Eastern Wake: Opinion

June 1, 2014

Column: Baccalaureate still has a place

A generation ago, attending Baccalaureate ceremonies were as much a part of graduation as getting your diplomas. Sadly times have changed.

It’s an exciting time of year for a certain group of high school students who are about to march across the stage and pick up a diploma that was 13 years or more in the making. Graduation for both East Wake High School and Knightdale High School is slated for June 10. Much more on that next week.

Before that happens, though, the seniors will have one other opportunity to dress up in those spiffy caps and gowns. Parent groups from both high schools have organized Baccalaureate services to recognize the role of God in the students’ achievements. Just a generation ago, Baccalaureate was as much a part of the graduation process as getting your diploma.

These days? Not so much. Thirty years ago, in 1984, my senior class marched onto the football field at East Wake in sweltering heat, under the threat of a summer thunder boomer to hear from a Canadian preacher from Raleigh named Al Edwards talk to us about how we had gotten to that point in our lives. Contrary to my belief – and popular belief – we had not accomplished our greatest achievement thus far in life on our own. Raised in Scotland by his grandparents, Edwards explained in his memorable Scottish brogue that God had a pretty big hand in the deal, too.

Now, I was not an active church member at the time. Sunday mornings, in my family were reserved for the same thing the other six mornings of the week were for: feeding the hogs and tending to work on the farm. But that Baccalaureate service was memorable. And there was not a member of the graduating class who didn’t attend.

When East Wake holds its Baccalaureate service today (Sunday, June 1) and when Knightdale High holds its Baccalaureate service next Sunday, only a fraction of the graduating seniors will likely attend. I suspect most of them will be what they call churched. They will likely be active members of whatever church, synagogue or mosque it is they attend.

Political correctness has all but ended the tradition of Baccalaureate. Schools that still have a Baccalaureate service will tell seniors the event is going on. But they make it clear students don’t have to attend.

That’s too bad, I think. Those graduating seniors certainly had a big part to play in getting to graduation. But it’s hard to imagine that they did it by themselves. Parents played a role. Teachers certainly played a role. But there must surely be something more.

Graduates and their families who attend East Wake’s Baccalaureate service today at 3:30 at Zebulon Baptist Church, and those who attend Knightdale’s at 3 p.m. next Sunday at Knightdale United Methodist Church, will have a much clearer understanding of what it took to get to this momentous occasion. It’s too bad, they won’t all get to hear that message.

It would certainly put some perspective on all the pomp and circumstance that will surround activities just a few days later when graduates march across the final stage of their high school careers.

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