The Graduation

“Are you trying to copy the Americans, Mrs Robinson?”
Not only did we have school this weekend, but it was “graduation”[1] day for the A2s. When I got to school yesterday morning, I found a gown, hood and mortar board on my desk. The gown was like a cross between an academic gown and a mandarin’s robe, black down the centre and red at the sides. The hood was edged with pink, which I associate with a BA degree because I’m sure that was the colour of the hood at Canterbury for that degree, though whether that’s universal in the academic world, I don’t know. The mortar board was black velvet with a yellow tassel. I don’t know whether it was deliberate or not, but the top of the hat was curved, which had me wondering whether the humidity was causing the cardboard inside to warp. On the other hand, the mortar boards Peter and the headmaster were wearing remained flat.
The whole ceremony was comparatively brief, and free of the song-and-dance routines which Linda had to suffer in Chengdu for the same grad­u­at­ion at 石室 last week. There were speeches, almost all in Chinese and in­cluding one by some woman who turned out to be a parent, followed by the presentation of the graduation certificates to the backdrop of where they were going. One student got into Oxford (great maths, so I’ve heard of him, but ghastly English), one into the LSE, one into UCL, and a couple into Imperial. Quite a few ended up heading for Ohio State, Michigan, Purdue, and Waterloo.
After that, it was outside for a group photograph, which marked the end of the proceedings.
I was not especially pleased to have to take part in any of this because I’d had almost nothing to with the A2s this year. Even if I had been teaching them, none of them would be off to study English and I’d feel no glow of avuncular pride knowing that their attitude in English class had been one of ignorant indifference. That’s how it’ll be next year because I’ll be stuck with the year’s AS1 when they become A2(1).
I don’t know whether the Chinese were already holding such ceremonies before the Americans ever started them, or whether this is something recent and another instance where China is merely aping the States. School ends; who cares?[2]

Notes
1. I think inverted quotes are apposite here. In context, add them where appropriate to the word “graduation”. (Here I’m using them because I’m quoting the word; occasionally I’m not being ironic or sarcastic.)
2. I’m trying to think back to my last day of school. Can’t remember much at all apart from walking towards the 7th Form Common Room with my friend, Stuart. I can’t recall feeling the slightest twinge of sadness at the end of that particular era; nor did I seethe with loathing for the place. I think I’d done with school and just wanted to move on to university where I could do subjects of my choosing.

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