I’d like to congratulate the graduating class of 2005. All of you. You did it!
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My niece SHOULD be the Valedictorian of NorthSide High in Ft. Worth, Texas. When you see the graduation program that we received last night at the ceremony in TCU’s Coliseum, the name in the Valedictory slot of the Class of 2005 should be Elizabeth Ann Weeks. If there were any justice . . . etc.
The staff at the school told her before Christmas that she was a shoo-in, that she didn’t need ANY more credits or AP classes, and that she was far ahead of the closest follower. (According to my brother-in-law; I am going by what he has told me.) She had her speech all written by March. She and her mom brainstormed it early.
BUT . . . the week the list of honorees came out, her name was listed SECOND, as Salutatorian.
Now, it’s still a great honor. A mark of distinction. Don’t get me wrong: we’re not pouting. But the difference between being the #1 and the #2 graduate in Texas is that the valedictorian gets a free pass for four years–tuition, room and board, and fees–at ANY Texas (state-affiliated) university. Not at a private university, but in the University of Texas system and in any state-sponsored school. The salutatorian gets . . . one semester. So there is a difference of more than just one evening’s honor and a symbol on your transcript.
(I know you’re goggle-eyed at this. This program sure wasn’t around back In My Day. I attended SMU on a National Merit Scholarship, which was about the best deal around back then save for an athletic scholarship, only because the athletic scholarships came with room and board, fees, and sometimes a red convertible. I would not have been able to afford the tuition without my scholarship. The same is true of many students today.)
At first, we were just crushed. My brother-in-law had been discussing possibilities with the faculty, because he pointed out that they HAD predicted her win. At first they said, in effect: hey, let it go–that girl (the new winner) is poor and Hispanic, and her parents can’t afford to send her to school.
“WHAT?” he shouted. “ARE YOU TELLING ME YOU ARE DISCRIMINATING ON THE BASIS OF RACE OR HERITAGE?”
Immediately, they backed off (“No, no, of COURSE we’re not suggesting anything of the kind”) and began showing him the numbers they had crunched. They were comparing numerical grade-point averages down to several decimal points. Their claim was that the other girl had completed several AP courses and was a few fractions of a point ahead. As I understand it, the girls were “tied” down to five decimal places, and this spring the other girl took an AP class that my niece didn’t. That turned the tide. That was their story, and they stuck to it.
What the staff doesn’t know is that my brother-in-law is not a Rich White Guy. They’ve lived about as poor as anybody most of the time, mostly because of bad luck, I think. He’s had a tough financial time of it since the children were born, in fact. Although the kids have never gone without and have not wanted for anything. The Heroic Parents here deserve some sort of accolade for that.
But without some kind of scholarship, my niece might not get to attend college . . . she might be stuck working for a year or going to a community college. Fortunately, a different scholarship program came through, and she’ll go to a smaller college for two years for free; if she maintains a 4.0 average, she’ll then get to transfer into one of the participating sister schools and complete her junior and senior years free of charge. One of the sister schools is her first choice, TCU. And she also got another scholarship grant of $2500 per semester. That’ll cover books, fees, transportation, and incidentals. So things DID work out. There’s more than one way to skin a Horned Frog, as my sister-in-law said.
Here’s the advantage I have in being paranoid and never trusting in people’s “word of honor.” If they had said to ME that I didn’t need to take extra stuff and AP courses, I would have just smiled and said, “That’s nice to hear, but I am going to sign up for them anyway.” Not only am I a grind/nerd/scholar, but I like to have suspenders AND a belt. Oh, well; they didn’t ASK me.
I can tell you that my niece’s speech was by far the best one. The only thing missing from the ceremony was the (physical) presence of her grandparents, my in-laws. I thought of them as we watched the kids march across the stage. They must be so proud, looking down from Heaven.
But they’d have been incensed because the crowd didn’t know how to behave and made noise (talking, hooting, hollering, shouting) during the entire ceremony. Several of us wished we could stand up with a bullhorn and shout, “Be quiet! I’m trying to HEAR!” Every graduation I was ever in (or attended before this one) was pindrop-quiet until the mortarboards went into the air. I suppose the modern world is different from the one I grew up in, but that doesn’t mean it’s always better.
In her speech, Elizabeth compares our journey after high school to Dorothy’s quest in the Wizard of Oz. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more.
