One of the pleasures of a graduation is the opportunity for the families of classmates to meet one another, after years of hearing about their children's friends.

Miss Manners has always thought it too bad that this has to come at a time when the proud relatives are also busy attempting to stomp and elbow one another into oblivion.There they all are, out in the sunlight (or in the annual freak graduation downpour), overflowing emotionally at the culmination of four years of emotional and financial effort. Children on whom they have lavished attention, worry and car fare are about to appear in the glorious guise of the certified scholar.

What do you hear from the assembled witnesses, who have this relief and pride in common?

"Don't they look marvelous?"

"Hasn't the time flown?"

"Do you think they're really ready now to go out on their own?"

Well, no. It is more often along the lines of:

"These are saved - both rows."

"Hey, you got up. I don't care whether you went to the bathroom or the moon - you left, and we're sitting here."

"Out of my way. I've got to get this shot."

"Get that camera out of my face if you don't want it smashed."

"Sit down or I'll make you."

All of which makes one wonder about the idea that education - to which all assembled must be minimally devoted, at least to the extent of sacrificing an otherwise blameless day to listening to speeches about the future of civilization - has anything to do with human enlightenment.

Miss Manners is aware that the usual graduation setup, of too few seats and some of those obstructed by kindly old academic trees, has something to do with the combative attitude one finds on what ought to be blissful occasions. So does the desire to photograph, videotape and otherwise memorialize the exact moment of the acceptance of a diploma, in a situation where assuming the posture to do so inevitably blocks the view for others.

There may also be frayed feelings brought to the occasion, as a result of the question of who is attending and who is not. Each graduate's parents, stepparents, auxiliary relatives and romantic attachments may be vying for the same rationed tickets. Traditionally, the only person who cheerfully volunteers to skip the occasion is the graduate.

The only person with a more naive solution seems to have been Miss Manners, who has in the past blithely suggested that some saving of seats and popping up for individual photographs would do no great harm.

This was based on the assumption that everyone pres-ent would be reasonable and cooperative. A seat or two saved for the person parking the car, or for, say, elderly relatives, and an occasional lurch into the aisle for a quick snap, struck her as workable.

But then the reports started coming in - of camera crews setting up to do full-length features, of early scouts sent to save huge blocks of seats. We just can't do anything in moderation, can we?

All right then, there will have to be restrictive rules: two extra seats for every one person saving, and turns in the aisle to last no more than the actual time from when the subject of one's picture is called by name until the calling of the next person.

Schools that want to assign seats by the order in which the graduates pick up the tickets, or to ban photography at the ceremony and sell professional snaps at a reasonable price, will have Miss Manners' blessing.

She would also like to point out that the highlight of a graduation is not the exact moment at which the diploma is transferred. It is, rather, the moment at which the graduate stands alone, wearing, with the rented academic robes, an expression that is a perfect blend of pride and embarrassment.

This can be achieved only after the diploma has been given, when the family has had enough privacy within the crowd to surround the graduate and make every joke about what has or has not been learned by him or her over the years, not excepting baby slips and adolescent blunders. If that is captured on film, it will be something to be treasured later.

DEAR MISS MANNERS - Lately it has become fashionable for women to wear baseball hats. When eating, should a woman remove her baseball hat or leave it in place, as with a dress hat? It does not seem proper to eat while wearing a baseball hat, but removing it leaves one's hair in quite a mess.

GENTLE READER - Etiquette cares about context, and you have neglected to tell Miss Manners the occasion on which the lady is wearing a baseball hat.

Is this a formal luncheon at which the lady has chosen a baseball hat to complement her dress? In that case, she properly leaves on the hat during the meal.

Is it a pig-out for players after the game? A hat that is worn as part of a uniform must be removed during meals. Having one's hair in a mess is not considered a disadvantage under such circumstances; in fact, the shaking out of the hair is rather an attractive gesture, provided it is not performed in the immediate vicinity of the food.

DEAR MISS MANNERS - When graduates are asked to wear cap and gown during a Protestant worship service, should they wear the mortarboards during the entire service or remove them during prayer?

GENTLE READER - The mortarboard is properly removed during the services. This rule formerly applied only to gentlemen, not to ladies, but as they are all there in their professional identity as scholars, Miss Manners now decrees that it applies to both. She apologizes for any bobby-pin problems this may occasion.

Are you unsure about tipping? Miss Manners' pamphlet, "On Tipping," explains who should be tipped and how much. It is available for $1.50 from Miss Manners, in care of the Deseret News, P.O. Box 91428, Cleveland, OH 44101-3428.- Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of the Deseret News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110. The quill shortage prevents Miss Manners from answering questions other than through this column.

1991, United Feature Syndicate Inc.