’t planning a traditional walk across the stage; a recognition dinner was planned instead.
King said she understood why some parents go overboard. “The thing is, with our black children being killed or dropping out of school, every graduation is a big thing,” she said.
Another friend who has attended more than a few eighth-grade graduations criticized the overkill. “Eighth grade is just a completion ceremony; they do not graduate until the 12th grade. Yet, every year I am amazed at the amount of money parents spend. I’ve seen limos, tuxes, formal gowns, sometimes the mothers, too.
“My question is, what do they have to look forward to when they actually do graduate, or are the parents going to these extremes because they are afraid that for many this will be their only ceremony?”
Teachers shared my concern but defended the ceremonies as a necessary enticement for some students. “With the way things are now and the new generation of kids, I think it’s good to celebrate accomplishments on any level to encourage their positive behavior,” said one educator.
That’s a good point. There’s nothing wrong with kids feeling good about themselves, but my fear is that the bar is being set so low, some students might start to view eighth grade as the high point of their education instead of simply the latest step.
I suggest each eighth-grade graduate should receive a heartfelt congratulation, quickly followed by a stern reminder about the challenges to come if they intend to receive a high school diploma one day. Celebrate quickly, because next school year, you’ll need to be ready to get back to work.
Ninth grade is no picnic.