There they will sit, silent, crammed and jammed into the Winthrop Coliseum for the coming graduation ceremonies for York County’s seven high schools.
Families come from all over - some from other states - to celebrate achievement and greatness. They get to experience the most boring ceremonies in South Carolina.
Question: How was graduation?
Answer: I fell asleep.
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The ceremonies that for many years have drawn national attention when cops – working precious overtime and directed by the schools to carry out school policy of no clapping for individual kids, no calling out the name of a kid who did great – have at times arrested people who break the rules. Brothers, fathers, uncles, sisters, friends of graduates, all have gone out in handcuffs. One time a guy in a wheelchair, whose wife died from cancer, left in cuffs.
For calling out the name of his kid.
Question 2: You went to a York County graduation? Anybody get arrested?
Again this year, the schools will tell parents and families who helped those kids through tests and crises, flu and proms, that there will be no clapping when the kid’s name is called. No cheering. No nothing, until the end – after hundreds of names are called and people are zombies from the torpor.
Of all school rules outlawing joy and fun, this is the worst.
Bring back the cheers. Bring back the claps. Bring back the fun.
But schools say no. They are too worried about rushing through graduation, to get to the next ceremony on days when they schedule two or three in one day and people are ushered in and out like bulls into rodeo chutes. See, school districts and their leaders think graduation is about them and their schedules and budgets.
It is not. It is about students and families.
The schools claim that overzealous revelers with air horns and Tarzan howls ruined it for everybody, and so instituted this policy where the schools would ban individual name clapping. More, the schools have said for years that students and parents who are asked prefer graduations that have only clapping at the end.
The schools ruin a day that might be the only time a kid who did not play sports, or participate on a team, but just did their best to get through school while working as a waitress or at a store at night or on weekends gets to hear the roar and the claps meant just for them.
Winthrop held its graduations in the same building last Saturday. Two graduations. People cheered for individuals. It did not take hours longer for a second or two of cheers for each name, each student, to hear somebody scream for them.
Thankfully, police the last couple years just escorted out anyone who has the audacity to show love, then only get tough with arrests if the person refuses to leave, causes a scene, whatever. Cops are not the problem.
The schools shoulder this alone. The schools and their army of administrators and school boards ruin this.
It is about the students graduating. The students did the homework, took the exams, beat the odds in a state where so many kids do not graduate.
It is a legitimate beef that a parent, or student, would be upset if that child’s name was called and nobody could hear it because of noise. That moment is special. Anyone with a brain, and even a guy like me with half a brain whose two older kids went through recent graduations that were brutally boring, concedes that.
The solution is simple. Tell the person announcing the names to wait a second or two for the cheers to end. Give that kid on the stage a chance to shine and wave and smile. Then call out the next name and have the next kid walk across the stage.
Then at the end, there can still be a huge cheer, a collective cheer, to greatness and achievement and hard work. The whole stadium rises as one, to applaud these young people who have done what America says they must to have any chance at life - graduate high school.
Every one of them, individually, deserves every cheer we can give them.
It works everywhere in the world.
Except York County.
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