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Time to rethink eighth grade ‘graduation’

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POSTED June 5, 2009 2:20 a.m.
Lathrop School is on to something.

Under the leadership of Principal David Silveira, the school quietly jettisoned evening graduation ceremonies and replaced it with promotion ceremonies during the school day for those eighth graders who passed the muster to advance to high school.

The low-key and inexpensive approach had several nice touches including a promotion breakfast as well as a chance for those advancing to go to lunch with their parents to celebrate before returning in the afternoon for other activities.

There was a time when eighth-grade graduation was a big deal. A lot of students went to work on the farm or for family businesses fulltime after completing their first eight or nine years of school. That is not the case today.

What has happened, though, is the experience has become an excuse for many to go overboard which in turn puts pressure on others to follow suit to some degree.

Keeping costs down for families that can’t afford it as well as keeping things in perspective should be on the radar of school leaders.

There were many times when my grandkids were attending New Haven or Joshua Cowell schools their parents didn’t have the money for simple things as cupcakes and punch on a rotating basis for an entire classroom (when you’re barely feeding your family this can be a burden) or for a variety of other extras that sweetened the social experience more than the classroom experience.

There was never a doubt that Nana or Papa would help when needed. There are many struggling families out there that don’t have such an option. And this is before the foreclosure meltdown and double-digit unemployment throughout the Manteca Unified School District.

There is another reason why the promotion ceremony makes more sense than the graduation ceremony. It dilutes the high school experience.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to whether kids are growing up too fast. Sixth through eight graders have everything that one used to look forward to being able to access in high school from yearbooks and dances to a major celebration at graduation.

It is true you can’t get the horses back into the barn very easily after you’ve opened the doors. Yet, the community as a whole - either at the school board level or at individual schools – hasn’t really stopped and assessed the situation. Instead things just have evolved primarily by peer pressure courtesy of everything from the media – name your particular poison whether it is magazines, TV, newspapers, the Internet, music or all of them.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing but is also isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Give Silveira credit for understanding the struggle of the community he serves.

He also may understand the needs for kids to be kids.

Are we forcing some kids to grow up so fast they roll right on by the pre-teen years?

And are we shortchanging others by making them feel inadequate?

A lot of angst has been spent over the years about making kids “feel good” by giving everyone a trophy and making everyone a winner at everything they do.

Yet no one seems to give much thought to those from struggling families feeling embarrassed or ashamed that they can’t afford to participate in school activities because they simply lack the resources to do so.

 Hopefully not only has Lathrop School started a solid tradition but perhaps others will follow suit.
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