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Column: Wishing the best for the class of 2021
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

In the next few days, graduates of high school and college will walk across a stage and receive a diploma. 

I don’t know if they shake hands with anyone during this era of the coronavirus, but they will graduate with or without a hand clasp.

This group of high school graduates spent about half a year learning from home. There are some subjects that can easily be adapted to online learning, and some that can’t.

Students in Gainesville and Hall County were afforded a choice when the school doors reopened. They could return with their classmates or continue to study from home. 

I am glad that many of them chose to return to the classroom. Yes, there were setbacks that occasionally resulted in schools having to close again for a few days. Slowly, things have come back to some degree of normalcy, but the whole idea of wearing a mask at school will never quite be normal.

I’m writing this on a computer. Yes, there is a part of me that misses the old manual or electric typewriter, but those days are gone.

I was in the public library the other day and saw a recent set of encyclopedias on the shelf. If I asked for a show of hands from parents whose children use encyclopedias at home, I would still be waiting for a hand to pop up.

We used to look up books in a card catalog. That has been replaced by a computer.

A friend of mine, who is about to retire, earned the latest and greatest computer degree offered by Georgia Tech in the 1980s. He told me once that every computer component and language that he studied in college was mostly obsolete about 10 years after he graduated.

Technology is coming down the road at a pace we cannot imagine. Some auto manufacturers have set goals of completely replacing the internal combustion engine with an electric powered motor in the middle of the next decade. I was the flashlight holder for my dad as he worked on cars underneath a pecan tree in our backyard. Something tells me that there will not be a shade-tree mechanic working on electric cars.

But some things haven’t changed.

The way we write may have undergone technological advances, but the way we assemble words has not. A student, regardless of their field of study, needs to know how to compose a few paragraphs in writing. 

They also need to know how to stand up and deliver a brief speech. I’m not suggesting that every person who stands to speak needs to be of the caliber of Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr. 

They do, however, need to be able to cobble together a few sentences into a spoken oratory.

The same is true of writing. You don’t have to be the next Shakespeare, but you should be able to write a decent paper.

I worry about this next generation and their writing. They think abbreviations used in a text message are acceptable in written documents. BRB (be right back), UR (you are), BTW (by the way) and CYA (see ya) are not designed to be included in a composition. However, our “everyone gets a trophy” world will one day loosen the rules and make them acceptable.

I wish the best to the class of 2021. I hope you find the door to success opens wide for you. I hope that the career you prepare for will be everything you want. Go and seek it all with your head held high.​

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the weekend Life page and on