Call me old-fashioned (no, really, call me old-fashioned), but back in my day graduation ceremonies were attended with dignity; discipline was the order of the day; and no matter how boring it got you could never let them see you squirm.
My brother’s graduation ceremony over the weekend was a real eye-opener into this younger generation (who I claim no kinship with despite what my age says to the contrary) and, surprisingly, their parents. Because I’m still not sure who to blame for the total disregard for decorum that was displayed at the ceremony on Sunday afternoon. Is it that the children are too bad, or the parents are too laissez-faire?
Now I understand that every event in Jamaica is an occasion to dress up, shell dung and generally walk out pan a girl ca’ you know you look good, but your child’s graduation ceremony is not the best time to wear your brand new Spandex micro-mini dress with the bright red kick-me-kill-me heels. It is not supposed to be a hotter-dan competition between you and your daughter, or you and your son’s girlfriend. Because when the heels start killing you so bad that you can’t stand up for the National Anthem, that’s just disrespectful.
And I understand that Jamaicans love to chat and snack and use the programme as a fan any time they’re sitting in a congregation for longer than half an hour, but carrying soda and banana chips to your child in the middle of the ceremony is still a total breach of protocol no matter how she hungry. It looked so bad to watch these grown women (and sometimes they’d send the younger ones) ferry food over to the graduates’ section from the audience, throughout the ceremony.
I can even understand that parental gut-instinct that makes you want to capture every ‘significant’ moment of your offspring’s life on camera, but it is not okay to hold up the entire procession of graduates just so you can get a picture of Junior in the robe that he will still have after the ceremony walking down the aisle that will still be there even when everyone’s gone home. Parents are specifically instructed not to take pictures during the ceremony – that’s what official photographers are for – but every Jack man with a Blackberry, tablet, or Polaroid camera still bomb-rushed the aisle as soon as the grads started marching.
What I can’t understand is the pervasive laziness that lasted the whole ceremony: people actually had to be told to stand for the opening devotion and told again for the National Anthem. When the Chairperson wanted the parents to stand so they could be acknowledged for their support, every single parent sitting around me (including my own) grumbled for a good ten seconds before reluctantly getting to their feet.
I might be old for my age, but I miss the times when parents and children alike were half-afraid of teachers at school. Now they just do whatever they want. And if the teacher gets in the way then he/she’s to blame for whatever goes wrong.
It’s more than just a graduation ceremony, though, it’s an attitude. A Jamaican attitude that’s been taking root for quite some time and that is just going to get more and more out of control. And deciding whether the parents or the children are more at fault is a chicken/egg dilemma that gets us nowhere near breakfast. 2030 is fast approaching, yet we’re still very a long way from becoming the type of place where people want to live, work, raise families and do business. We’ve certainly got our work cut out for us.