Out Of The Mailbag: (Why I Hate Graduations)

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    Y.W. Editor

    At graduation, individual students are singled out for excellence. Awardees are named. Honorees are called out. Valedictorians are delivering their speeches. And I just sit there and cringe.

    What is the purpose of this ritual? Why does the whole world need to know who the best students are? Believe me, these kids know it already. Their classmates know it. Their parents certainly know it. And probably so do their bubbies and zaydies. Is it so important for the rest of us to know it too?

    I know people who will never forget the disappointment and embarrassment they felt at their own graduation because they were deprived of some obscure honor which they had hoped to receive. I know students who sat there and watched one classmate after another accept accolades and praise, and it bothers them years later. Is this what graduation is all about?

    (M. L. – YWN)


    In my opinion- these valedictorians are usually the ones that are in need of a bit attention- so the school administration gives it to them…



    The goal is for them to strive for excellence during the year; to put in the effort so that they WILL be recognized for it. Its true: graduations are painful to watch at best; but they are a necessary evil if we want to encourage our students to work hard. (Think Schar v’Onesh)

    As far as the jealousy aspect…guess what? The kids are going to have to learn how to deal with feelings of jealousy all through adulthood. Now is a great time for them to learn a simple lesson. Work hard, do your best, dont goof off the whole year, have a good attitude, and you will be rewarded for it. I think it is a very liberal (dare i say almost marxist/communist) view to think that everyone should be equally rewarded for different efforts, achievements, and successes.

    And even if they struggled all year and put in more effort than the valedictorian, they need to understand that that’s the way of the world. Life is not always fair – its an important lesson for them to learn.


    And one more thing (see above):

    This low self-esteem thing in children is blown WAY out of proportion. MANY children feel low self-esteem when they are at the lower end of the totem pole in a certain category. It is 100% normal. The remedy is not to tell them that its ok that they are failing and make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Our job is to take their feelings seriously and help them change themselves by giving them what they need to succeed( encouraging effort, tutoring, rewards…) .

    Children are extremely perceptive. Sometimes when they are doing poorly they merely want you to stand up and say “Its not ok. How can we help you? Lets do much better on the next test”. Parents need to get MUCH more involved in doing homework with the children and being on top of their work. As a teacher, I am horrified at how few parents actually know what their son has for homework, when he has a test, etc…The kids know that you dont know what they are up to and if you dont get involved actively, they wont involve you-they will simply coast the year through. BE ON TOP OF YOUR KIDS! Its not the teachers responsibility. Its the parents’.


    Bnia Levi were rewarded after ma’aseh ha’agel. You are not preparing children for life where they need to strive AND deal with failure as well as success.Teach them not to bejealous -don’t remove the reward of the deserving. By your logic parents who own houses should give them up so apartment dwellers will not be jealous. Let the children grow up.


    I whole heartedly agree! What is the purpose of all of these ceremonies? And I hated the graduations themselves when I was a graduate. Yuck!


    Lav Dafka:

    Very true. And the kids definitely need to be taught that valuable lesson. They also should realize that its not always about being the best anyway. We always need to TRY our best in every area. And just because one student succeeds in academics, does not mean that they are succeeding in all areas of life….etc..etc…

    The main point is: Lets TALK to our kids about this. Lets stop making believe that they are at the mercy of their feelings and insecurities. Lets teach them to recognize them and strive to overcome them. Lets work on giving them a healthy sense of self and recognizing when the Yetzer HaRah is trying to put them down and cause them to fail. Isn’t that Tikkun HaMiddos in its ultimate form?


