Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Making the Grade - but My Way!

Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Making the Grade - but My Way!

Article excerpt

Granada Hills Charter High School in suburban Los Angeles won the national Academic Decathlon in April for the second year in a row. The nine-member team racked up the biggest score in the 30-year history of the competition, 54,081 points out of a possible 60,000. 1 wonder if the campus sells slide rules and calculators in its vending machines.

I ask because when I was in high school, making the grade meant football players who got caught morphing pen-written Ds into Bs. But, in a way, I didn't care, for when it came to academic achievement, my parents didn't have great expectations. With good reason. They grew up during the Great Depression, my mom finishing eighth grade and my dad sixth, until tough times compelled them to get a job to help their families. My father wound up a housepainter and my mother became a housewife. So in their minds, making the grade meant that my sister, two brothers, and I graduate from high school. That was their dream. Well, that and looser slots at their favorite Las Vegas casino.

And all four of us kids did graduate from nearby West Covina High. It just took me 20 years to prove it. Not because I didn't fulfill the requirements, but because of a prank I pulled at the rite of passage. Egged on by classmates, I, the half-baked ham, faked a stumble as the principal handed me what I thought was my diploma. The crowd went nuts. The principal went berserk. After turning in my cap and gown, I discovered not only that actual diplomas would be mailed to graduates at a later date but also that mine was being withheld as punishment for my antics. Turns out, the faculty figured out long before my "trip" to the podium that holding the real sheepskin hostage was a good way to ensure pomp and circumstantial behavior.

My guidance counselor informed me that my path to diplomacy would require a formal apology to the principal for "ruining the entire ceremony." Sounded simple enough. But I wore my class clown crown proudly and felt that my performance was exactly what my classmates expected. So I chose not to say I was sorry for doing what comedians-in-training do. It was the principle, Principal.

When I broke the news to my parents later that night, they were furious. Not at me, despite it being pretty clear that I had attempted to drown my sorrows at more than a few graduation parties. No, they were mad at the principal. So even though it was past midnight, they called a family meeting. …

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