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During last night’s post-graduation party at my brother- and sister-in-law’s house, I learned these Unusual Factoids:
* If the gummint* puts tracking devices on every car to record whether you are speeding and institutes a national ID card program (as they’re trying to, apparently–witness the national driver’s license match-up database they’re working on now), why do people say it’s BIG BROTHER watching you? Thatt’s a lot more like LITTLE brother is watching you. Isn’t HE the major tattle-tale and the one who always gets you into trouble by spilling the beans?
(The speaker has a point. George Orwell had it backwards.)
*Gummint=Government, pronounced the way Unca Sammy talks it
* There ought to be a measurement called UHU–universal hamburger units–to measure whether McD or BK actually gives you more burger for the buck
* Silence is golden, but duct tape is silver
–courtesy of the non sequitur society (“we don’t make sense, but we love pizza”)
* In Florida, at least, if you see a phone number of the form (aaa) eee-9xxx, it is a PAY phone. Supposedly, whenever 9 is coded in that position, this is the case. aaa=area code, eee=exchange, xxxx=the actual “number.”
* Had you realized that you can put a quarter on the front doorsill of someone you are after (assuming you are a stalker or a bounty hunter or even their landlord), and if it’s still there in a couple of days, you may deduce that people are not coming and going from the house regularly? (Lean the quarter against the door, its edge seated in one of the ridges of the weatherstripping or sill or whatever that strip of metal is called.)
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Another thing I thought about when I was watching the graduation ceremony (and this may stem from their school colors being maroon and white, and their caps and gowns being identical-looking to the ones we of the graduating class of 1977 in Plano, Texas, wore): the man next door. (The one who is to be buried tomorrow.) His daughter was the secretary of our class, and she did some of the introductions during our graduation ceremony. She sat in the row in front of me (with people who were either class officers or getting scholarships/honors). She (like many others) had several bobby pins holding her mortarboard on (because she had it tilted back so as to have her Farrah Fawcett hairstyle intact–many people were doing this in these days). SO when everyone threw their caps up in the air, she ended up pulling a bunch of her bobby pins out and not getting her cap off at all. My friends and I didn’t pull off our caps . . . we wanted to keep them. (Sentimental fools, all.) Also, we knew there’d be photos with the family later. ANYhow, her dad came down to meet us all and fixed her hat back on for her. I thought of him and of many people from my past as I listened to these kids talking about how the future holds endless possibilities. I wish them luck as they start on that yellow brick journey.
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My niece is a good writer for someone her age. But she does something that is one of my major copyediting-brain pet peeves. She tends to put a comma after a coordinating conjunction, even when it begins a sentence.
This is never correct. I always go wild when I see it. I have used gallons of White-Out-Vexing-Errors on such abominations seen in print. I have mailed perfect strangers copies of the Harbrace College Handbook with page flags on the comma rules section in hopes they’ll read it. I don’t know why it is such a bête noire of mine. But then, most punctuation errors push my buttons.
I am upset that the schools/teachers didn’t teach her this, when they saw it all the time in the newspaper editorials she wrote. Maybe they didn’t know themselves. I don’t know how to bring it up, because last night my brother-in-law said several times, “They tell me there isn’t anything more that they can teach her about English.” (Those teachers are falling down on the job, then; for after one has mastered grammar and rhetoric, one then begins assimilating the wisdom of English and American literature. Begin on the literature, I say! But enough from me; go read Dorothy L. Sayers on the Trivium.)
(Yes, that’s *supposed* to be “me.” It’s a direct object, not a subject. Unless, of course, the PNH rule saying that any post correcting someone else’s grammar or punctuation is destined to contain an error of its own holds.)
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And while we’re on that topic . . . PLEASE, writers of the Universe, it’s *bête noire*, and the plural is *bêtes noires* (because of the way plurals are formed en Francais.)
bête noire (noun); pl. bêtes noires
1. A person or thing that especially bothers, annoys or frightens someone. Something or someone especially hated or dreaded; a bugbear.
Etymology: 19c: French, literally “black beast”
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“I didn’t buy anything on eBay yesterday. I am too strong for the devil.”–ShinyPrettyThings, an eBay seller from whom I just bought nearly $80 of rubber stamps . . . when I was supposed to be SELLING rubber stamps on eBay . . . *sob* *wail*
OK, I linked to YOU.* Now YOU link to ME. (*bwa-ha-haa!*)
*Without being asked! I just liked her site.