TT: Homecoming to What?

Welcome to the Thursday Tangent.  If you’re looking for the Wednesday Wandering, just page back and meet my friends the Stirlings and discover how they’re related to cozy disasters.  Then join me and Alan as we explicate the mysteries of homecoming.

Daydream Believers and Homecoming Queen

ALAN: Another word that bewilders me is “homecoming.” What is homecoming? And what’s a homecoming queen? That last phrase has puzzled me ever since I first heard the Monkees sing “Daydream Believer.”

JANE: I can only give you a little on this because my high school wasn’t into homecoming and I never became involved when I was in college.

The “home” is the school.  “Homecoming” usually centers around some sporting event, often with a special rival team.  Graduates of the school come “home” to cheer on the team.  There is a big dance later.  I believe (and again, I never experienced this) the homecoming queen and her court preside over this event.

ALAN: How are the homecoming queen and the members of her court chosen? Are they appointed or are they voted for?

JANE: I think it’s a popularity contest of some sort.   Jim says that’ s how it was at his high school.  I don’t know if it’s the same everywhere.

ALAN: We have absolutely no equivalent of this at all.  And I really can’t imagine any reason for wanting to go back and visit my old school after leaving it all behind. Though having said this,  in 2008 somebody from my old school organised a 40th anniversary reunion for the people from my year. I didn’t attend – I live on the opposite side of the world, after all. But I did participate in the emails that went backwards and forwards as we told each other what we’d been doing for the last forty years. I joked that everyone was really celebrating forty years of me not being around any more because it truly was that long since most of us had seen each other. After we left school we scattered all over the place and soon lost touch.

And once the anniversary was over, we lost touch again. I have no idea what has happened to them in the four years since the anniversary.

JANE: My high school closed a few years after I graduated so a lot of the continuity was lost.  There have been efforts to re-establish it and I get newsletters now.  I don’t live on the other side of the world from my schools, but I do live a fair distance.  I think I’d need a lot of incentive to make a trip for a reunion.

ALAN: By the way, we don’t graduate from school, we just leave. There isn’t a ceremony. One day you are at school, the next day you aren’t. Schools don’t have graduates, they have ex-pupils or old scholars. There is a graduation ceremony at university to formalise the awarding of a degree, but I didn’t bother going to mine. I’d passed my exams, I had my degree, what more did I need? And the thought of dressing up in a silly gown and mortar board and listening to interminable boring speeches was unbearable.

After I left university, my mother used to send me letters addressed to “Alan Robson B.Sc.” I only managed to break her of the embarrassing habit by threatening to return the letters unopened and marked “Not Known At This Address.”

JANE: Americans are very title shy.  If I were still teaching college, I’d be Doctor Lindskold.  However, I would be considered pretentious if I used the title socially.  The only “doctors” who get recognized as such in American culture are medical doctors.

ALAN: We’re just the same in this respect. My mother was terribly proud of my degree (nobody in my family had ever gone to university before, and nobody has gone since) and it was very hard for her to understand why I wouldn’t flaunt my degree at every opportunity. But the plain fact of the matter is that it just isn’t done.

A friend of mine has a Ph.D. and is, therefore, legitimately a doctor. But the only use he has ever made of it is when he went to visit a friend of his who was in hospital. It was outside normal visiting hours, so he just turned up and said, “Hello, I’m Doctor So-and-So and I’ve come to visit Mr Such-and-Such.”

He was immediately ushered to his friend’s bedside. And, as he said, it wasn’t his fault that the ward sister assumed he was a medical doctor. He told her the literal truth; he wasn’t responsible for the interpretation she put on it!

JANE:  I did something similar to that when I was still teaching college, but it was unplanned.  I needed some test results and the medical people were being slow at getting them to me.  I called from work and when the receptionist asked who was calling I said, “Dr. Lindskold.”  This was reflex, because that was my role at that moment.

Not only did I get the results, they were given to me by the doctor himself.  This has left me forever cynical.

So, have I answered all your questions?  Are you prepared for the world of American education?

ALAN: Oh, we’ve scarcely begun – there’s lots more still puzzling me.

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9 Responses to “TT: Homecoming to What?”

  1. heteromeles Says:

    As a friend of mine in (American) grad school noted, he thought it would be fun to be known as John Smith, BS, PhD, KMA. KMA stood for “Kiss My .A**. He was joking, but there’s a certain element of that in getting a doctorate, I think. Of course, The last I heard, Dr. KMA was teaching at a small college in the Dakotas.

    Personally, I like flashing my PhD when I have to a comment for a group on some environmental project or other. There’s enough questionable information floating around where I do this that saying, “yes, I actually have some expertise” seems to be a reasonable thing to do.

    As for homecoming? Oh yeah. That. I think it’s called “Hit Up the Alumni Day” in some schools.

  2. janelindskold Says:

    Yes. I think the fact that so many schools are privately funded does lead to a desire to create the illusion of “home” and thus the need to support.

    I have enjoyed my various schools, but don’t have that feeling.

  3. Paul Says:

    I’ve enjoyed my periodic high school reunions, but then we ended up with only 40 in our graduating class (the schools consolidated a few years later). So many of us knew one another all the way through. Homecoming king and queen was indeed a popularity contest back then.

  4. Louis Robinson Says:

    Around here, I’m noticing that lawyers are fond of listing their degrees [as are real-estate agents, come to think of it]. I guess it’s expected of them, since a person admitted to the Bar is, like a commissioned officer, a certified gentleman and entitled to use ‘Esquire’ – especially the women among them – and the most senior will generally be appointed Queen’s Counsel. Since Esq & QC are pretty much required anyway, the LLBs and JDs and what have you start to look natural.

  5. Roger Ritter Says:

    Admiral Daniel V. Gallery commanded the U.S. Navy forces in Iceland for a while during WWII, and then wrote several funny books after the war about both his own naval service and some fictional characters. British military tradition is also to give the abbreviations for at least the major awards after a person’s name (e.g., Group Captain Ima Hero, VC for a winner of the Victoria’s Cross). The US military doesn’t do this, but Gallery started getting a slight inferiority complex about it. He finally started introducing himself to British officers as Adm. Daniel Gallery, DDLM. When asked, he claimed it stood for “Dan, Dan, the Lavatory Man”.

  6. janelindskold Says:

    I would like if there was a balance between bragging and denial.

    As Louis said, a way for the use of honestly earned titles to “look natural,” especially outside of a military context.

  7. Susan J. Bannister Says:

    Enjoyed reading this entry, Jane, and please give your mother my kind regards–she was an awesome school teacher and is missed. I am happy you were able to graduate from college and know she is very proud of you!

  8. CBI Says:

    I’ve had similar experiences as heteromeles about the use of a “PhD”. Since mine is in physics, it seems to hold an especial awe with some. Don’t know why: outside of a particular and narrow set of knowledge, it doesn’t mean much. (At work, where a PhD is almost an entry-level degree, it means less, I think, in an absolute sense. In fact, in my own work-group, the most respected “leader” is the only one who doesn’t have a PhD — or even a MS!) What it does mean is that a person has a level of technical experise in a given field — but it is widely presumed that the expertise ends where the field ends.

    I think that, at least in the U.S., the PhD, especially in the so-called “soft sciences” and the humanities, means a lot less than it used to: too many non-critical thinkers have the initials after their names. The degree has been debased. There are still many humanity PhDs who exhibit the level of thinking that the degree should signify — and I included Jane in that group long before I knew of her own degree — the majority do not seem to reach that level. Too many don’t even make the attempt.

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