By Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall (Rated G)
Some high school graduates are in the top ten per cent of their class, and that’s good enough for them, but I was in the top eighty percent of my class, and eighty is a higher number than ten, so their. Or they’re. Or something.
Ranking as highly as I did I wasn’t able to see much of my commencement program because I was ‘way back somewhere in the middle, a glorious mediocrity whose personal academic achievements were recognized by my teachers for twelve years; they even took the trouble to write them out on my report cards: “Mack needs to try harder,” “Mack needs to pay attention in class,” and “Mack needs to do his homework.”
For this year’s graduating class, everyone, regardless of ranking, will be more visible – either spaced six feet apart on the football field or in a parking lot, or right up front a few inches away from a glowing screen. If a senior tosses his (the pronoun is gender-neutral) cap it’s likely to take out a living-room light bulb.
There is no point in old sourpusses snorting that high school graduation is not important; it is to those involved. It is a secular liturgy, a rite of passage from childhood or to adulthood (although many of those elected to high national office seem to have flunked adulthood). Graduation might not be a big deal to the old grumpies twitting on their MePhones, but then graduation not about them. Graduation is a big deal for every eighteen-year-old, and it is a marvel to see how every school board (whom we elected, remember) has supported administrators, teachers, and parents (the ones who work, not the ones who complain on the InterGossip) in making sure that, come (Newark, New Jersey) or high water, the kids are going to have a graduation this year.
Inside ceremonies are forbidden because of The Virus That Must Not Be Named, and outside ceremonies here on the same latitude as Calcutta will be subject to heat, humidity, mosquitoes, and thunderstorms, but, still, sorta being sorta together will be sorta nice.
Antisocial distancing via computer wouldn’t be as much fun, but it would be air-conditioned and dry and mosquito-free, and if the guest speaker, the salutatorian, and the valedictorian rattle on too long about metaphorical keys that unlock metaphorical doors to metaphorical whatevers the graduate can discreetly peek at another channel.
I long to see a graduation ceremony in which the two graduates with the lowest GPAs get to give speeches too. That would be something to hear.
As with every graduating class, each former student will wake up on the next Monday morning to realize that he or she is no longer a senior but rather just another unemployed American who needs to look for a job. This year’s graduating class is different from any since the 1930s because on their first Monday morning of adulthood they will wake up to a national unemployment rate of around 15% (https://unemploymentdata.com/charts/current-unemployment-rate-chart/).
As adjusted for reality, you are 100% unemployed if you don’t have a job.
Beginning a career this year is going to require a little hustle (as a coach would say), but, yes, the no-longer-kids are going to be fine.
And the old grumpies should remember that this year’s high school graduates will in ten years be our doctors, cops, firefighters, nurses, dentists, soldiers, high-rise builders, teachers, oil drillers, bankers, entrepreneurs, attorneys, moms, and dads.
By then, of course, the class of 2020 will be complaining about the impertinence of the class of 2030 and the class of 2030 will be complaining about those old people who graduated in 2020 and need to get out of the way.
Life goes on, and it is (mostly) good.