I have attended many graduations this year, of both the 8th and 12th grade variety. Ergo, I have heard many speeches by teachers, sponsors, parents and students, and even a senator, addressing the graduates as they patiently sat in their seats, waiting for the whole thing to be over, so they could go party and find out what all was in the cards and presents they would be receiving.
As someone who has recently taken to observing trends in society, I take particular interest in the speeches that are delivered at these graduations; mostly because as a preacher, I also daydream about what I would say if given the microphone.
Before I go on, allow me to say that the speeches I heard this year were actually better than ones I have heard in the past. There were surprisingly few references to that mythical fantasy land called ‘the real world’ (a pet peeve of mine); and generally most of the advice given was practical, and was actually directed at those graduating.
Most of that advice however, focused around getting good grades in either high school or college; being involved in activities outside the classroom; and generally don’t do anything stupid, but have fun and make lots of friends.
All good advice; all very true advice. But allow me to point out what is missing in that advice.
All of these speeches focused around the notion that the graduates, both 8th and 12th graders, needed to be focused on their careers; focused on getting jobs that paid good money; being involved in their communities; none of them focused on getting married and starting families.
Why would they leave such information out?
Because as a society, we have generally determined that no one should marry and have children until they are at least out of college, and quite possibly not until their 30’s. To mention the possibility of marriage and children at high school graduation would be the equivalent of telling the kids to go out and do drugs and throw their lives away. It would be roundly considered an absurd idea; one that would get the speaker booed off the stage and lead to the revoking of any and all lunch invites. To mention such a thing at an 8th grade graduation would lead to an all-out riot.
And as evidence that teenagers actually do listen to speeches given at graduation, they go to college, study, make friends, have fun, and generally don’t get married until their 30’s (if they get married at all).
Solutions? Granted a speech at graduation won’t do much to change the course of society; but could we at least try? To hear at your junior high and high school graduation that marriage and children will benefit your life instead of hindering it, would be some good parting advice to graduates. Perhaps one of those new friends you make is your future spouse; perhaps when you graduate college, your first goal is not buying a house and SUV, but instead starting a family.
Also, small towns especially need to be pro-active: tech schools are not for flunkies and jailbirds; a kid with a 4 year degree and $30,000 in student loan debt, will not find long term employment in small towns; a kid with a tech degree, with little student loan debt, will generally be able to find long term employment in small towns.
Do we need to return home-economics to high school and get rid of college level math courses? I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea. How about local churches doing more youth socials so kids can meet other local Lutherans, and not feel like their ‘true love’ lives 10,000 miles away?
I have no more graduations on the schedule for this year; but there is always next year, and the hope that somebody will speak some advice that might cause a few eyes to roll and fists to be raised; I however, will be there with my pitchfork to defend that speaker.