Friday, May 24, 2013

A Flotilla of Credentials

The worst part about graduation ceremonies is not the speechifying. Nor is it the seizure-inducing bursts of photographic flashes or the heavy, thick spring air. It's not even the sight of that flotilla of vaunted credentials puffing its way through rows of parents. It's the robes.

First offending is the sheer ridiculousness of their design. All poofy and flowing they're just the wrong combination of priss and pomp. Too, could they be more elaborate than with sashes and cords and tassels and hats? And don't forget the stripes, borders, and crests. And hoods, don't forget the hoods, because academia is apparently so complicated for academics that they need to color code each other. Well, that's uncharitable. Perhaps it's simply that the reward for years of study is getting to dress like a Baroque Halloween Oreo.

Worse than this fashion faux pas, though, is the arrogance of wearing one's achievements on his sleeve. And chest, and head, and every other part of the body. If this is not the epitome of arrogance I shudder to see the real thing. All clothing has to do is suggest a quiet, kept dignity, and this sort of peacocking should be verboten and stamped into the dirt. Yes, academic work is quiet and solitary. So? Grad-uation is about promotion, not celebration, and pulling out the fancy dress because academics feel unloved doesn't serve the discipline so much as turn the ceremony into Carnivale. Then again, had Socrates the opportunity I'm sure he would have opted to look like a cross-dressing troubadour on Star Trek.

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