The Thinker: Rich Galen


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The Circumstances of No Pomp

Rich Galen

Monday May 18, 2020

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  • It is mid-May 2020. The vast majority of the 37,100 public and private high schools and the 2,472 public and private colleges and universities have concluded their activities for the 2019-2020 academic year.

  • Including graduation ceremonies for the class of 2020.

  • I am a member of the board of trustees at Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio 47570. Like the other 2,471 four-year post-secondary schools, we had a senior class that graduated without marching in to the strains of "Pomp and Circumstance," without showing off the robes and caps to one another, without walking across a stage at the call of their names, without being - at once - embarrassed and proud at the tears being shed by mom and dad, and all the rest of the pomp and circumstance of graduation day.

  • At least one cable network, CNN, held a virtual high school graduation on Saturday night. The Mullings Director of Standards & Practices watched the whole thing even though I recognized only one celebrity, Labron James, and two ex-Presidents of the United States, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

  • The entirety of the class of 2020 finished its senior year on-line. One day they were laughing at lunch, the next day they were trying to figure out how to use Zoom.

  • Same with the faculty. All those teachers who have trained for years to perfect their classroom demeanor had to check the walls behind them to ensure there was nothing unfortunate for third graders to see, or college seniors to giggle about.

  • I sat through an on-line economics class toward the end of the semester to see what it was like. First of all, that 90 minute 400-level International Econ class brought to a total of my all-time economics class time to 90 minutes.

  • Second of all I actually learned something. There is a difference between Gross Domestic Product and Gross National Product. I had thought they were interchangeable. And so did you.

  • Third, the professor was remarkably skilled in using the tools of Zoom to keep the class going.

  • This class was a Tuesday-Thursday class. With no school on Saturdays since I was there in 1835, Tues-Thurs classes are 90-ish minutes to qualify as a three-hour course.

  • It seemed to me that at about the 50 minute mark, the students began to electronically sag. The professor must have sensed the same thing, because she switched to a virtual pop quiz of multiple choice questions that the students had to answer pressing a button on their computer keyboard.

  • I was glad I didn't have to take it.

  • It occurred to me that from one end of America to the other, students and their teachers pivoted in, literally, minutes from the same kind of teaching that started with Socrates to this newfangled system first developed, about 1,500 years later, by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) which called its system ARPANET.

  • Media outlets have done their best to fill in for the graduates in their markets. One such was television station KALB in New Orleans which put together a montage of graduates.


    I own a few shares in Gray TV based in Atlanta. KALB is one of Gray's stations. I don't own enough to have the general manager take me to lunch, but I thought you should know.


  • The final entry was a young man who said the Class of 2020 would look out for one another "so the class of 2021 can walk across the stage. Next year."

  • Here's a small prayer that by this time next year all the graduating seniors at those nearly 42,000 high schools and colleges can enjoy a proper ceremony and the words "Circumstance" and "Pomp" will be back in their correct order

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Lot's o' Links today: Everything you ever wanted to know about "Pomp and Circumstance," the difference between GNP and GDP, the Socratic Method, and that wonderful video from KALB-TV.

    The Mullfotos are of two graduation "parties" this weekend. Worth the look.

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