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Friday, June 5, 2020

CURMUDGUCATION: Graduation in the Age of Covid-19

CURMUDGUCATION: Graduation in the Age of Covid-19

Graduation in the Age of Covid-19

There are three bridges that run in and out of my small town. Currently, each bridge is flying a batch of banners that collectively list the entire 2020 graduating class at our high school. When the banners went up, a photo of some seniors looking for their names on the banners ran on the front page of the local paper.

High school graduation is a big deal in small town USA. My old high school (the one where I taught for almost forty years and from which I graduated back in the day) holds the graduation ceremony in the city park. Graduates step up onto the band stand while all their family and most of their friends and a fair-sized helping of community people who aren't even related to any graduates all gather on the cool green grass under a canopy of trees, next to a Civil War monument. For years, a colleague and I led the procession of seniors down the sidewalk that cuts diagonally through the park, splitting the huge home town crowd as folks jostled to snap the first pictures of the day. Seniors speak and perform music; administrators speak briefly.

It's a big deal, possibly equaled only by a wedding, though nobody's wedding will be this well-attended by such a broad cross-section of the community. But it serves as one of the few moments in anyone's life in which their status, their place in the world, their fundamental self-image change in just a few moments' time. Small towns like mine are the kind of place in which where you went to high school remains one of your primary identifiers, like job and spouse, for the rest of your life.

The banners are, of course, just one sign that those transformational moments are not going to happen this year. My old school is hoping to stage a "regular" graduation later this summer. If it CONTINUE READING: 
CURMUDGUCATION: Graduation in the Age of Covid-19