When I heard about the recent arrests made at the Fort Mill High School graduation ceremony, I was appalled, finding it to be ludicrous and hypocritical. I was not, however, surprised. As a former Fort Millionaire myself, I joined the ranks of this nationally-known academia my junior year of high school. Coming from a smaller Midwest town, I found a number of “school rules”disturbing.
An incident in particular occurred my first month of school when I was pulled out of class and sequestered in the school office for wearing an apparently too-revealing top, i.e. the straps of my cotton shirt were not thick enough. I was not allowed back into class until my mother brought me a jacket. My other option? Go home and return the next day with “appropriate clothing.”
I feel now as I felt that day in the office. In what world does this make sense?
The answer is, of course, in another world indeed. The arrests made at Fort Mill High School's graduation ceremony is simply another example of Southern ideal created to maintain and uphold image. Where else are rules created and enforced to enhance educational experiences only to have them interrupted and marred when the rules are broken?
The big picture
The recent arrests are no different than my incident in the school office seven years ago. The clothing rule was intended to eliminate distraction from others' learning experiences. What about my learning experience?
If you defend the actions of leaders at the recent graduation ceremony, insisting these arrests were necessary just because attendees “made a conscious decision to break the rules,” you're missing the larger picture altogether. You are unable to see even what my 11-year-old cousin could see at my own graduation ceremony when he asked, “Doesn't having the police come and escort people out just disrupt the ceremony even more?”
If you'd like to say it's about “common courtesy,” you are lying to yourself. The idea of common courtesy is not one of simply obeying strict, harsh rules, but rather of treating others the way you'd like to be treated yourself. The rules at these graduation ceremonies don't even give people the chance to be courteous. Perhaps if they did, this entire problem wouldn't even exist.The school leaders are treating adults and families of these graduates as children themselves, implying they need to be told how to act like courteous, mature adults.
Shoot all clappers
To the graduates of 2008 – I am deeply sorry. Your big day will now be remembered as the year that all those people got arrested, rather than one of the most important days of your life. But hey, I suppose it could always be worse. Maybe in 50 years, folks who attend FMHS graduations will be asked to refrain from clapping and speaking altogether with a threat of being shot on the spot if they disobey.
In a small southern town where ideals and image matter much more than anything else, nothing can be ruled out.