    Come to thnink of it, it’s an excellent point!


    can someone explain why graduations are not b’gader “u’vechikosaiem lo saylaychu”..now please no insults, critics..etc, etc (not that we would get insulted, were just a faceless nameless poster)we dont want to oppose it just really if someone can explain.. “torah hu v’lilmod ani tzorich..” but it should be “milse b’tame “with toirehdike reyous..not boichsvares


    first of all i’m very sorry for you, it seems your daughter/einikel didnt get to much attention by this years graduation. second of all, in a REAL world you have to realise that not everyone is equal. some are rich some are smart and some even smarter and more successfull than you. the earlier in life you realise that the less enviousthoughts you’ll have to deal with. a kid has to realise and be able to admit that chani is smarter then me, ruchi is prettier and rivka sings nicer. one more thing, we have a concept of KINAS CHOCHMIM TARBE CHOCHMO!


    The Gemara says: Kinas sofrim tarbeh chocma – Jealousy between scholars increases wisdom. Students singled out for excellence at a graduation or at a major ceremony for receiving smicha is a GREAT idea and should not be abolished. It’s a very healthy thing to strive for. If it’s abolished many (or perhaps even most) students would not bother putting in extra effort in their learning.


    I think it’s an excellent idea to single out and reward these kids. They worked hard, they deserve every recognition, and rewards they get. Let the parents and grandparents have & enjoy this nachas they get from this occasion.

    As for jealousy part of it, well that shows lack of self esteem and selfishness. Maybe those kids should seek counseling for their emotional and mental health. Yes everyone gets a little jealous here and there, but if it’s to the point where you can’t be HAPPY and PROUD of a friend who receives awards for their accomplishments, then there is a definite problem with this person, or perhaps the kid thinks that he was more suited for an award someone else got.

    Jealousy goes a lot further then high school graduation. You have people jealous of other’s family size. You have people who are jealous of good looking, slim people. You have people who are jealous of other’s wealth & health. You have people who are jealous of other’s happiness, this list can go on and on, so this jealousy thing does not stop at the end of high school. If there is a kid that can’t deal with the happiness and the rewards of others, then maybe they should look deep inside themselves, & see if it’s them that’s the problem and not the high achievers.

    I for one am not someone who got “special” rewards from graduation, but me and my friends were happy for those who did, because we were happy with our accomplishments and the diplomas we received in front of all our families to see and to be proud of. Be comfortable & happy with your self and abilities. Take your strengths and pursue them, Take you weaknesses and work on them. You will be a much happier person, and if nothing works, then maybe a counselor is what you need.

    p.s. my nephew just graduated, and I’m so proud of him, Mazal Tov!


    PLEASE tell me this letter is a joke? Welcome to the real world.


    I believe that parents should have a lttle more confience in themseleves and their children. simply becuase you do not receive an award is not a reason to despair. I would hope that you have your priorities in order – health, happiness, parnossoh, etc. If you focus on what you have and appreciate it, you would not be looking at your neighbor.

    Moreover, it is very narrow minded to view these graduation ceremonies as the end all. How do you know what challenges the valedictorian will encounter 20 years from now? Maybe G-d granted the person this honor to give him or her the strength to face some future challenge in life – a challenge you may be glad not to have.

    I have friends in my class who were C students that are now major wealthy. Apparently, they did not need the scholastic abilites and accollades in order to “make it.” Focus on your child’s strengths and develop them.

    Let schools bestow honors to acknowledge the prominence of education and scholastic achievement. Be strong to recognize your child’s unique achievements. Let peopel be appreciated for their own unique abilities. No one has everything. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Be strong.


    This is another sad example of liberalism and the dont hurt anyone’s feelings epidemic that is sweeping our culture and the country. Just because your son or daughter did not do as well in school as the valedictorian, doesn’t mean those that strive for excellence should not be rewarded. They worked hard to get to where they are and should be recognized for their achievements, NOT cast into the shadows of the rest of the class because mothers or fathers like you cannot bear to see their poor little boy/girl sitting like an average student while his peers are being praised. Get over yourselves! In any job or even beis medrash, there are those who succeed much greater than the average person and further praise helps and motivates them to try even harder. Maybe your sons and daughters can take a lesson like BAR26 just above said and see an example for themselves in their fellow students and work harder next time so its them at the podium making you proud and not someone else’s child.


