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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
The "Graduation" thing

This is part of the whole "britpicking" kefuffle.

There's a reason why American writers were so surprised that there was no graduation ceremony in Britain - and it's not lack of imagination. It's that high school graduation is so important here. It's *the* rite of passage, the step into adulthood. Neither I nor my brother-in-law went to our respective college graduation ceremonies - I finished in January and he had an Ultimate Frisbee tournament and anyway was going to be an academic and never really leave even if he was going to a different school. We both went to our high school graduations.

We have parties and gifts and cards and Barbie Dolls all for this. And we even have imitation events all through school - kindergarten graduation, elementary school graduation, junior high school graduation. I remember helping my eighth grade students into their caps and gowns - and the culmination is high school. It's very difficult to conceive of finishing the equivalent of twelfth grade (yes, I know it isn't, but they're the right age and the end result is the same - independence or further training) without the whole ceremony. In fact, it was shocking to me and to others I know that it didn't happen in Britain. Not everyone goes to college; pretty much everyone graduates from high school - and it's shameful if you drop out.

Just like wickedcherub was shocked when she found out that American schools have no houses - Houses are so integral to British schools, apparently, that she can't imagine a school without them. This isn't lack of imagination on her part - it's a complete shift in the universe. Just as no graduation is to Americans.


Houses are so integral to British schools, apparently, that she can't imagine a school without them.

Well, I can now, after all the explanations that I received :) I'm still rather amused that so many people thought that J.Ro made them up.

I didn't think she made them up, but I figured they were part of an old boarding school culture, not British school culture in general! Wow--talk about learning something new every day.

This whole houses thing is completely new to me. (OK, so I haven't read Harry Potter. Shame on me. ^^;) But I'm slightly glad we didn't have anything of that sort, I don't like competition that much.

But we did have a graduation party :D But no gowns. (We had clothes made for the occasion, though; and a special sidebag.) We had a ceremony, and before that, there were two days when we went and sang all sorts of songs below our teachers' balconies in the middle of the night; that's also traditional. Most invited us in and gave us food and drink. Most of the boys (and some girls) were out drunk by the time we finished, as most teachers had some wine around, and they also bought some themselves. (Three cheers for all-night supermarkets *chuckle*)

(no subject) - (Anonymous)

I think the alcohol bit is part of the "you're adults now, so we're going to treat you as adults" routine. Here, most 18-yr-olds will get angry if they're not offered some alcoholic beverage on some occasion were everyone else drinks. (Me, I stay away from that stuff. I hate the smell of it. Ick.) Even if they decline, the fact that they're offered alcohol means they are considered adults.

But I think the legal drinking age in the US is well over 18 ;] I don't even think there's a legal drinking age here, alcoholic beverages are not sold to people under 18 (in theory, not in practice *chuckle*) but everyone may drink as much as they wish without sanctions. The act of drinking itself is not criminalized, only purchase (if one's a minor).

Until the mid-80's, drinking age was a hash - different states had different legal ages. This created a rather dangerous situation, as people who not of age in one state would drive to nearby one where they could drink. Therefore, in the 80s each state was encouraged to raise or keep their drinking age as 21.

At the time, I lived in New Jersey, where the drinking age was 19. They raised the drinking age to 21 in January 1983, two months after my 19th birthday. Unlike some states (such as New York), NJ had a grandfather clause - all state residents who were already 19 when the law came into effect would not lose their privileges. By making it just for state residents, nonresidents couldn't take advantage of that.

At age 19, this was a big deal, even though I rarely drank and was never carded when I did.

in the 80s each state was encouraged to raise or keep their drinking age as 21

I'd say more like "blackmailed" than encouraged -- yet another legacy of Big Ronnie, Don of Da U.S.A. (It was done by withholding federal highway funding from states that refused to comply. Since federal money comprises much if not most of most states' repair and maintenance budget for their roads, this was an offer they couldn't refuse. IIRC, it was the same for speed limits being lowered at the time to 55 mph.)

:) That's pretty much it, yeah.

Actually Lizzie Dole, who was Reagan's Secretary for Transport.

Well, yes, her too (and please don't get me started on her!). But the buck stops at the top desk, especially for anything initiated or handled at the Cabinet level. (If it doesn't, then the Administration is a failure, a fraud, or something far worse than either.)

Ooh, I *love* that icon!

Thanks. Polyamorous Filkers R Us :-) Built it myself (Corel Draw); feel free to take and use it.

