At Year's End, 3 R's Give Way to 3 C's

By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 2, 2008

Commencements, celebrations and cramming for finals: Three C's are upon us as the school year nears its end. So are concern and controversy.

Students are poring over textbooks and notes, studying with little time left, wishing they had been more productive during the year. Experts on memory and learning say too many kids approach studying the wrong way, wasting time. (Today, some offer tips on how to get it right.)

Meanwhile, graduation ceremonies are proceeding apace, some with celebrities. Former Beatle Paul McCartney was recently given an honorary doctorate in music at Yale University, where a band played "Hey Jude" as he walked onstage and Yale President Richard Levin called him a "musical genius." Harvard University will hear Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling at its commencement this week.

At some schools, speakers and recipients of honorary degrees have sparked protests.

Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill., had extended an invitation this year to the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., former senior minister of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, to receive an honorary degree in sacred theology. But that invitation was revoked last month because of controversy surrounding Wright's political views and his connection to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who is running for president. The school said it acted to ensure that the commencement retained its traditional "celebratory" character.

At the University of Georgia, some faculty members and students complained about the selection of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as undergraduate commencement speaker. There was an uproar at Washington University in St. Louis after it was publicized that conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly was being awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

At George Washington University, students had no problem with this year's speaker, NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, but have been demanding input in the selection of speakers. They won a role recently when school President Steven Knapp announced the formation of a committee to study the selection process.

After the studying and ceremonies, thousands of high school seniors from this region and beyond will attend "Beach Week" on Delaware's shore. They go, without parents, for activities that often lead to a spike in arrests for underage drinking, marijuana use and related offenses.

Tired of worrying about the kids, a growing number of parents and schools are taking a more proactive approach. Read on to learn what they are doing to improve behavior -- or to stop kids from going altogether.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company