    As a the wife of a rebbe of the graduating class in a prominent yeshiva and myself a long time mechaneches I’d like to respectfully tell you that the letter writer is right on the mark and the rest of you are totally off.

    1. The idea of rewarding people for their IQ has 0 to do with kinas sofrim, and let’s face it that’s what most awards are for. If effort and persistance were being rewarded I’d be all for it but even then we would need to measure the effort put in relative to the student’s own ability in that regard and not someone else’s. For example a student capable of 90% effort who puts in all 90% should get the award and not the student capable of 100% effort who puts in 95%.

    2. As far as students learning to live with being second fiddle, trust me, these students who are not at the top have been learning this important life lesson day in and day out for many long years (e.g. when the teacher is asking questions in the class or returning tests etc) by the time they graduate and they do not need that one last big slap of busha in the face by graduation.

    3. The awards don’t serve our awardees well either. They (and their parents)are blown up into baalei gaava who think way too much of themselves.

    My husbands yeshiva has done away with awards and instead chooses a few wholesome all around solid bochurim to speak.


    My daughter recently graduated from high school. The speakers were chosen by the girls, and there were no awards given publicly or otherwise. It was more relaxing, but I must say it is a sign of immaturity to be bothered by these matters. My daughter is an excellent student but not a natural brain,yet she delights in her friends successes and honors. I am proud of her for her middos more than any scholastic achievement she can earn.


    I didnt get any award at graduation. You want to know why- I’ll tell you, because by night seder I ran to check scores by recess I played ball. The guy who won he learned while he ate lunch and he did his english homework and listened in class.

    Would my parents have been proud if I’d have gotten it, yes, but I didn’t deserve it.

    That doesnt mean I havent “made it”.

    Bill Gates said “Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not.”


    to jent1150,

    This is not an insult, but a constructive criticism. A common unintentional mistake that many speakers make is judging their audience’s fluency in Yiddish or Hebrew by how they are dressed ( or in this case, by the nature of the web site ). My wife often tells me that , during lectures, it’s not unusual for a women sitting next to her to miss the entire point of the dvar torah because the speaker used Hebrew to establish a key point. He had know way of knowing that the woman, while dressed al pi halacha with regard to tznius, was a bal tshuva not fluent in Hebrew. We always try to remind guests to translate during the dvar torah so that everyone can benefit.

    So what I’m suggesting is that please don’t assume that evryone on this web site can understand your transliteration of the original and to translate into English when ever possible.

    Thank you


    to lesschumres posted 26 min ago..still tying to figure how the saileh is being addressed. what your wife said to you is not relevent to this sayiloh..


    Let me clarify the point of awards during graduation. For four years students are persistent and studious with their studies. While other young teens might enjoy their free time as being a teenager, these young individuals strive to achieve results others care not.

    This is why we award them. We reward them for their sacrifices that they made for years. We award them for being a role model to others and younger students.

    To even suggest taking it away because of jealousy etc, it totally ludicrous! We should stop giving exams because people who score low will feel bad! We should stop background checks during shidchum because the young adult will feel bad when you reject them! In a democracy, everything is governed by healthy competition. Without it, you achieve the evils of communism, where everyone is on the same level. I am just to appalled to continue to write!


    You are right grow up! not to be disrespectful of course.


    to lesscuhmress..our posts are directed to those who understand them ,can be even one person or less..your silly comparison to somebody who sits at your table you make sure to translate…we also speek to our guests they should understand…we dont consider this place our private table if one doesnt understand dont have to read ,there are plenty other posts..


    (Written with tongue firmly planted in cheek)

    I think we should stop putting up plaques for all those who donate to worthy causes, after all, how do those who do not have money to donate feel when they see the plaque?


