Graduates, families, and friends: congratulations on such a huge accomplishment. You've graduated to the front of the Trader Joes checkout line! Two lines diverged in a grocery and you took the shorter one. Would you like a paper or plastic diploma?
Ok, fine - maybe we're not holding grocery list graduation ceremonies just yet. But they can't be far off, because there are formal graduation ceremonies for just about everything else this month. Based on my extremely scientific research (checking my Facebook feed), we are now celebrating nursery school graduation, kindergarten graduation, third grade graduation, and JV badminton graduation. And don't forget dog obedience school graduation. We're handing out diplomas at the drop of a kippah. We've created a crazy culture of excess graduations. Maybe we should hold a commencement ceremony to honor our achievement.
I'm not trying to rain on anyone's processional, but we're saluting every educational transition with ridiculous pomp and circumstance. We're serving up grandiose praise and extravagant recognition for completing any old grade. Even grades we never doubted would be completed. When did it become some huge achievement to finish pre-school? Do a lot of toddlers flunk out? Is it a struggle to pass finger painting?
Yes, your kids look cute in caps and gowns - when they've earned them. But transitioning from the preschool's red room to the blue room is hardly grounds for a whole meghilla. We're awarding diplomas to kids who can't even read them.
We used to reserve big league ceremonies for big league milestones: high school graduation, college graduation, and of course the big Jewish milestone - becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. After years of studying, and learning, and schlepping to Hebrew School, a child is called to the Torah and graduates to full-on adult status. It's a significant moment, a transformative affair; but it's no longer batting lead off on the life event team.
Where a Bar or Bat Mitzvah used to be a Jewish child's first big hullabaloo, now it's just another hullabaloo. By the time girls turn 12 and boys 13, they've participated in so many graduation ceremonies and promotion assemblies that what was once a singular experience, is now just one of many. Don't ask which of these dozen of occasions now confirms their adulthood. Does a boy become a man when he's promoted from fifth grade to sixth grade? When he goes from day camp to overnight camp? Touch football to tackle? Yes, there's a diploma for that.
Graduation is the new orange - which in turn is the new black. It's a widespread, national epidemic. And I'm not sure how it started. Perhaps, it was a joint effort by the greeting card companies, the Edible Arrangement folks, and those bakeries that charge $6 per cupcake. Maybe the mortar board manufacturers banded together to build more demand for their product. Maybe parents just wanted another reason to swipe record on their smart phones.
However it started, it needs to stop. It's out of control. We're teaching kids that every thing they do so impressive it warrants a venti-sized celebration. We're implying that if a great achievement isn't followed by a public fete, it was never much of an achievement at all. Sorry kid; no ceremony, no success. We're suggesting that a rented graduation robe is a figure-flattering look that should be worn as often as possible. Please, no one wore that best.
Look, I'm not the Grinch who stole graduation. I'm all for celebrating happy occasions, but perhaps the celebrations don't all need to include a formal processional and a valedictorian. I think it's exciting that school's out for summer, but the last day of school doesn't always warrant a convocation and a class speaker. I know the students worked hard, but perhaps Class of 2015 shouldn't refer to any student who finished any grade this year. Let's save the pomp and circumstance for just one very special circumstance: the day a person is actually awarded her hard-earned degree.