It’s graduation time again! But this time, the Class of 2021 are a class unto themselves! They have weathered the storm of COVID 19 and a global pandemic, stood in the path of a distinct and renewed period of racial and social unrest, while completely adjusting to online learning and the “Virtual” classroom space. Of course, there were trials and tribulation along the way. Some did not make it through. They did not cross the finish line (this time) for whatever reason although the aforementioned reasons were certainly more than enough to derail their ambition or set the plans that they made on fire. However, the ones who have crossed over or are just waiting to hear their name called so they can take their “walk” of pride with a real sense of accomplishment, will hear over and over again, well done, well done indeed! Each and every one of you deserve the “medal of honor” for what you have managed to accomplish against great obstacles and even greater odds.
I have attended many graduation ceremonies over the years, as an academic, I believe it is my duty to celebrate the graduates and their individual and collective accomplishments. People who have done great things deserve to be celebrated. However, it is not only the individual student who is receiving accolades during graduation season. No. It is also the countless parents, guardians and supportive family and friends who should also get a high five when graduation time rolls around each year. We never walk alone at graduation time. And that is the truth! We all have someone or something that helped us get over the hurdles. We are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us, whose journey was fraught with many more obstacles, and often, much more intense and life- threatening difficulty than we can even imagine. Because of them, we are able to press forward with our education and academic promise.
The course of our future journey may be uncertain and even unclear, and for now that is just fine. Right now, in this present moment, we must take the time to measure the distance we have come and count the costs of that journey as we contemplate the next steps before us, and where those steps might take us. Here and now, we must celebrate this generation of graduates who have accomplished the tremendous goal of advancing to the status called graduate.
As we emerge from the darkness, death and isolation that has been this global pandemic, we must create monuments for these graduates of the class of 2021, be they Middle School, High School, or College graduates, they deserve to be awarded a job and/or career advancement because they have demonstrated great tenacity and resilience as they navigated this particular school year.
It’s important to applaud the faculty and staff too during any graduation season, but especially this one. The faculty and staff that I know have been warriors for education and the personal survival of each and every student with whom they intersected. Throughout this period of lockdowns, synchronistic and asynchronistic teaching and learning, educators have had to become so many things to so many people. This is true for the many educators who do their job tenaciously without adequate pay or benefits.
When we as a society can pay our head coaches and athletic directors more by far than we pay our teachers, something is desperately wrong! Now I like collegiate athletics as much as anyone else, but the pay scale for teachers in comparison with college coaches is asinine. And the way universities continue to lean on adjunct faculty to bear the weight of that burden, while administrators and college presidents increase their salaries to unprecedented levels cannot continue.
We will never have a healthy education system if we do not courageously address the severe underfunding of schools, departments and universities. The education system will ultimately fail, and we will be unable to celebrate our brilliant, gifted and stubbornly tenacious members of the class of 2021. Or any class that comes after them. For NOW,…We ALL Celebrate you CLASS OF 2021! The Bold & the Resilient!