It’s that time of year when you ought to be thinking about graduations. Depending on your age and whether or not you actually have children and grandchildren, you might be thinking about pre-school graduation, eighth grade graduation, high school graduation or college graduation.

I’m not a big fan of sub-high school graduations, but that’s totally me. My grandfather wrote big checks to his grandkids at high school graduation, because while he served as Montour school board president and helped build an addition to the school, he never got a high school diploma. His mother died leaving him an orphan and he had to hire out because of some really dastardly older brothers.

When first my brother, then myself, graduated from UNI, he was there and supportive, but not so much to lavish us with gifts.

When I arrived in Albia 37 years ago, they still observed eighth grade graduation, which completely baffled me. I mean if you can’t get through eighth grade, you’re in a world of hurt. The observance went back to coal mining days when boys didn’t have the option to move on to high school. By the early 1980s, however, it was really counter productive and I helped a junior high principal move from “graduation” to a sort of junior high awards ceremony.

I scoffed at pre-school graduation until first my kids, then my grandkids bopped across the stage wearing mini robes and caps. It is super cute and not at all damaging to their future as students.

The one thing I have to take note of in celebrating graduations in May is the fact that those celebrations (along with the start of softball and baseball) have pretty much minimized the ability my wife and I have in celebrating our anniversary. Coming up 44 years this Friday (state track meet, senior assembly), our lightning fast anniversary celebrations have been a series of train wrecks. We’d probably do better picking an alternate date to celebrate.

Our wedding date was thoughtfully planned in 1975, however. First of all, it was between corn and soybean planting, which was a couple of days after classes ended at UNI for the summer. It gave us just enough time to have a brief honeymoon, move into married student housing and begin summer school and summer jobs. And had we not run out of money three days into our honeymoon, forcing us to hang out with a cousin in Iowa City for a couple of days and winding up two days ahead of when we were supposed to be back at the farm, it would have worked.

Now we simply share out wedding anniversary date with any number of high school graduate friends. But we save on buying sheet cakes and get plenty of mint patties.

My view of graduations has evolved over the years, though. I still love the tradition of making it through a K-12 experience and later a college education or even a masters or doctorate. It is an accomplishment, for sure and you do get equipped for your next period of learning. But I’m pretty sure it’s not so much what you learn, but that you learn how to learn that is the top accomplishment out of high school…even college.

You pretty much learn to read and write by the time you’re through sixth grade and most of the simple math (no offense to accountants) should be ingrained in your brain by the end of elementary school. It is the discipline you learn from dealing with advanced math that makes algebra and trigonometry important, even if you never use it the rest of your life.

As a history geek, unfortunately today’s high school students get very little indepth study on the U.S. Constitution, or even state history. We waste a lot of valuable class time doing touchy-feely stuff. If, however, you learn to appreciate historical texts and you learn why the study of history is important, you just might continue to explore history via books and by watching the History Channel (not including “Ice Road Truckers” and “The Curse of Oak Island”) later in life. I’m reading like my 15th book on Theodore Roosevelt (“T.R.”) and learning lots of new stuff about my favorite U.S. president.

There is so much great stuff in high school you can train your brain on. Music, art, drama, simple automotive repair, stuff you get through FFA and FCCLA, even the discipline of competitive sports is once in a lifetime opportunity, that get you through bigger and broader challenges of life. You might not think biology class has any importance, until as an adult you’re faced with the birth of a child or the illness of a parent. When you need to Google “breast cancer,” having studied science as a teen makes entry into tough reading a little easier.

I attended a school board meeting recently where some advanced kids were sharing with the school board attending a state conference on STEM (Science, Technology, engineering and Math). A young man said he had benefited from his course work because he had trouble early in his high school career communicating.

Then he was asked by a board member a question about attending this statewide gathering. The question was a little hard to follow. Instead of giving an answer to something he thought he heard, he stepped back, asked the board member to clarify the question, then answered it smartly.

As an old speech major, I was blown away by that kind of maturity. He had learned well and when it is time for him to walk through high school graduation, he will set out into the world armed with that somewhat simple, yet really powerful piece of life training.

Learning to learn. You get that from high school and you’re going to do well as a citizen of the world.

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