Editor’s Column: Graduation = commencement = beginning

Niki Turner

Who knew political correctness and helicopter parenting were alive and well in 1988? We weren’t allowed to toss our graduation caps for fear “we’d put someone’s eye out,” and we had to wait until after the ceremony to receive our real diplomas, as if we would disrupt the ceremony as soon as we had that piece of paper in hand.

 

High school is a kind of cocoon, for students and parents. With the flip of the tassel, our little pupae suddenly sprout wings. Some of those youngsters will march confidently in the direction of their dreams with nary a misstep or stumble along the way. Many will wobble and waver before they find their course. Some will change direction entirely. A few will fall off the radar. Almost all will find their way eventually.

And then, in the blink of an eye, it seems, you’re headed off for your 30th high school reunion. Mine is next weekend. The 10th reunion was awkward. I arrived with four kids under the age of 7 in tow while most of my classmates were just embarking on their careers.

The 20th reunion was better. We’d pretty much all realized we didn’t have anything to prove to anyone. We’d figured out that our careers and our identities were not one and the same, and we’d started to experience some losses… parents, classmates, loved ones.

Of course, between our 20th and 30th came social media. These days I know what almost everyone in my class looks like, how old their kids are, how many times they’ve been married, and their political persuasions (something I frequently wish I didn’t know). There probably won’t be too many surprises at this reunion, and that’s OK.

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After another school shooting last week, this time in Texas, the arguments and debates are swirling once again about gun control, mental health, and the purported moral collapse of civilization as we know it.

In the first four and a half months of 2018, 26 students and five adults have been killed at schools nationwide in five separate shooting incidents. Without a doubt, there’s a problem. Identifying exactly what that problem is and how to solve it is our conundrum.

After 9/11 we instituted thoroughly annoying and intrusive security measures at airports. We now take off our shoes, go through metal detectors, endure groping by strangers, have our luggage X-rayed and occasionally riffled through in public, and have to follow rules about what we can and can’t pack.

Why do we subject ourselves to this? Because no one wants to be on a plane that gets hijacked and used as a weapon of mass destruction ever again. We endure personal discomfort for the sake of the greater good.

What measures—if any—are we willing to employ to keep our kids, and teachers, safe in schools? Our pastors and parishioners safe in churches? And our concertgoers safe at concerts?