This is a copy of the letter I sent to my administration explaining why I wouldn't be at the graduation ceremony. Our school has no valedictorian, but I was in the "Top Ten."

6 May 2002

Perkins High School Staff and Administration:

I am writing this letter as a formal request not to attend the 2002 graduation ceremony at which I am scheduled to receive my diploma. While I recognize that many good and well-meaning individuals have done a great deal for me on a personal level, I have decided not to be present at the ceremony as a gesture of my general dissatisfaction with the school system as an institution.

Our school, like many schools, does not exist to promote learning. The ideas of learning for learning's sake, of intellectual inquiry, of critical analysis--these concepts are entirely absent. Our classrooms serve to warehouse students, classify them according to how much pointlessness and futility they are willing to tolerate, and keep them constantly occupied with useless activity at a time when reflection is essential to development.

Everything in the school exists to satisfy institutional requirements. The students work in class to get a grade. The teacher must work first and foremost to produce that grade. The school works to get standardized test scores and maintain athletic programs. No one is interested in challenging the students on an intellectual level. Nowhere flashes a spark of genuine curiosity. Paperwork is more important than teaching. Having the homework done is more important than understanding the material. Grades are based on how consistently students copy phrases out of their textbooks onto their homework papers, not on what they actually learn. Students come to know literature as a chore, history as profoundly boring, and science as a mass of quickly forgotten formulas. We are not being educated; we are merely going through the motions.

More specifically, the Perkins science, literature and mathematics departments have declined dramatically over the eight years that my family has been involved with the system. Too many good teachers have retired recently and their absence is keenly felt. Also, priorities here are very much out of order--note the marketing agreement with the Coca-Cola Company that paid for our football house. Finally, the school system does not provide adequate support for the students who, in spite of it all, remain intellectually motivated.

It is this last point which bothers me the most. Kids who come in bright often leave bitter and discouraged. I could easily cite specific examples to support this. Had I not been able to spend the majority of my last two years at Firelands College I would surely have gone out of my mind with frustration.

Again, I would like to stress that I am extremely grateful to the many individuals who have gone out of their way to help me over the years. Among these are Mr. Gasteier, Mr. Schlessman, Mrs. Spicer, Mr. Gerber, Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Fry, Mr. Leffler, Mrs. Meyers, and Mr. O'Shaughnessy, as well as retired faculty members Mr. Blakeman, Mr. Taylor and Mrs. Palmer (just to name a few). I feel, however, that my attendence at the graduation ceremony would indicate an approval for the school system as an institution that I am not willing to give. Please mail my diploma to the address above.