[This is the one column I ever wrote for The Berkner Rampage, which was the school paper for Berkner High School in Richardson, Texas. It ran the month I graduated.]
“Welcome to BHS. May I take your order please?”
Graduation is an exciting day for seniors, schools, and businesses. It’s exciting for seniors because they get to leave one learning institution and move on to another. It’s exciting for schools and businesses because they get to take your money first.
When you become a senior, your mailbox begins to accumulate advertisements featuring 40-year-olds posing in prom suits. Why? The school provides lists of student names, ages, and addresses to tuxedo rental stores, senior picture shops, and any other related organization.
Observe this notice: “When honor graduates are announced in May, these students should purchase honor stoles from Mrs. K***n in the Senior Attendance Office for $10. A $2 refund will be given upon return of the stole in good condition on Tuesday, May 27.” You actually have to pay an $8 smart tax at this school.
Here’s an abbreviated list of what you must buy to be a Most Valuable Student: banquet tickets; fill-in-the-blank plaques honoring your parents; wildly overpriced fund raising items; Ram Jam tickets (I actually got a call asking why I hadn’t bought one); class rings just to prove how proud you are to have attended a school that you only went to because you happened to be in the district; a $30 brick with your name engraved on it – if you have a name like John Smith, don’t bother.
This excessive peddling is justified with “School Spirit.” Loyalty is a gold mine. If you don’t buy a Berkner jacket, you must be a spy from an enemy school.
It’s the ultimate marketing scheme. Rather than hiring salesmen to go door-to-door to hock the merchandise, we, the potential customers, are required by law to come here to receive the sales pitch. Perhaps school officials should be required to have a degree in marketing before getting a job in America’s education system.
Does it matter that school traditions make enough profit to run a communistic country? All of the previously mentioned is basically fair. The sneaky and unethical tactics are what bother me most.
Usually, nobody sane would buy water from a $.75 vending machine whey they could get the same thing for free from a water fountain. That’s why the water fountains are left with either gum covering up the water spout, or a hunk of chewed up meat rotting near the drain.
Not all of the scams are legally associated with the education distribution program. You may get a letter in the mail that guarantees you a scholarship in exchange for cash, check, or major credit card, but if you fall for something like that, you probably would have spent the money on a pyramid scheme anyway.
I don’t think that we should stop funding the schools; I just think we should stop relying on the students to do it. All of the money lost on gambles such as the Carnival and the Pajama Jammie Jam could easily have been spent on perfectly good metal detectors and identification badges to track independent-minded pupils.
Go ahead and buy the Ram logo from the Ramporium, but have you ever thought about why you spent the money on prom tickets, pictures, corsage, limo and flowers? Was it because you wanted to, or because you had been convinced that you’d never stop regretting it if you didn’t?
I don’t consider graduating a monumental feat, and I’m not alone. Conservative commentators enjoy ceaselessly flaunting all the kids who graduate and can’t even read their own diplomas. However, that may only be true because of the incomprehensible font that’s used.
Conservative commentators also advocate privatizing everything from homeless shelters to the entire executive branch. But the schools aren’t going to be tampered with – they’re privatizing themselves.
I was told, “It seems sort of foolish to go through 12 years of school and then not attend the commencement ceremony.” What does paying for a tassel, cap and gown to blend in with the crowd, and buying a photo of myself grabbing a generic diploma really mean? That I forgive the compulsory education laws for what I’ve been through?
What graduation does is to sugarcoat all of our experiences so that when we have school age children, we can dismiss their complaints about it, because remember, school was just one huge party!
Excuse me for being unsentimental, but I never got around to suppressing the memories of the best years of my life. So if you see me stand up at the graduation ceremonies and denounce the fascist learning regime, be sure to take a picture, because I’ll be the only one.
[Note: I did not stand up and denounce the fascist learning regime at graduation. Instead I told them an incorrect pronunciation of my name for their announcement, and I disrespectfully took off my cap before I walked across the stage. That may or may not have showed them.]