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Sunday, June 5, 2011


Yesterday was a joyous day for our family!  We proudly attended our youngest son's graduation from the Rhode Island School of Design.  Bill earned his masters in architecture after a grueling three years.  My husband and I are finally finished with all of the costs associated with advanced learning in this country and it feels wonderful!  

But I actually want to tell you about the graduation itself.  In the bulletin sent out by RISD a few weeks back, there was a description of student attire for the event.  Being an art school, the graduating students are invited to wear the typical caps and gowns or street clothes.  They're encouraged to embellish the traditional in any way they like, and I was really looking forward to seeing some adventurous forms of self expression.  In this I wasn't disappointed.  There were mortarboards with flowers, flounces and sequins, some sported miniature furniture, a few had lights.  Some graduates wore street clothes and others were bare chested with body paint.  Some looked ready for a day at the beach and some looked like can-can dancers.  A few enterprising landscape architecture students arrived dressed as moss (I was a little confused at first since they mostly looked like Cousin It from the Addams Family).  All of this was to be expected and delightful, and none of it was offensive.

I couldn't help remembering way back when Bill graduated from Mendham High School.  He almost didn't receive his diploma because he (with our encouragement) smuggled in an inflatable turtle that the graduating class pelted into the air.  The stark contrast between that rigid and traditional commencement and the more playful and joyful commencement of yesterday was an eye opener for me. 

As parents and educators, we struggle during the high school years to get the students through safely and in some final form that can be stood up, shaken out and turned into an upright group that will be accepted at "good" schools or become newly minted members of the workforce.  We sometimes forget that not everyone is going to fit inside of the nice tidy square box we try to stuff them into.  With all manner of shapes and personalities, we literally spend so much time during the high school years trying to force all of the different shaped pegs into the same round hole.

Let's face it, any commencement is simply a costume party (the preferred costume being caps and gowns) to celebrate the successful completion of study, whether it's high school or college.  Having enjoyed the totally nontraditional RISD graduation, I can't help but wonder why we (the collective "we" of administrators, educators and parents) take such pride in removing all of the joy from commencements in high schools all across our country.  Some of the "pegs" that are square or triangular will NEVER fit into that round hole and we should be grateful that they won't!

Congratulations, Bill, we're really proud of you!

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations -- to you and your family -- how exciting! I was thinking you would post a photo of your son with you all... will you do that later? I'd love to see it!

    Thanks for sharing this high moment in your family. It's so exciting!