Songs and song writing are about moments. The world is swimming in songs about a first kiss or first time in love, but few have captured a “moment” better than rocker Alice Cooper when he wrote ‘School’s Out’.
Cooper, real name Vince Furnier, decided to write the song after a reporter asked him about the best three minutes of his life. It’s a testament to the influence of schools (or the emptiness of drugs, alcohol, and non-stop partying) that one of Cooper’s two top moments was the last three minutes of his last day of school.
“If we can catch that three minutes in a song, it’s going to be big,” Cooper is reported to have said.
He wasn’t kidding. More than 50 years after it was released, ‘School’s’ Out is Cooper’s signature song, and maybe the definitive tune about high school.
Once upon a time I thought celebrating the last day of school, and graduation along with it, was a bit overdone. Not only did almost every one in my friends and extended family graduate from high school, most went on to university. A few of them even became teachers. For me, “School’s Out” just meant more, well, school.
I’ve since changed my mind, and a big part came when I started with the Daily Herald as an education reporter. You couldn’t help but notice the students who once despaired at the thought of completing high school, but still found themselves walking across the stage on grad day. I met a few families where graduating high school was the exception, not the rule.
Many of these students weren’t stupid. When their life stabilized enough for them to concentrate on their studies, they often excelled. Unfortunately, for some, that stabilization never arrives. When it does, it’s worth celebrating.
Probably the best example came at the Wesmor High School Grad in 2018, when then valedictorian Thomasina Sewap talked about the challenges of graduating. At one point, Sewap was living in a shelter and struggling to support her infant son, all while trying to navigate the world of classes, exams, group projects, and assignments.
I don’t envy the challenges students like Sewap overcome to graduate. High school can be challenging enough when you have a full stomach and a solid roof to sleep under. The successes of Sewap and others like her proves the point that a high school graduation is worth celebrating.
If anecdotes don’t convince you, let’s look at the statistics. Graduating from Grade 12 is associated with a host of positive life outcomes. High school graduates are more likely to earn a higher income. They’re more likely to experience premature death, and less likely to report negative health conditions, like heart disease.
And while it’s an older report (2015), Correction Service of Canada numbers show nearly two-thirds of incarcerated adults did not graduate high school. Roughly 30 per cent of those inmates did not even complete Grade 8.
Obviously, there are a host of other factors that go into succeeding or failing in life, but a quick look at the numbers shows graduating from high school is one of the biggest. It’s a milestone worth celebrating, even if graduating high school ends up being a blip on a student’s list of academic achievements.
School’s out. For some, it’s only out for the summer. For others, it’s out forever. Regardless, congrats to the Grad Class of 2023. You’ve earned it.
Jason Kerr is the editor of the Prince Albert Daily Herald.