As parents of a soon-to-be high school graduate, my wife and I recently attended a â€œParents of graduating seniors information nightâ€ at Crescenta Valley High School. I appreciate the school administration's efforts to give parents some sort of clue as to what their students will be doing. After all, it certainly isn't going to come from the students themselves.
Us: â€œWhat's new, son?â€
Teenager (busy reading text message): â€œNothing.â€
Us: â€œAnything special happening this week?â€
Teenager (busy sending text message): â€œNope.â€
Us: â€œWell, let us know if you hear of anything, OK?â€
Teenager (busy reading new text message): â€œOK, what?â€
And so it goes. Thankfully, at the parents' information night we were a given stack of information with details about upcoming events. Now we know a lot more about the upcoming senior prom, grad night at Disneyland, Prom Plus (props to the Valley Sun's own Robin Goldsworthy for her heartfelt and persuasive presentation on its behalf), and other rites of passage that could have come and gone without mom and dad knowing anything more than our son needed extra cash that month.
One event I looked for â€” but couldn't find â€” was the traditional Baccalaureate ceremony. Webster's defines a Baccalaureate as â€œa farewell address in the form of a sermon delivered to a graduating class.â€ Historically, this event was always an optional â€” I repeat, optional â€” ceremony that graduating seniors and their parents could attend on a Sunday afternoon. Graduates wore caps and gowns. A guest pastor, priest or minister would give a talk to the seniors and their guests that typically included themes of encouragement, morality, responsibility to self, country and to God. (Surely subversive topics in today's secular society.) The clergy would then say a blessing over the entire group, everyone would pose for pictures with their favorite teacher (can you imagine?), and go home a bit happier, wiser and more hopeful for their futures.
Sadly, the Baccalaureate is yet another long-standing tradition that has been banned from our educational bastions of tolerance and wisdom. Because no matter how Webster's defines a Baccalaureate, the Glendale Unified School District apparently thinks it is something divisive and dangerous which students should be protected from at all costs.
I've been told that someone â€” in the classic lament of today's liberal narcissism â€” was offended that a ceremony with religious overtones (horrors!) was to be offered on hallowed public school grounds. So, the Baccalaureate is now verboten in the GUSD.
Instead, this June our students will enjoy an event called â€œReflections.â€ Puh-leeze. Even the name itself smacks of a touchy feely, non-challenging, Oprah-fied, wishy washy, mental group hug with all the significance of cotton candy. At least no one will be offended. Except me.
I'm offended that this memorable, moving and, I'll say it again, optional event is no longer available to my son and the many, many others of his graduating class who would be honored to share such an experience.
I'm offended that school administrators today are quick with knee-jerk (and I emphasize â€œjerkâ€) reactions to any and all complaints about traditions if they have any religious connotations whatsoever (remember Christmas vacation? Easter break? And on, and on, and on).
I'm offended that I can't walk onto any public school campus across America today and not be bombarded by language and attitudes of the foulest, filthiest, lowest kind â€” and that teachers must â€œtolerateâ€ this ugly environment, lest a student's rights be violated.
I'm offended that the catch-all â€œseparation of church and stateâ€ reasoning is wrongly applied â€” without question or debate â€” time and time again to increasingly dilute and erase so many of our society's finest, most unique attributes.
And yet, are we producing better kids, better people for all of our fanatical secularism? Walk through the CV quad (or hang out in front of Monte Vista Elementary school for heaven's sake!) and listen to the conversations around you, then answer the question.
It seems to me that, while we correctly protect our graduates from the threat of drunk driving and other physical dangers with worthy events such as Prom Plus, as a community we have turned a blind eye to the equally real dangers of the spiritual or moral kind. Granted, the sorrow and grief comes much more slowly. But it comes all the same.