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GRADUALLY GRADUATING-I first wrote this over a year ago, so all the events that are in the present or future tense are now past. I could have went through it and changed every reference but that was just too much work and I would probably miss something. I like the message though so I thought I would run it again. Just thought I would clue you readers in on the fact that these are now past events.

I was almost overwhelmed by emotion sitting in that arena, very early on a Saturday morning. I had been dreaming about this moment for over twenty years and now it was here. One of my children was walking the line and shaking the Dean's hand, as he congratulated her and a few hundred others, for becoming college graduates. There was a point in my life when I did not think I would be around to witness this particular event. She will never know just how deep my pride went that day, threatening to reduce me to incoherence, until she experiences something similar, with her own children but it was truly an “awesome” moment for me, in the truest definition of the word; awe.

Not too long from when I am writing this the “baby” of our family will be participating in a milestone event of his own. He will be graduating what is known as High School. It is an emotional time right now for the Kinkade family. All this change, all this “growing up” happening so quickly, in what really does seem like just “the blink of an eye,” it has come so quickly. Just yesterday it seems, I was tossing my babies over my head, just to hear them giggle and now today, at least one of those babies, the youngest one, is nearly big and strong enough to toss me over his head. So much change, it really does bring tears to the eyes, when you ponder on it a while but change is life, we are not static beings, we are forever on a journey, in eternal flowing motion.

This year has been a year of several firsts. First time for meeting girlfriends, first time driving off by himself, first time to watch any member of our family graduate from college, a lot of firsts. It has also been a year of doing a lot of things for the last time and those of you whom have been through it, know how that can pull at your heartstrings. A case in point is High School band, which has been an intricate part of our lives for the last decade now. We went to our last band banquet just the other day, for our youngest child is taking his next step into the future. It has been such a part of our lives, I don't know how we are going to cope next fall when we are not following the band around from school to school, on Saturday evenings. My wife was a little disappointed that our son did not give a speech, like several of his fellow senior classmates did. She would like him to be a little more outgoing and put himself “out there,” a bit more and truthfully, so would his dad, because I know first hand how having a socially subdued manner gets you absolutely nowhere in this world of ours, but he is just not comfortable doing that, at least not yet. Now, he has performed on stage and done very well, in my humble opinion, but he still is not comfortable speaking out in social gatherings of more than a few people.

I kind of hope it is not the end of music exploration for our youngest member of the clan. For someone whom was kind of forced into playing a musical instrument and just went through the motions the first few years, he has really turned it around the last couple of years and is rather adept at it, if I do say so myself. Now, I am no trained musician (another mistake on my part) but I do know when sound is pleasant to the ear and he is skilled at providing those sounds. Something did happen that discouraged him a bit, I won't go into details but I hope he somehow hangs on to a passion he began to have and then lost a bit of, along the way. In my dream world, his next step would have been to audition for Oberlin university and see where that education might take him but like I have said before, we do not live in my dream world. All we can really do as parents, is sit back and watch, in hope and wonder, to see what journeys our children take.

Now, in my “if I had it to do over again” scenario, the one we all have where, “if I knew then, what I know now,” life would be different, I don't know if I would actually change a whole lot of things, because I might actually mess up some of the greatest blessings in my life, like my children coming into it. I would try everything possible though, fight tooth and nail, to get them an education in Goshen Kentucky, during their elementary years and then its companion High School in Louisville, for their next step in education. No disrespect to all the educators whom have loved my children through the years and done their very best to help my children on their journeys but I firmly fall on the side of education being a part of life and not preparation for life and they share that philosophy there.

Actually, what I just said was first brought to the forefront of discussion by a personal hero of mine, a philosopher by the name of John Dewey. His actual exact quote goes like this, “Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.” Though this was first brought up for debate almost a century ago, I personally had not heard of John Dewey, until somewhere around fifteen or twenty years ago. His philosophy was not something I studied and then that influenced my own thought process going forward. Rather I stumbled across him when I was looking to see if there were any others out there who had some of the same “crazy” ideas that I had. I had such a feeling of being isolated in my thoughts, it was such a relief, such an inspiring time, when I began to discover that there were others out there similar to me. It is how I first met many of my personal heroes, discovering them in print, letting me know I was not alone after all. I have since met a few real live people whom have gone on similar journeys but at one time, I thought there was no one else around with similar ideas, I was elated when I first happened upon them.

I think I have wrote about this before but it is worth bringing up again, I passed by a “middle” school a while back, which had a sign out, inviting folks to join them for an eighth grade “promotion” ceremony. You see, they do not want to use the word “graduation” anymore, because graduation has become associated with the end of something, where as promotion only means you are advancing. Administrators do not want to give the impression that a middle school education should be the end of scholarly pursuits for anybody, in this day and age. The trouble is, Graduation never did mean the end to anything. Words that have Grad- in them, like graduation and gradual, come from a root that simply means-to take a step. Graduation means taking the next step, which is actually a better use of language than-promotion, when talking about education. I am somewhat disappointed with educators whom try to change graduation into meaning an end to the pursuit of wisdom.

This may come as a surprise to some of you but not to those that know me well, I am not all that impressed with “college prep” schools. I don't even look with very much admiration at being, “college and career ready” (gasp) when it comes to education. You see, I have a big (a very big) problem, with the whole “preparation” angle. The definition of preparation is- the action or process of making ready for use or consideration; something done in advance of the main objective. Learning, expanding the mind, pursuing wisdom, is the main objective, in and of itself; EDUCATION IS A PART OF LIFE, NOT A PREPARATION FOR LIFE! Inspire curiosity, instill life-long love for learning, the rest will take care of itself.

I can not go along with “school is not for everybody” trains of thought. I readily agree that certain types of structured education formats are not right for everybody but learning and wisdom are, it is just how you go about that. If you are ever in an environment where they distrust education or learning, where they are fearful that actual thought might crumble their foundation, then run, do not walk but run, out of that place. Because any philosophy that can not hold up to scrutiny or respectful debate, is not worth admiration, let alone worship. The fear of wisdom is actually known as Sophophobia; it is real and more widespread than many of us would like to acknowledge, code words such as “educational elitists” or something similar, are red flags indicating you are in the presence of those fearful of wisdom.

I absolutely hate the notion of education being all about “getting a good job” or entertaining notions such as,“don't get a degree in philosophy, it won't help you find a job anywhere.” The purpose of education is expanding the mind, to then transversely expand opportunity, not just get you ready for the workforce, this is where we have turned in the wrong direction as a society. I also have a problem with those who treat life itself as just preparation for what comes afterwards. This life is a part of a process that continues but it is fully a part of the whole process not a preparation for what comes next. The point is about learning to be empathetic and compassionate, now! (NO that is not being a snowflake) that is following the example of someone who does deserve our respect and worship.

I have met a few others whom are also disturbed by the process of treating life like it is just preparation for death, yet even in those situations, most of them have not drawn the connection between us treating our children as though they are just in preparation for adulthood and them keeping that attitude for their whole lives, as though they are just in preparation for what comes next.

I tend to look for connections though, to grasp at the bigger picture, to see the underlying patterns. I believe it would benefit all of society for us to completely abandon the philosophy of- Preparation and instead embrace the philosophy of -Graduation; taking the next step; in a process that is all connected, not just a prelude to something else.




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