Saturday, 3 July 2010

I have never been to a graduation ceremony -

or rather, not to one that actually meant anything.
We did have a sort of graduation ceremony in teacher training college but none of us felt it was the real thing. That was the year the college principal decreed that only staff with university degrees could sit on the dusty stage. The staff, rightly, refused to attend.
Students were told that, if they failed to attend, they would not be granted their diplomas - and that meant we could not be teachers. We attended but the president of the student body refused to give an address. He just gave a brief statement saying why he was not giving the traditional speech. Only the guest speaker was given any applause. He clearly felt very uncomfortable.
There was no handrail on the steps up on to the stage so my diploma was passed down to me by a staff member. "You were lucky Cat!" someone told me. I probably was. I did not have to shake hands with the Principal.
There was supposed to be a graduation dinner but nobody organised one. This was because of the principal's edict; it was customary to invite him free of charge. A few of the students probably went to the pub but most of us were not yet 21 - the age at which you were legally able to imbibe alcohol. I just went home.
I went from teacher training college to university on the other side of the world, one of just two students to actually go to university at all. By the time the graduation ceremony came around I was back on this side of the world. I went to university in two more places, both of them interstate. The expense of getting there and staying there just to listen to some speeches and be given a piece of paper seemed ridiculous - even if I could have found the time. I stayed home. Most of the mature age students who did not live nearby did the same. Who can blame them?
There are no photographs of me looking ridiculous in an academic hat and gown. I do not even possess all the pieces of paper. I might collect them one day, if I ever go to those places. I have been told I can. Would that feel like a graduation ceremony?
Probably not. They do not do parchment any more.

1 comment:

Bob C-S said...

You are being much too kind about the occasion. I remember it as far worse than that. There was a gawd-awful silence every time he came into the staff room all year.