Those words capture the way I felt watching students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. I could see their little faces in the hallways, sitting in their desks, eating lunch in the cafeteria. We have such beautiful children in Harlan County. Even though they aren’t our biological offspring, they certainly become children of our hearts.
The pomp and ceremony of graduation signals that all the little darlings we had in class are on their way to adulthood. Watching them walk across the stage is a mixed bag of emotions. We have such high hopes for our former students as they enter the next chapter of their lives and yet we remember those who have not been successful or maybe even died prematurely. The future of each child is a huge question mark. Even though we see the wonderful potential in each child, it is impossible to know whether they will strive to be their best.
“The graduation ceremony is a cultural tradition that is considered a rite of passage. The ceremony marks a transition from one stage in a student’s life to another. Everything about the traditions of graduation has significance. Have you ever noticed the difference between graduation gowns and hats or colors of graduation robes? I did a little research on the Internet and found the following information from the Yahoo contributor network.
The graduation commencement ceremonies usually begin with speeches from faculty or special speakers, which may include the actual students and music. Afterwards the graduates names are called one by one as “Pomp and Circumstance” is traditionally played. Not every ceremony follows this tradition.
“Pomp and Circumstance” was composed by Sir Edward Elgar (b. 6/2/1857 d. 2/26/1934). “Pomp and Circumstance” was first performed on October 19, 1901 in Liverpool, England. As the students commence onto the stage they are handed their diplomas and given a handshake. It is at that point the students flip the tassels on their hats.
The Baccalaureate Ceremony origin is said to go back to 1432. The first Baccalaureate Ceremony commenced at Oxford University. At that time each student was required to deliver a sermon in Latin as part of his academic applications.
What do caps and gowns mean and where did they come from?
What we call today a “cap,” which is worn by students and faculty in some cases, used to be called a “hood.” The “hood” is believed to be dated back to the Celtic Groups. At that time in history only the Druid priests wore capes with hoods, symbolizing their superiority and higher intelligence. Today, the “hood” or “cap” is used to identify the student’s academic institution and degree. The tassel that is attached (and sometimes the color of the cap and gown or scarf) is used to signify the student’s academic achievement within the academic structure.
Prior to the 1950’s the color of the graduation gown was gray. This was practiced only in the U.S. Colors in European countries were used as far back as the 1800s to signify the area of study. Sometime during the 1950’s students began to ask for cap and gowns that represented their school colors. Their wish was granted and the emergence of varying colors used for gowns caught on.
During the 12th and 13th centuries the academic dress for graduation was born. At that time the standard dress for faculty or students was clerical dress. It wasn’t until 1321 that the University of Coimbra decided that all Doctors, Bachelors, and Licentiates would be required to wear gowns.”
According to this history, it is obvious that those leaving elementary school and going on to high school did not have elaborate graduation ceremonies. What they did have to do was pass a very stringent exam in order to have the privilege of going on to high school. College was only for the very elite.
I was very curious about when eighth grade graduations began and why. It seems that any form of higher education was so unlikely for the majority of the population, that many at the turn of the 20th century never expected to go on to high school. As the World Wars needed young men to enlist at an early age, many who started high school did not finish before enlisting. Also, they were often expected to get full time jobs and help support their families before they reached graduation. After all, manual labor or fighting on the front lines did not require any type of degree.
In current society, with the problem of high school drop outs, eighth grade graduation is the only one many students will ever experience. A friend told me that of her eighth grade graduating class of 80, only 35 actually finished high school. I was more than a little shocked.
Originally, completing eighth grade by passing the exams was celebrated quietly with friends and family. There were no ceremonies, no caps and gowns. There may have been a school get together or party to congratulate those who had passed exams, but nothing more.
There is actually a debate going on nationally about the appropriateness of a full blown kindergarten, fifth grade, or eighth grade graduation. Many find the imitation of high school and college graduations at this early age to be offensive. However, most people surveyed seem to think that it is a good thing to let children celebrate the milestones of their lives from kindergarten graduation, to eighth grade, to high school, college and even on to professional school. All of these special occasions in a child’s life are opportunities for friends, family and community to share in the success of our young people.
Good luck to all the graduates of every age!