Toward the end of May or the beginning of June, adults are reminded via cards in the mail that 18-year olds in their community or in their relation are scheduled to graduate high school.
The cards are not only to remind elders of this milestone, but also to invite them to celebratory gatherings hours, days or months after the graduation ceremony.
Invitees often feel an obligation to attend these gatherings for a variety of reasons. Maybe they are a “special” teacher of the graduate. Maybe they are a godfather or godmother, or a special aunt, uncle or just a next door neighbor. Invitees are not only from the “A” list, but often go as far down as the “B” and “C”: The more the merrier.
At the party, guests are treated to potato salad, pulled-pork sandwiches and punch, along with a photo display of the student’s high school career.
And here is the kicker: Invitees also feel the compulsion to donate a 10- or 20-dollar bill to the lad or lass of honor.
Can’t say exactly when this right of passage morphed into the “big party.” I’m guessing it must have happened sometime after the 1960s, since as a baby boomer, I can’t recall my parents throwing a graduation party for me, and I can’t even recall attending a party of any of my peers. There were very few parties, if any, in the 1960s.
Maybe the lack of a party for me was due to the fact that my dad, an accountant by trade, saw the financial futility of this folly, i.e. the money donated to his child would just cover the cost of the food and drink for the shindig. In other words, the financial reality of hosting such an event would wind up being a wash, so why go through the trouble? Sounds right by me.
That was then, this is now.
Today, every late spring, high school grads plan parties and people politely attend. After all, there is nothing intrinsically bad about gathering socially — people meeting people is not a terrible thing, even though most realize a main reason for the gathering is to generate college money for the graduate.
But, from my perspective, we ought to ask ourselves this basic question: what exactly is so special about graduating high school? After all, everyone and anyone can accomplish that dubious feat simply by sitting through seven hours of instruction each day for a period of 180 days for three or four years.
Ask yourself: is this really something to celebrate?
Sure, the grads learned to read, write and do simple math, and that was good, but, it might be better to hold off on the potato salad and sandwiches a few more years after high school and invite friends to a celebration of a student who finishes post-secondary schooling.
If, for instance, a son or daughter goes to Dunwoody Institute and learns the craft of welding, brick laying, carpentry or plumbing, that would definitely be something worth celebrating. Or, if a young adult earned a degree in something from a two- or four-year college preparing him or her for a vocation, that would be reason to throw a party. If a high school grad went on to complete basic training in the armed forces or the Peace Corps, wouldn’t that merit a celebration?
But graduating high school? What’s the big deal? And why the neighborhood party?
Don’t know. Probably never will.
Excuse me, while I go to the bank, withdraw a few, crisp 20s and prepare to make the rounds. Sure do like those 20-dollar pulled-pork sandwiches.
Bob Statz is a Mille Lacs Messenger staff writer.