Editorial: If everything is special, is anything special?

Posted 6/29/22

Sometime over the past two decades, we fell in love with our celebrations for youth, more than ever before. Mix the “everyone gets a trophy” philosophy, with a general softening of …

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Editorial: If everything is special, is anything special?

Posted

Sometime over the past two decades, we fell in love with our celebrations for youth, more than ever before. Mix the “everyone gets a trophy” philosophy, with a general softening of society, with the pervasive impact of social media, and it seems nothing is good enough unless it is loud, proud and better than before.

A generation ago, students graduated from high school. These days, they “graduate” from kindergarten, third-grade, fifth-grade and eighth-grade, before they graduate for real from 12th-grade. It means there’s a celebration at the end of 40 percent of their school-age years.

Each celebration elicits balloon arches, signs, songs, speeches, a parade of students, and paper certificates printed out by the hundreds marking that Billy or Sally has finished the fill-in-the-blank grade.

At the high school, every school sports season now ends with its own round of celebrations, with team dinners (many taking place at Rhode Island Country Club for $40 per plate), Senior Nights, speeches, gifts and lavish attention — regardless of whether a team won a state title or lost every game — and parents forking out hundreds of dollars so everyone can feel so super special.

A National Honor Society induction in the school cafeteria or auditorium is no longer good enough either. Parents are once again off to the Country Club for a fancy plated dinner and views overlooking the bay.

We celebrate successes. We celebrate despite failures. We celebrate everything, just so no one experiences anything less than everyone who came before.

Here’s the risk. When everything is special, is anything truly special? Are the pomp and circumstance of the high school graduation so much grander than the lower-level graduations that young people recognize the weight of their achievement?

These “stepping up,” “bridge,” or “moving on” events do provide educators and administrators an opportunity to say good-bye, or good luck (or maybe good riddance) to students they have had for the last two or three years, but they also require a fair amount of planning, take students away from their actual studies for yet another day at the end of the year, and for many parents require another day or half-day out of work. 

And keep in mind, none of these students has actually reached graduation; it’s just summer vacation.

It may be impossible to fit this Genie back into the lamp. In the age of “look at me” social media, no one wants to do less than the person who came before.

Yet perhaps someone will eventually realize the exaggerated cost of these celebrations — materials, time and money — and rediscover that heartfelt and meaningful last much longer than the wasted remnants of balloons and streamers.

2022 by East Bay Newspapers

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.