Thursday, May 31, 2012

Catholic-School Myths

Recently, someone has decided to leave comments regarding my family. I'll respond as necessary, leave them up for a little while, then delete them, because aside from my anecdotes and things, it's irrelevant and bordering on personal attacks. I say a lot about a lot of things and I'm bound to irritate some people, and that's all fine and good. What's not fine and good is making assumptions about my family and background or dragging them into my opinions.

The last comment was about the fact that I went to Catholic school. It also suggested I've said everything in the county's public schools is awesome, which I haven't.

I don't know exactly when my parents decided to send my brother and I to Catholic school, but when we were growing up, my dad would often say that since he came from the public-school system (in Connellsville), he wasn't putting us through it. When we complained about something, he would always say that it was better than public school.

I started at Verna Montessori in Mt. Pleasant, which is probably the only school I attended that could almost completely fulfill the privileged, rich-kid stereotypes. Many of the kids did come from pretty well-off families, but not everyone. It was a small school, and from what I remember, benefitted a lot from fundraisers and donations. In that sense, it was kind of like a bubble, but that doesn't mean everything was awesome.

Montessori was run by strict Italian nuns that made kids cry regularly. I got stomach aches just about every morning on the way to school. One girl infamously left after being hit with a ruler. I had many conversations with my parents about switching schools, but I waited it out until I landed at Conn Area for middle school.

This is where the myth of spoiled rich kids in private schools pretty much ends. The schools themselves didn't have a lot of money. Few kids came from rich parents. Resources were limited. Teachers ranged from awesome to terrible. One of the best examples of this is when we needed a long-term substitute in the middle of the year and she told us to take out our books and show her where we were in the lessons. We took them out and left them unopened. We rarely used them. We mostly colored and watched movies.

Speaking of books, they were usually old and falling apart.

And then we had no air conditioning, which is just a nuisance, but we didn't have good heat, either. Heat's a little more important.

The tuition really doesn't help much, and gradually, enrollment dropped until Conn Area as I knew it closed and its students were moved to Geibel.

Geibel wasn't much different. Things seem to be looking up for them, especially after the spring auction, but the problems were the same. Teachers started getting let go when I was a sophomore. We still had crappy books, some questionable teachers, limited resources, and no air conditioning. Heat wasn't allowed to be turned on until November. Teachers would let us sneak hoodies and coats from our lockers and slip half into them--we had to be ready to throw them off if the principal came by because we'd be out of uniform and the teacher would get in trouble.

As for the students, Geibel had a reputation for taking in kids who were kicked out of other schools. I think the principal thought the school would reform them, but they always ended up leaving or getting kicked out of there, too. Plenty of kids came from backgrounds just as bad as some of the kids in public schools.

Geibel couldn't offer advanced classes, especially in the sciences, and some of my peers feel that they would've actually received a better education if they would've gone to public school. Some do wish they would've gone to Connellsville High School instead. I had mostly positive experiences and disagree, but I'm in the minority.

The fact is that Catholic schools in Fayette County aren't havens for rich kids where everything is awesome. The Catholic schools are struggling, too, and they can't survive. In Westmoreland County, going to a Catholic school means a lot more then it does in Fayette County. It's been said that the diocese favors Greensburg Central Catholic. Whether that's true or not, the problems Geibel and Conn Area both had/have are evident. The same problems public schools have exist in the Catholic schools, too, although probably on a smaller scale. I'm surprised Geibel has survived this far past my own graduation. It was probably saved in large part by the merger of sorts with Conn Area.

As someone I know likes to say, "Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side because of the shit."

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