    Cool. Which school was this address delivered at 😉

    But seriously, most graduations I’ve been at have had other awards besides academic. I would definitely kvell if my child were to get the middos (or whatever given schools call it) award. And usually most schools have other opportunities for kids to shine – chessed, choir, yearbook, productions, etc. As for boys, I know that my sons’ yeshivos have always valued them for their sweetness, hasmada, sincerity, davening, etc., much more than their grades and lomdus.


    There is a flip side to everything. the point is: in a large class or group its hard to make everyone feel good and special, but those that worked deserve it. In some schools they try to say a good comment about each studnet as they are called up


    I have to say, my yeshiva is not like that at all.

    I agree that they shouldn’t make students feel bad, but my yeshiva simply does not do that. One of the mailos is that the rosh yeshiva is very big on middos – I’m graduating next week Im yirtze hashem, and I’ve attended the graduations my school has had for the past 3 years. Everyone is awarded – for something tailor made to them. There usually isn’t even a validvictorian; just speeches, divrei torah, awards, and food – like it should be. Every student, even the ones who aren’t graduating, are given some spotlight, and are called up to receive something.


    I think chaya13 hit the nail on the head.

    All these comments that the overachievers deserve recognition for their hard work miss an important detail: The valedictorian is the one with the highest grades, not necessarily the one who worked the hardest.

    Do we really want to teach our kids that the result counts and not the effort? That the kid who spent 2 hours studying for the final and got a grade of 100% is more praiseworthy than the kid who is less gifted who spent 6 hours studying and got an 85%? And how about if the “overachieving 2 hour 100%” kid is a snob who has zero middos and the “6 hour 80 percenter” has the greatest middos?

    Its not about eliminating awards to make sure the lazy kid who played hooky doesn’t feel bad. Its about what priorities whe’re teaching our kids.


    Jent1150, you are incredible. In your post you asked that “.now please no insults, critics..etc, etc ). Yet you call mysuggestion silly. Based upon yoor reply, I guess

    I can assume the follwoing:

    a. Anyone who can’t understand your replys can get lost

    b. I’ve heard the biggest talmudai chachamin make an effort to make

    sure everyone can understand them. You, apparently couldn’t care less

    So please continue with your unintelligble rantings,


    This is another sad example of liberalism and the dont hurt anyone’s feelings epidemic that is sweeping our culture and the country


    Although I agree with Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives on most issues, people should remember that their views on many issues (such as this one) are contrary to the Torah.

    As someone pointed out in a previous posting a week or 2 ago, there is an issur deoraisah to make someone feel bad. Ona’as devorim.

    If you take your anti-liberal approach that hurting others feeling is ok, then I guess its also ok to make a yosom or an almonoh cry out to Hashem, ch”v. After all they should grow up and get used to it that life isn’t fair! ummm, the torah says clearly that this is abolutely false.

    Don’t get me wrong i’m not a liberal. Liberals take it waaaay tooo far to the extreme in the opposite direction. I just want to remind people that however much we may nod our heads in agreement with Rush and Mark Levine etc, we must remember that they aren’t da’as torah.

    Another issue where I think some of unzere absorb too much conservative ideology is with tzedoko. there have been several postings here on YW about tuition, paying bills etc where commenters have said something to the effect that nobody else is responsible for your financial problems. That its up to you to make it in life.

    The Torah clearly does not agree with this. Otherwise why is there is a mitzvah of tzedaka? And also do we really believe that our parnassa is in our own hands? As DovidKorngold would say KEFIRAH!!! AFRA LEPUMEI!!! 🙂

    Again I also don’t agree with the liberal approach that some beaurocrats should take from the rich and give to the poor and even out the playing field, because of all the corruption involved. But on an individual level we must feel for another yid’s financial problems and not take the Limbaugh line that its up to him to make it on his own.


    charlie brown – correction: dovid Kornreich


    …tried sending a long post but it got lost so in short: a good memory doesn’t automatically mean deserving of honor. The point is the effort / work you put in. Simple.


    to LESS chumras..take it easy, you dont have to take it personally,dont be so sensitive..now, do ypu have your thoughts on our sheiloh..


