Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Eighth grade celebration

Today was eighth grade graduation for Buford Middle School, held at the performing arts center. I love my son very much, I'm proud of his accomplishments, and I realize that moving up to high school is a big deal, for all the kids. I must admit, however, that graduation ceremonies are exceedingly tedious and today's was no exception, although, thankfully, the speeches were kept to a minimum, and one of the musical entertainments—the 8th grade string quartet was excellent.

Somewhat disconcerting was the police presence at the celebration. As I waited in my seat for the ceremony to begin, a Charlottesville police officer stood nearby—so near that I could have taken the gun out of his holster. It was strange, sitting there at a middle school graduation, for crying out loud, with a loaded gun inches from my face. I'm not sure why the police were needed. Two years ago, this exact same crowd gathered in the Performing Arts Center for the Walker 6th grade graduation. No police were needed then.

There were some rather unexpected entertainments, such as someone offstage screaming, “FUCK YOU!” during the string quartet's performance. Also, included in the Student Recognition segment of the ceremony, was the presentation of academic achievement awards from President Bush. Each winning child received a pen and a letter from W Himself. The assistant principal read the letter aloud—it was exactly the “This-is-a-great-nation-congratulations-on-your-achievement” form letter that you'd expect. “Sincerely, George W. Bush,” concluded the assistant principal. The audience responded with very little applause, and even a scattering of subdued “boos.” It's childish, but I admit that this pleased me, although I was not one of the boo-ers. Then the fire alarm went off just as the kids started parading across the stage to get their diplomas. We all froze, and in a fire-drill first, we were told, “Everybody stay seated. Just stay where you are,” and Mr. Leatherwood, CHS principal dashed off the stage to find out what was going on. The building was not on fire, and the ceremony proceeded without further incident. I wonder if the offstage screamer was the same one who pulled the fire alarm?

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