It is the time of year in my part of the world–the Texas Hill Country–when high school careers come to their ends. (Colleges, for the most part, have already done so, and the scramble to find work before student loans start to come due has begun in earnest.) As is to be expected, there is a fair bit of pageantry going on, the pomp and circumstance to which Elgar gives the traditional soundtrack, and, at the high school from which I graduated, what is hoped to become a new tradition has begun: the Senior Walk, in which those about to graduate return, in regalia, to the elementary schools they attended, where they cheer and are cheered by the students in attendance.
I can see the value in such a gesture. In reminding the graduating seniors of their own educational beginnings, the schools promote students’ reflection on their achievement and enrichment, as well as helping to foster pleasant memories that may well lead to future support of the schools. In showing the elementary school students what the end-results can look like, the schools promote more attention to and focus on school from the younger pupils, which is likely to increase their engagement with the formal educational enterprise. And for families who may have pupils across grades–whether siblings or cousins–there are welcome opportunities for reaffirming familial bonds. (As a family man, the appeal thereof is not lost on me.)
That said, there are some problems with the event. Not all who graduate from the high school attended any of the elementary schools, for one; people move into the town and the school district later than fourth or fifth grade, after all. Some students–and I would have been in this group–attended more than one of the district’s elementary schools; which elementary school gets to have a student for Senior Walk who attended three or four of them?
And then there are the students like me in other ways. Had this been a thing when I was at that age, I’d’ve hated it, and if I couldn’t have skipped out on it, I’d’ve been…less than pleasant. (I was something of a little shit as a kid. Now, having grown past that, I’m something of a big shit.) It appears I’d’ve had company, as well.
Admittedly, I am a curmudgeon, a gorgon to the joyful heart and fond of graveled paths. But, then as now, I would have resented being forced to parade about–indeed, I tried to get out of attending my own high school graduation, raging against having to walk the stage, and I still maintain that I had better things to do with a rainy Friday evening than sit and listed to speeches and a long roster recited slowly. (It is a lesson I have learned; if Ms. 8 wants to sit hers out and the school will permit it–as some do not–I will allow her to do so. But that is a way off yet.) And so I have to wonder if, in the attempt to foster community, the schools have not pushed some further outside it, bred resentment at being the subjects of a dog and pony show into students who had wanted nothing more than to get out at long last–and what they might well have lost in so doing.