Saturday, May 26, 2007

Yesterday I was a participant observer in a 5th grade graduation ceremony. The ceremony started off with the children, the girls dressed in white dresses with white corsages on their arms, and the boys wearing a suit and tie costume(some students wore around their shoulders black items of clothing meant to show their membership in the 'beta club'- for students with high grades) , singing the school song, which a member of the culture studied(my grandmother) informed me that my four year old cousin's child knew this song(which rhymed community with unity in an expression of the communal ethic of the culture) by heart. The ceremony had a lot of emphasis on memorized speeches by various children, and there was much performance by the children as well- there was an interpretive dance performance, a version of lean on me(with the traditional leaning, although with telephone hand signals and hand shakes added), several other songs with church choir like movements(the school song was down with side to side swaying, and another song was done with up and down bobbing), a violin performance(my cousin played in it, and the only white person present was the woman in charge of teaching violin), a xylophone performance(for reasons unknown, my cousin also played the xylophone), and parents were presented with artificial flowers by their children.

The graduation was also traditional in other aspects. Yelling of the name of a child singled out for particular praise occurred. A traditional Christian 'preacher' did the keynote in a call and response style, mostly in standard English, with some Spanish and a bit of the dialect of the area. Boys were singled out for particular praise(oddly enough, most of the highest scoring students were boys), so were children with high reading scores. Children who had attended the school from preK to 5th were singled out for praise as well. Only a few children stood up, as an informant(my mother) said that this community was highly transient.

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