A Ph.D. in Playground: Should kids have “graduation” ceremonies?

In this month of graduations, I’ve been thinking about how, sadly, wearing a cap and gown doesn’t mean as much as it used to.  If I recall, it used to be reserved exclusively for high school and college graduations—something you looked forward to for many years, because those are graduations that deserve Pomp and Circumstance, cap and gown, and celebrations of the highest order.  It meant you’d come a long way over many years and studied hard (hopefully) to get where you are—to quote from A Chorus Line song, “and now life really begins.” But these days, preschoolers graduate in full regalia. Some kindergarteners and Jr. High kids wear the cap and gown, too.  (Heck, PetSmart even had my dog wear a mortar board when he passed their obedience training…)  It seems to be everywhere– I witnessed a Pre-K graduation a few years ago in the Dallas area and last week, a friend of mine who lives in a small Texas town (pop. 6,600) proudly recalled details from ceremonies at her daughter’s K-8 school. 


No doubt most of these pint-sized graduations got started by enterprising business owners coupled with moms and dads afflicted with Over Eager Parent Syndrome…wanting to jump into everything with their kids ASAP—probably also the cause of spa visits for 5-year-olds, third grade football teams with third grade cheerleaders, exotic senior trips to “honeymoon worthy” destinations, etc.—you know what I mean.  Whatever happened to the Bible verse (and Byrds song) about “To everything, there is a season”…?   If we rush everything, what do we have to look forward to?


Thank goodness our elementary school’s “6th Grade Farewell” hasn’t ventured into that territory. The 6th graders’ parents usually decide how it’s going to be done, and so far (whew!), no caps or gowns.  I helped serve cake and Coke (that’s the generic Texan word for “pop”, my Midwestern friends) and observed our latest Farewell a couple days ago, and it pretty much went like the couple of other ones at the school that I’ve seen: each kid walks to the microphone and shares a favorite memory, all their former teachers are honored (even ones that have retired or left the school come back), a DVD slideshow plays, with the requisite baby photos of each child and snapshots from their years at the school, and a rose is given to each mom whose last child is (finally!) leaving the school. Oh, and of course, the cake and Coke afterwards.  (Lately the cakes have been decorated with an “icing photo” of the group, so the kids can all say stuff like, “I’m eating your arm!” or “I just bit into your head!”) Yes, a fitting end to seven years of reading, writing, ‘rithmetic and recess…and not much homework.


Meanwhile somewhere across town and across the state, a five-year-old is handed a preschool “diploma” and beams at the camera in his cap and gown.  Later, he heads home for his graduation party, where many relatives and friends await with gifts, wrapped in colorful paper emblazoned with the words, “Good Luck Graduate!”  Yeah, he’s going to need it in kindergarten, no doubt.  Learning to count to 100 is tough business.
“Get me out of this thing!” thinks Luke after PetSmart graduation (and no, he was not valedictorian.)

9 thoughts on “A Ph.D. in Playground: Should kids have “graduation” ceremonies?”

  1. I agree. It’s just one more thing pushing children into the adult world too soon. If I remember, our sixth grade class went to the zoo for the day…no formal observance of “graduation”. Of course, this was in the late ’50’s when children were much more innocent. I wonder about our society today when little girls go to the spa and have their nails painted each week, and elementary age boys (whose bones are just too soft) are competing in full pads on a football field. And don’t get me started on little miss pageants. Childhood is just too short a time and should not be intruded upon with adult activities. There will be plenty of time to act as adults (say 40+ years), and there will be times then when they wished they could be children again!

Comments are closed.