By the time you’re in high school, your childhood is behind you, and your current performance is a powerful predictor of adult success.
55 Years in School (and the Last)
10,170 days down, 5 left
We just finished 8th grade graduation. Whoops, sorry, can’t call it graduation anymore. Now it’s called “Closing Exercises.” Some schools like to call it the “Moving On Ceremony.” I’m not sure what’s politically incorrect about the word “graduation,” but I’ve been told on a couple of occasions that it’s not the term we use anymore. So be it. Honestly, I don’t really care.
The day was hot. Let me correct that also. It wasn’t just hot, it was unbearably, ridiculously, beyond all reason hot. Topping off at about 96 degrees outside, the air condition-less gym that we hold the affair in had to be 10 degrees hotter. People who sat at the top of the bleachers were taking their lives in their hands. Programs were used like fans incessantly. If there’s such a thing as a “Moving On” ceremony in the Arabian Desert this is what it must be like.
But the festivities went off without a hitch. The students behaved admirably and looked even better. Attractive dresses were worn by our young ladies, hair coiffed, and the boys all donned ties and were on their utmost best behavior. Well-orchestrated and smooth running it flowed like a Broadway play. The speeches were to the point and short enough, that in one hour we were in and out.
Later, I got thinking about these students. Here’s the reality of the situation, and I might be a bit harsh here. The white hot light of reality beams down harder the older you get, and there’s really no fooling it. You might only be 13 or 14, but in this society, at this time, when you move on to high school you have really kissed childhood good-bye, despite your parents’ best wishes.
If you’re a good student in middle school, if you’ve worked hard to learn the material, study and complete your assignments and get everything in on time, you received the school award of good grades. And you know what that predicts? Success in high school. The athlete who trains and trains and trains is in a good position to do well in his or her sport. The exact same is true for students. Talent comes into play, just as intelligence does in school, but hard work pays off. In fact, success mirrors success. Good grades in high school, most likely pay off in college as well.
But here’s the honest, yin-yang, black-white, up-down to all this. If you’re a screw-up in middle school, the odds are you’re going to stay a screw-up. The angel of education does not appear somewhere riding in on a life-altering wave at our beachfront town, delivering an iPad and a magic wand of maturation. If you didn’t do your work, don’t really care, couldn’t bother studying because you’re playing Soldier of Fortune and texting all night long, then high school will most likely be a long slow slide into academic oblivion. You will fade away as a student of achievement or simply maintain your low level of class rank and report cards and do something else with your life than go to college.
Now, there are lots of reasonable options outside of college. But I’m talking about work ethic, pride, effort, motivation, and delaying gratification for a later goal. Truthfully, if you have those qualities you’re probably doing O.K. in school anyway. If you decide to become a carpenter, a truck driver, a plumber, an electrician an automotive repair person and a thousand other things and you have those characteristics, you’re going to be a damn good one. If not, you’re headed somewhere else.
Have I seen kids change? Of course. Sometimes a light goes on somewhere. They realize that they want things in life just like most people. A car, an apartment, decent clothes, a vacation, movies, cable. There’s only one way. Money. How do you get money in America? Be born into it. Or education. If you think I’m wrong, please go move to a commune, there have to be a few of them left. But most kids don’t change. If they do, it’s an exception to the rule. High performing, invested, motivated students tend to stay that way. Those who don’t care about education, the anti-achievers, tend to stay that way.
I wish it weren’t so. Congratulations, graduates!
—Photo credit: swruler9284/Flickr