    Leshem Shomayim,

    VERY well said! Well written. You’re either and excellent parent or an excellet teacher! (or both)


    willi, thanks for the correction.

    And to tie it in with your next post, I may not have remembered his name correctly, but at least i put in the effort! 🙂


    to jent1150,

    Let me try one more time. I have no particular issue with this shailah. My comment was intended as a general remark that many posters assume everyone is fluent in either Hebrew or Yiddish or can understand the posters transliteration. The point the poster is trying to make is often lost because of the lack of clarity.

    My suggestion was to translate the comments into English so that everyone can understand. If you are aiming your comments solely to those who can understand you, then you are in effect preaching to the converted and are not reaching those others who might benefit.

    The most effective speakers at public shiurim that I’ve experienced are those who recognize that regardless of how tzniusdik in appeareance people are, they might not all have the same educational background. They don’t eliminate the Lashon Kodesh , but they do translate. It’s sad to see someone delivering a beutiful dvar torah only to see that more than a few people did not grasp it because the key points were not translated.


    charlie brown – good, u deserve to be valedictorian. Start practicing your speech… 🙂

    🐵 ⌨ Gamanit

    Another reason I hate graduations; the long and lengthy speeches are not enjoyed by guests or even the graduates themselves. Principals should get the message to cut down on time, showing respect for the schedules of those attending this momentous event.


    To the charlie browns out there who think that effort with result of 85% as opposed to hardly any effort and result of 100% is better, I want to know who you would pick to run an organization, a company, any institution…

    Effort should be rewarded and encouraged but in the end of the day… RESULTS ARE WHAT COUNT! (I agree that with torah it might be different… in terms of quality of learning and so on…) I am talking about a world in which superiors demand results and no matter what or how much effort you put in, if you don’t get the job done perfectly you will be showed the door! If someone wants to sit in kollel they have the luxury of relying on their “ameilus” and effort… but not in a competitive job market especially when a lot of jobs are being outsourced to begin with. Only those who prove themselves to be achievers with results to back them up will be those that manage to continue to put food on their tables!

    Side note: I agree regarding almanos and yesomim and poor people although I am not “liberal” by any stretch of the meaning. However, THE ARTICLE… the focus of discussion here is a graduation ceremony and part of growing up and maturing is realizing you might have “chesronos” and dealing with it instead of adults and teachers sugar coating it and possibly making the situation much worse down the line!


    to less chumres still waiting..just dont let such trivialities make you sad


    When I was in high school, the girls chosen to speak at graduation were always exemplary students whose parents were also “choshuve” members of the community.

    In fact one of my sisters was told by a teacher that she really wanted my sister to speak at graduation; she’s an excellent student and a fine girl besides; however school staff insisted on choosing another girl whose father is a prominent Rosh Kollel.

    Actually none of my family members enjoy putting together speeches nor delivering them; so my sister was quite happy to be relieved of that pressure.

    She did receive a reward at graduation, and my parents were very proud.


    Achievers deserve to be rewarded.Efforts can be recognized but our successes in history were not made by those who did not excell. The hard worker should get the same salary as the one who produces little? Then ,why try harder?


    To jent1150

    I give up. You haven’t responded to my suggestion and I don’t know to be any clearer


    I’ll tell you what the other grads feel like: GARBAGE.

    I agree that it is necessary to give out the valedictorian awards. Depending on class size, I think it’s fair to give awards to 10% of the graduating class.

    The young women who worked hard and accomplished deserved to have it acknowledged.

    The other kids have to realize that there will be times in life where they dont get what they want, or even think they deserve.

    My gripe with my own graduation was that we had a small grade, and 80% of them had “with honors” attached to their names, so 1/5 of the grade looked dumb. It was the opposite of what should be


    the valedictorians worked hard and its nice to get recognized from the school for their acheivments and yeshivos do what they can not to embarras the others by giving a fake diploma at the graduation even though they dont deserve it

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