My first ever Middle School graduation was today. Going to school in England meant that the first Graduation I ever attended was my own from university. I have photos of Archangel and Harry Potter and myself on that very breezy, very hot day. It’s strange to think that they were the only people I really knew in my college from that year, in any case, today was the sannensei’s (third years) graduation from Middle School.

It was all terribly formal and ceremonial. The ever wonderful Yuki Impersonator told me to dress semi-formal…now given that I class my usual wear as semi-formal I figured that formal was the way to go! And boy was I right! Semi-formal my arse! Kocho-sensei (the headmaster) was in a FROCK COAT! The last time I saw someone in a frock coat it was Blue Eyes and we were fifteen! Knew there was a reason I liked the headmaster…I mean come on? A frock coat! Cool or what!

A lot of the girls ended up sobbing, and many of the teachers too. On their way out of the gym some of the boys broke down as well. Actually it occurred to me, watching them file out of the gym according to class number that this was the first time class number has been mixed. I should explain, the Tennessee Marshmallow and I were watching Battle Royale and one point he raised was that when the kids are collecting their bags they do so apparently according to class number but they mix genders. In Japan boys have the first numbers and girls the latter half of the class. I assumed that they did that in the film for purely artistic reasons. But today they filed out according to graduation number, and that was mixed. I wonder if it was the graduation number used in Battle Royale, adds a little nugget to that particular scene if that is the case I think.

It was strange to think that although my year left school (only a year older than these kids) in a more haphazard fashion than these pupils what we left school with had more value. The last day at school for me was the day before study leave for my GCSEs, I remember the shirt signing and the yearbooks and the general feeling of wallowing in nostalgia, but no official ceremony. Then later, the day of my final exam over, I walked out of school with Hannah Thomas and that was it. But I came back in August to collect my results and I had something tangible; I could have walked out of school for good and had a few pieces of paper that employers would have taken notice of. Admittedly eleven GCSEs is good enough to work behind a counter somewhere or get something equally mind numbing but these kids don’t even have that. According to one of the parents I was talking to today the lovely shodo certificates that the kids were presented with say ‘I attended chugakko’ and employers don’t give a fuck for them.

Now while I am first to admit that my collection of scraps of paper means that my GCSEs are effectively worthless, (my Art is superseded by A-Level and that by Degree, Science, Maths and English all supersceded by my PGCE) occiaionsally I’m still asked about them. They at least prove I’m literate/ numerate etc. These kids graduated middle school amid floods of emotion and nostalgia and it really is almost totally meaningless. It’s no wonder adolescents around the world feel that their lives have no purpose.

The ceremony lasted all morning then there was sushi for lunch which Skimble was really jealous of…then this afternoon I was teaching nine year olds The Wheels on the Bus…argh eighty nine year olds going ’round and round…all day long’!

7 thoughts on “Graduation

  1. "it really is almost totally meaningless" to you maybe, now that you are better educated ten years down the line. For them, its the final result of eleven years hard work. Meaning is subjective, darling.


  2. Weird…ours were separated boys and girls and class. So 3A had boys first, then girls, then 3B boys, girl, last 3C boys and girls.
    (sniffle) No weekend with u. Why? Cause the railway cat doesn’t get priority over the women lovers.
    And yet I suffer the rumors (ok…so I’m not really suffering…I’m laughing my ass off. Did you know I was not only your lover…but a slut? HAHAHAHA!)

  3. Jason my point was that whereas I left school with GCSEs that at the time meant something (though they are now superceded by other bits of paper) these kids in Japan have worked hard for ten years and all leave school with a piece of paper that basically says ‘I woz ere’.

    Whereas in England an employer or whoever would ask to see my results no one cares over here. The kids that have just graduated school cannot get a job based on that certificate. (In rural areas I’m told its easier for them to get jobs based on experience than here in the semi-urban area) If they want to go to a particular high school then they take that high schools test (which again means nothing to anyone outside of the specific high school). Their actual schoolwork is not rewarded with anything other than this piece of paper which has no external value. GCSEs in Britain do at least have an external value.

    Now whether or not education should be its own reward I see as a separate debate but if you’re going to tell kids you can leave school at this point surely you should let them leave with something that proves they have external worth?

  4. A lot of kids leave school in this country thinking, "I have my GCSEs, I never have to go to school again. Cool. Time to get a job."

    Maybe the way they work it in Japan acts as an incentive to actually go on to high school and get some better qualifications.

  5. The point is though Archie that they go on to High School to get some qualifications, not better ones, any qualifications. The work that they’ve done for the previous ten years is totally unrecognised.
    The point is that kids in England have the choice (even if it is abused) to leave education with something to show for it. Which makes it a choice.

  6. Ah, right. That’s kind of what I meant.

    By ‘better’ I was confusing my Japanese and British examples.

    I’m assuming high school’s compulsory then?

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