VIC COLUMN: It Is Now - The Best Time Of The Year
Can there be any better time of year than graduation?
High Schools and Colleges get most of the attention, but there are many other “bridging ceremonies,” 4K commencements and other progressions of academic advancement conducted this time of year. I am sorry that I missed Presbyterian College Commencement this year. Standing beside “my tree” by the stage is a great experience every spring. I get to see the student speaker and the best faculty member. PC alumni stand with their child who is receiving a diploma, an honor that my younger daughter’s mother and I did not have at Mem’s Newberry College Commencement.
We media types arrive a little early for the Clinton High School Commencement and walk the halls with the graduates. This year was a little unusual since we almost had a “duck and cover” exercise when a microburst was howling outside the high school. The last arriving people waited it out in their vehicles and, thank goodness, there wasn’t an experience similar to that at Wade Hampton in Hampton County where a graduate made late by car trouble - he was supposed to be there at 8 a.m. (!!!) - missed his big moment because a sheriff’s officer wouldn’t open the metal gate. Social media posters said good, he learned a valuable lesson, you can’t be late “for work” without suffering consequences.
People please, I know folks that are going to be late to their own funerals.
In an ironic twist, 10 days after attending high school graduation, I’m getting to hear about the legacy of my college graduation speaker. On Sunday, the Laurens Library hosted a presentation from the executive director of the Pat Conroy Literacy Center, about the late teacher/author’s love of libraries. Pat Conroy was my Newberry College Commencement speaker, he was late but nobody locked the gate. It was a simpler time, then.
The only thing I remember about Pat’s speech was the line that shocked the college president - “Some of you might even find jobs.”
Strangely enough, it’s true today.
South Carolina has 4% unemployment, which means just about every available decent job is taken by somebody. In the past, jobs would open up as people moved to other positions or other states, but there’s not a lot of moving now. People get their just-above-minimum-wage-for-the-hours-they’re-expected-to-work jobs, and they hang onto them. For Laurens County, that means difficulty in filling jobs in the service sector with people who actually want to work - companies have had to get creative with flex-time and appearance policies (have you noticed more visible tattoos in the workplace now).
Lots of high school students still go to college - Laurens District High School’s seniors topped the $10 million mark in scholarships. Of course, the sad truth is, if they emerge from college, collectively they will have a $100 million debt.
We have swung so far to one side in the “college isn’t for everybody” mindset that we’re ignoring the other side - “Well, maybe not, but it is for some people.”
Yes, we need people who can fix industrial robots when they break. But, like it or not, we also need doctors, lawyers, nurses and astro-physicists. College - liberal arts colleges most of the time - turn them out, and there is no upside to discouraging young people who wants to be EMTs by pushing them toward industrial maintenance careers. You want an educated EMT responding to your house, trust me on this.
Let young people grow, expand, see different points of view, travel, and, yes even, push their boundaries in high school and college.
There will be plenty of time for the 9-to-5.
(Vic MacDonald is Editor of The Clinton Chronicle, unwaivering supporter of public education, and proud papa of three graduates of Newberry High School and colleges in South Carolina. Reach him at 833-1900 or firstname.lastname@example.org)