Friday, June 18, 2010

Honoring Enlisted Graduates

This week, we learned from The New York Times that more school districts are choosing to honor students bound for military duty at their commencement exercises. At debate is whether this recognition takes away the prestige of academic achievement being lauded during the ceremony. Many of these newly-honored are average students, unlikely to be singled out for their academic success. As opposed to many others who are college bound, these enlisted students have chosen a career rather than a more challenging academic future.

So, does that mean we should refuse to recognize their future service? Certainly no one would discount the hard work and potentially life-threatening sacrifice offered by these students. Putting their lives on the line, they will be working hard to defend the freedoms we hold so dear. Clearly, there is value in military service. However, does that mean that we should diminish the attention to academic achievement that is the purpose of commencement exercises?

In our increasingly career-driven world, the push for a jobs orientation is strong. We encourage students to choose college majors with strong earnings and career potential. We include cooperative education assignments with employers to broaden the real-world experience for our students. Should a career in the military be different? Surely there is the potential for later academic growth made possible through the various programs offered to veterans, and few would deny the need for a strong American military. Yet, does that warrant special recognition at an academic ceremony?

I can certainly see both sides of the issue, and even the viewpoint that this recognition glamorizes a deathly future of warfare. Yet, I believe that our world has positive futures for all our high school graduates. Some may have to delay college for familial or financial reasons, and others may just not be ready for the academic rigor that college demands. Choosing to serve in the military is a admirable alternative. The difficult choice to serve others is something that should be lauded, whether it is service through the military or through non-profit organizations such as AmeriCorps. Most importantly, these students have achieved what our society has demanded. They have graduated from high school, when all too many have dropped out. In my opinion, recognition of enlisted graduates is a worthwhile activity, but I'd love to hear what you think. Add your comments to join the debate!

Here's a link to the New York Times article that got me thinking about this:

Here's a link to AmeriCorps:

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