Updated: July 2, 2014 6:23AM
Welcome, graduates, to your adulthood. It will be a hoot. Buckle up.
We have selected the graduation ceremonies at Ridgewood High School in the Chicago suburb of Norridge as an illuminating, symbolic valedictory. Just take Interstate 90 west, and you’ll see the school momentarily.
We selected Ridgewood because its commencement hootenanny this week synthesized so much worth saying all in one tight, tidy package. Everything wrong with the world and everything right about the differences in being old and being young played out there in a Greek comedy this week.
In one corner were the several hundred grads. In the other corner was his royal highness, Robert Lupo, retiring superintendent of the school district and Grand Inquisitor. We made up the last part, but you will see shortly that the title fits.
In his last official act after 12 years as superintendent, Lupo warned the young heathens about their dangerous youngness and their heathenness.
Do not, his Internet instructions warned, even dare to toss your graduation caps into the air because it will damage the dignity of my final commencement.
Also, as Ralphie was warned repeatedly about his Red Ryder BB gun, it can put your eye out.
There were other “be dignified” demands, too, which made the Grand Inquisitor seem like a dope.
But every 2014 class in every high school consists of teenagers facing the last free summer of their lives. The Last Temptation of public education is the soaring hope of ignoring adults because, officially, you have become an adult, too. It’s the law.
As opposed to being the “Grownups Who Make You Do What They Want,” adults are now just strangers you can ignore if you wish. So the Ridgewood High grads, as thousands of their peers do every spring, ignored the Inquisitor’s final demand. They launched their four-cornered hats into the air in celebration. We let cadets at West Point do it as well as the midshipmen at Annapolis. The nation’s dignity and safety have not been severely damaged by airborne mortarboards.
Bad children, bad children, said the Inquisitor.
The Grand Inquisitor then did what any self-respecting Grand Inquisitor would do in his last ugly ritual. He announced that not a single 2014 graduate would get a diploma unless or until senior class representatives presented themselves to the school board and apologized.
He explained in his blog: “Perhaps it is the final lesson they will take away from high school: there are consequences for behaviors in life. If you are unwilling to face those consequences, perhaps you should rethink your actions.”
Lupo graduated from Northern Illinois University with a major in Pompous and minor in Twit.
Nonetheless, here is the moment when the values of age and youth diverge. Decide if you still possess the instinctive joy of youth or have surrendered to the mental decrepitude of your dotage.
If you think the seniors got a raw deal, remain seated in the Youth Brigade. If you think the Grand Inquisitor was right, you have qualified for an ancient Inuit tradition — the tribe has reserved your space on the next departing ice floe. Step aboard, and we’ll shove you into the Bering Strait never to be seen again.
It’s of fleeting significance that Lupo, having made himself an international Internet pariah in less than 24 hours, had a serious change of mind. Twenty-four hours after demanding a public scorning for ruining his final graduation party, he told the grads on Thursday to come to the school office and pick up their sheepskins. All’s forgiven.
Lupo was paid $200,000 a year by a school board that tells him what should ignite his outrage.
But he had one enduring slice of advice. If you are a school administrator or any adult tempted this week to issue your final fiat, listen carefully to Lupo.
“One of the speakers last night told you that it is time to be called adults,” he told the graduates. “If that seems like a scary thing, that is because it is. Just remember that with the privileges of adulthood come the responsibilities inherent in the ‘job.’ Good luck.”
Youth is joy. Adulthood is not darkness and fear. Make life what you wish. Be yourselves. We need your brightness and hope.
Lupo forgot all that, or perhaps never knew it.
As for the rest of you, be careful there’s no ice floe with your name on it.
Contact David Rutter at