Isaiah Mustafa in Old Spice Commercial

A Thought On Graduations As A Whole

Jose Vilson Mr. Vilson 3 Comments

Isaiah Mustafa in Old Spice Commercial

Isaiah Mustafa in Old Spice Commercial

A list of the common complaints about graduations from K-12:

  • Not everyone deserves to graduate.

A more detailed subset of that list:

  • At this rate, should we have to make special accommodations for our kids when we’re trying to raise the rigor of all curricula?
  • Better yet, can everyone just get an intervention plan so we can stop lying to ourselves that every student who graduates gets the same criteria?
  • If the student is late and / or absent more than 70% of the time, must they be promoted?
  • If so, what does that say about the value of our diplomas?
  • How many of the kids who’ve openly defied class rules find their way across the stage, despite our most earnest attempts at assuring they don’t?

This and more questions always taint the graduation some. Teachers all over the country have pondered this, and wondered aloud why it seems, for some, that graduation isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

I honestly don’t know how to answer the question, but if ever asked, I always say, “Just because they’re all on the same boat doesn’t mean they’re all going to the same destination.”

For the handful of kids who we believe don’t deserve to cross the stage, we often have many more who do, who tried their best to achieve, and earned every bit of the pomp and circumstance. In our line of work, we have to deal with the adult nonsense far too much, and that includes the ways in which we promote children to the next level.

The only comfort is that perhaps “middle school” was a phase, and that separation from their friends would actually help them see themselves as better students. Many times, eighth graders get into high school and find themselves academically, and if that’s so for some of our children, that’s great.

In the meantime, let’s not ruin it for those who we rarely talk about. They deserve our praise and congratulations. Besides, we’re on this boat for the long haul.

Mr. Vilson

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 3

  1. John T. Spencer

    I used to complain about 8th grade graduation. Then someone said, “John, life is about transitions. It’s about moving from one phase to another. Let’s celebrate that. Otherwise, the only graduation ceremony you get is a funeral.”

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  2. Kristi Bishop

    What would happen if middle school “counted”? If students in grades 6-8 earned credits toward middle school graduation? So many students arrive to me in 9th grade completely unprepared, having skated along for years and years, promoted despite absenteeism and lack of achievement. So many 9th grade students end up failing their first semester because they do not understand the need for credits and the long-term goal of graduation. Then they drop out in the face of the actual work that they will need to do in the future to actually earn a diploma. If we made middle school count, we might have 7th grade drop-outs.

    Why does the education system keep promoting students who aren’t really students and keep punishing truants with jail time? I feel like schools have become a place to contain young people, to keep them relatively occupied for as many years as possible, so they don’t get into trouble. Teachers become baby-sitters rather than educators.

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