Stay-At-Home Dad: Cap and groan ceremony
By Howard A. Ludwig June 7, 2012 11:36AM
Bubba Ludwig poses with his kindergarten teacher, Ms. Glavin, on graduation day. | Howard A. Ludwig~For Sun-TImes Media
Updated: July 11, 2012 6:06AM
My 5-year-old son graduated from kindergarten last week.
The ceremony was incredibly cute. Bubba wore a dress shirt and tie. He sang several songs and posed for pictures with classmates. But the ever-present cynic in me couldn’t help but wonder if celebrating a kindergarten graduation is really worthwhile.
I mean Bubba’s not really “graduating” from anything. Next year, he’ll go to the same school with the same kids and even wear the same uniform. He’s merely moving from kindergarten to first grade. By that rationale, shouldn’t he graduate every year?
I also wondered if perhaps by celebrating the completion of kindergarten we’re setting the bar low. I’ve long thought this about eighth-grade graduation, too. If the expectation is to graduate from high school, why make a big deal out of finishing elementary school?
Looking for answers, I called Rev. Richard Fragomeni, a professor at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago’s Hyde Park community. He teaches sacramental theology at the graduate school and has studied modern rituals, including graduations.
“It’s not a graduation if you aren’t going to another school,” Fragomeni said.
And while critical of kindergarten graduation, Fragomeni defended eighth-grade graduation ceremonies. He said the completion of elementary school — particularly in Catholic schools — remains significant, as longtime classmates often split up to attend different high schools.
“These type of graduation ceremonies are called commencements, because they are actually commencing something,” Fragomeni said.
However, he was stumped on the rationale for kindergarten graduation. I made reference to the intoxicating cuteness of the whole affair, likening it to the Christmas pageant. Proud parents stood shoulder to shoulder with video cameras capturing every moment of the brief presentation.
“Maybe it’s a misnomer. Maybe it shouldn’t be called a graduation. It should be called a congratulations ceremony or something,” Fragomeni said.
He compared kindergarten graduation to “Hallmark holidays,” such as Sweetest Day and Boss’s Day. Say you decide not to recognize your sweetie or your boss on these contrived holidays. All it takes is one girlfriend or co-worker to make a big deal out of the day to make you look like a jerk.
I imagine the same goes for kindergarten graduation. Nearly every school seems to celebrate kindergarten graduation nowadays. And if a school chose to steer clear of the hullaballoo, administrators would certainly look like jerks in the eyes of some parents.
As a result, I don’t think kindergarten graduation ceremonies are going away anytime soon. I guess there’s no harm in having such a ceremony, even if it is a bit silly. And, I can’t stress enough the cuteness of the whole affair.
While I hope and pray it never happens, Bubba could drop out of grade school. If so, at least he’ll have a diploma decorated with balloons and smiley faces to show to his employer.
Howard A. Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business writer who traded in his reporter’s notepad for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.
He can be reached at email@example.com.