Thursday, May 18, 2006


I sometimes forget that extreme differences in culture that exist in our society. I have lived in places where they have been highlighted but still forget as I live in my own middle class world. Last night was graduation night at the high school I teach at. It was interesting as always. I have mentioned before that the demographics of my school are about 96% lower/middle class African-Americans. Not that I think this really matters, but it does. This is a community that I don't identify with. Not because they are black. It is deeper and more complicated than that. I remember my high school graduation--even though it was 17 years ago. It was a momentous occassion that was calm and respectful in most cases. Yes everyone cheer for their graduate as they crossed the stage, it is exciting. But there was an air of dignity and class to the ceremony.

Last night, again made me realize how different my values are from those whom I teach. There was not a quiet moment at the ceremony. Not during the invocation, the speeches from the salutatorian or the valadictorian--Parents and family members spent the entire 2 hours yelling at their students at the top of their lungs. Parents were encouraged by the principal, the school board president and the superintendent to be quiet and respectful during the ceremony and to model "correct" behavior for their children. It was sad. There were plenty of family members in the audience who were quiet and respectful and really wanted to make the evening something special. But there are others who don't seem to realize what is appropriate at this type of ceremony. For many it may have been the only one they attended or will attend. Man, I sound a little pompous--maybe a lot. But I love my students and I wanted it to be special for them. Some parents were so loud that we couldn't hear the names being called. Students walked in late in the middle of the ceremony. Families came in late, loudly and half way through the ceremony. I was saddened by the display and by my thoughts about it. Who am I to judge the behavior of others based on what my culture/upbringing thinks is appropriate.

I guess it is good that I recognize that I am affected by these differences and that I know the values that I have and that I want to pass on to my child. We are a vastly different mesh of cultures, values and beliefs. I have to accept the differences and respect them. I have to be careful not to judge infront of my child or at all. I don't want to pass on my preconceived notions to him. I want to teach him that differences are good and necessary and are what makes our world and our country great.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Seems two-fold - "values" and how people celebrate differently. The values one seems loaded. It makes it seem like one group (quiet celebrators) has values, while others don't. A value certainly is education (and its priority), not how we act at graduation. Even the value of education is complex to understand, particularly in a country where our poor and disadvantaged are overwhelmingly minority and receive a far different quality of education than middle class, non-minority kids. Then there's the many tenets of institutionalized racism, views of cultural differences in a pejorative sense, etc.

It's good to keep an open eye to your reaction and how it might affect you and your child. Keep writing!