(no subject) - (Anonymous)

LOL. I only read stories about Czechoslovakian forest animals and Russian mountain spirits. ;] (BTW: Russian mountain spirits are massively cool.) And when I got slightly older I read science fiction, and...um... I still do =]

I guess we were exposed to different sets of stories :] (And I skipped the 'youth fiction' part entirely, thanks to the family SF obsession. :D)


I'm guessing that's part of it - I knew about houses because I read a bunch of books as a kid that took place, at least partially, in British boarding schools. (I also have the vague impression that at least some American prep schools do the same thing, from things some friends of mine who went to Kiski have said.)

It does depend on what you read and where you are, I think, pretty strongly.

It's very difficult to conceive of finishing the equivalent of twelfth grade (yes, I know it isn't, but they're the right age and the end result is the same - independence or further training) without the whole ceremony.

Oh, absolutely. To the extent that one of the few things schools can threaten graduating seniors with to keep them in line (since they've either already been accepted to college or know what they're planning to do for a job) is not being allowed to march at graduation. And in a lot of schools, even if you're going to have to go to summer school to finish, you still get to march (and get handed an empty diploma case).

You're right. It is hard to conceive of not having some ceremony to mark the completion of secondary school. I find myself assuming against all comments from Brits that surely, there must at least be a familial party marking such an occasion. I remember that even my friend Kip, who skipped the entire last semester and was therefore last in the class, showed up for graduation. Granted, he had Sylvester the Cat taped to his mortarboard (our friend Lisa had Tweety-Bird), but he showed. I was salutatorian and gave a speech, and there were fights (not in my family, but in others) about limited numbers of tickets and who could come to the actual ceremony. If a family was divorced and there were four tickets, did they go to both parents and new spouses? Or a grandparent apiece? Or did only one parent come while the other was left steaming? My mother and I drove to New Jersey for my cousin's graduation (a seven hour drive), hoping it wouldn't rain so that we could go to the outdoor ceremony instead of sitting at home while he did a valedictory address in an auditorium (we lucked out; the weather was great). Grandparents frequently fly in from all over the country to attend these things.

College graduation is skipped by more than one person. I was at my undergrad graduation--I thought about skipping it, but my mother threatened to cry if I did; she said she'd earned it--but my grad school graduation? Not a clue what went on there; I was moving that day, and not interested in attending anyway (how do I hate my grad school, let me count the ways).

Whether you go to college or not, the end of high school is the end of childhood. All the people you grew up with and were educated with will now scatter to the four winds, and you pick up with a totally new life somewhere else, more often than not away from home. So it's definitely considered the end of an epoch, and is marked accordingly. It's almost inconceivable to not think of it that way.

P.S.: I just remembered what a fuss there was in 1987(?), when the "Class of 2000" entered kindergarten. It was a big hairy deal on the evening news magazines, anticipating the year in which these five year olds would graduate from high school.

I find myself assuming against all comments from Brits that surely, there must at least be a familial party marking such an occasion.

No, not even that. Honestly. Well, I had a few friends whose parents were persuaded to take them out for a meal, but it wasn't even common, let alone universal. But the graduation for my bachelor's degree, that was a big deal for my parents, particularly my father.

heh. that's fascinating. i guess i let it slide...but, you know, it explains why it's such a big deal to hold the tri-wizard competition. we americans compete against other schools all the time....

we americans compete against other schools all the time....

So did we, we played several matches of different sports a year against a variety of other schools. Except, at my school, for the year our rugby team was banned from the county competition for biting.

Speech Night

At my school, at least, the Year 12s did get acknowledged at Speech Night. But speech night isn't just for the Year 12s, it's for all the students. Each class does something, puts on some sort of skit, song, presentation or something.


The original purpose of the house system was to create rivalries between boys of the same year, so as to minimise their opportunity for forming particular friendships, which means exactly what you think it does.

The problem with that is that it would do nothing to prevent particular friendships within the same house, and might even enourage it.

There weren't many boys per year per house. The larger schools had as many as a dozen houses. Socialising between boys of different houses was strictly forbidden, as was socialising outside ones age group.

No fraternization between houses, no fraternization between ages, few boys of the same age in the same house.

So...basically, socializing was discouraged? (*scratching head in confusion*)

Yes, pretty much. Again, the original purpose of this system was to minimise the opportunity for ‘particular friendships’. If you get the groups small enough, the odds of any two boys in the same group feeling mutually attracted diminishes.

Remember, this was the culture that invented corn flakes and digestive biscuits as cures for masturbation.