Written by Noa Livneh
The senior class is now divided and no, it’s not about the color of “the dress”. The long-standing tradition of decorating the graduation caps with one’s future college has recently been challenged. On Feb. 18, Principal Dr. Denise Herrmann proposed to the senior class an idea that sparked debate—a proposal to ban decorating graduation caps. Not only does decorating grad caps defeat the purpose of graduation, it makes many students anxious and sends a message to the community saying that all that matters about high school graduation is the college on top of the cap.
Many who are opposed to the ban believe that it won’t help the school itself, but will only show the community that we take orders from those looking in. Herrmann clearly explained in the class meeting that this movement is about the students first, then the community. Not only will it make a huge impact in the community if the entire class comes with blank caps, but it will also be the first, tiny step into making the school a better place. No one is saying that this one step will solve the issue of stress and anxiety, but it can be the initial, symbolic gesture that the Class of 2015 can make to future Gunn students.
There is one main reason that people are so divided on this issue; they don’t understand what graduation is. Graduation is a mixture of both individuality and uniformity. It not only allows students to transition into the next part of life but also unifies students with their entire class. Graduation is a rite of passage. Coined by anthropologist Arnold van Gennep in 1909, this rite of passage has three stages: separation from society, transformation and return to society with a new status. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the first stage is about withdrawing from one’s current status. A person is likely to stick to a symbol associated with him in a ceremony and be unwilling to transform. Instead of going through the process where the student transforms from a high school student to a college, he is being compromised because the student goes in believing that he’s already gone through said transformation. The next two stages are when he goes through the ceremony and re-enters society with his new status.
By decorating the caps, a student would miss his opportunity to go through the first stage properly and therefore not really get the full effect of transforming from a high school student into a college one. Students should embrace the fact that they’re leaving high school, and decorating caps only focuses on their next stages in life, not their current celebration.
Decorating the grad cap with a college logo would not be showing individuality and celebration of achievements, it would only ruin the meaning of this rite of passage. Graduation is about individuality as much as it is about uniformity. Many argue that not decorating caps would stifle their individuality. Let’s be blunt here; most students, including the writer of this article, wear approximately the same clothes as everyone else. Gunn has one of the most relaxed dress codes and students are encouraged to express themselves in almost any way they choose every day. This is the only time in four years that the class has been asked to wear the same thing, and for only two hours.
Some say that banning college decorations on caps would prohibit students from showing pride. If the only reason a student will be proud of himself on his high school graduation day is if he proclaims to the world that he’s going to a certain college, then there is something inherently wrong with his sense of pride. No one ever mentioned that the student can’t feel proud during graduation. Graduation is about being proud of accomplishments. Celebrate that winning goal, the conquered exams, the great books read—but it’s not necessary to put decorations on your cap to highlight that pride. Additionally, there is no point in decorating a cap with a college that the student has not even studied at yet. Yes, it is an accomplishment to get accepted, but there are certain students who do get accepted as well and aren’t able to attend for other reasons.
Decorating graduation caps with colleges on them is a tradition that takes away from the sole purpose of graduation while also inducing stress and anxiety in other students. The rite of passage the student is supposed to go through then becomes compromised because the student skips over the first stage of the process: breaking off from society. This crucial stage allows the student to take himself out of his former state and place himself into his new one. Not only will the students who decorate with colleges be hurting themselves, they’ll be hurting others. There are many others students who, for different reasons, aren’t able to attend those particular schools even though they got accepted as well. The best compromise in which neither side loses any value of graduation, unity and individuality is by decorating the cap with a non-college design.