The Air Horn People
I’ve been to more graduations than the average bear. There were my own of course, plus our children’s high school (2) and college graduations (1 and counting), my wife’s from Seattle U, and many others.
When I taught at Kamiakin Junior High I had my 9th graders write an essay meant for themselves on graduation night. I kept them for three years and then on graduation night roamed the halls finding the kids in their various robe-application rooms. As I handed them out it was amazing how many of them remembered the essay, and at times burst into tears. I remember one boy who read each paragraph and said “Did that” as he finished each one, his eyes glowing with triumph.
I also attended all eleven of the graduations at Juanita when I taught there, and spoke at two of them.
Last weekend I had the good fortune to attend graduation at Los Gatos High School in (duh!) Los Gatos to honor my nephew Sam Lewis. While there I had the chance to do a small research project that’s always interested me.
Every graduation has messages sent out by the school beforehand and signs on site asking people to not use air horns or other devices to make a lot of noise when their graduate’s name is announced. The cacophony can deter the next student’s family from full enjoyment of the moment. And of course, at every graduation there are people who ignore the requests and let loose with a blare of whatever noise they can make. I’ve always wondered, “Who are these people and why is this so important to them?” I now have a possible answer.
Sam’s graduation was held outdoors on the front lawn of a gorgeous school that looks like a film set for a teen movie set in California. People show up at 7am to claim their preferred seats, and then friends and family “chair sit” for the rest of the day until the ceremony at 6pm. I was one of the early crew, and enjoyed myself watching the work of the set-up gang and also the seating preferences of the audience. What you wanted were seats on the left side, as they would be in the shade in the evening and offer a better view of the podium.
In the evening large paper programs were available. After the list of speakers was a large box with the names of those students with a GPA of 4.0 (or higher!). On the facing page, in smaller print, were the names of all of the graduates. On the back of that, two lengthy columns of names of students and the honors and scholarships they had earned. This meant a student like Sam would have his or her name in the program three times.
If a class officer and/or a speaker – maybe four or five times! Los Gatos is a very accomplished school, and reading over the awards and scholarships gave confidence in the future.
The graduates filed out the front door of the school in groups of four. This was a nice touch as a book-end ceremony, as I’m told that in a ceremony on the first day of school in the fall new students go marching up the stairs and into the school. The orchestra did a fine job with “Pomp and Circumstance,” which took me back to playing it ad nausea my sophomore and junior years in band, and then a young woman absolutely nailed a solo rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. After well-done and blissfully short speeches the names were announced. First thing I noticed was that most of the graduates applauded and cheered pretty much all of their colleagues, which indicated a school mostly devoid of cliques – a great sign.
Soon I could hear the occasional blast of an air horn. As Sam was the only graduate I know well, I spent my time scanning as rapidly as I could for the name of the person greeted thusly by family members in the audience. My research was not perfect, as the students cheering made it hard for me to catch a name or two.
However, a pattern emerged immediately, and it was perilously close to 100% consistent. It also supported something I’ve always suspected.
If an air horn could be heard, that student was not one with a 4.0 or greater GPA, and not one who had earned a scholarship award. It seems that for students who maximized their high school opportunities and their own talents, this was a lovely evening ceremony that was a step toward their ultimate goal. For “air horn” students, it was the end of youth and the beginning of adulthood. I suppose that merits an air horn blast. I suspect there are socio-economic and cultural factors in play as well.
All of which proves nothing. But, the next time you are attending a graduation, now you have something to do. The research must continue!
Copyright 2015 David Preston