What You Don’t Know About Catholic School
Ironically, as we were being taught kindness and open-mindedness, the world was forming opinions and judging us based purely on stereotypes.
By Mallory Arnold, Ohio University
“I went to an all girl’s high school,” I answer one day, when asked about my past education.
It doesn’t matter how the subject came up, how the conversation was going, or who the person was—there’s always a slight pause and then a hearty, “What?”
I grew up in an area where it seemed normal to go to a gender-specific high school. There were about five of them scattered around me, and most of my friends attended them. I didn’t realize that it was a little unheard of until I got to college and heard all the outrageous questions that came from curious people.
“So, do you want to be a nun or something?”
“Was everyone lesbians?”
“Did you get paddled?”
“Was it like a boarding school?”
Then of course, there was society that pressed people to have a certain stereotype of a Catholic school girl. That it must have been so hard for us because of how oppressed we were, how sad people felt for the girls who were smacked with bibles day after day, how pathetically ignorant we were to anyone outside the jail-bird walls of the school.
And it was confusing, because that’s not how my experience was at all.
I don’t blame people for coming up with stereotypes and wild ideas of what goes on inside private girls schools, but what kills me is when people view me differently after they find out where I come from.
Recently, Catholic schools have been getting heat and blasted for shoving religion down their students’ throats. Images of kids sitting in a line of desks while nuns smack their heads with rulers and tell them their going to hell is a surprisingly popular image people have of what goes inside school grounds. While all schools are different, my experience was one that I think was a good representation of what growing up with Catholic schools was like.
In grade school, we weren’t told that we were going to be damned to hell.
We were taught at a very early age to be kind, to always tell the truth and to be nice to our parents. We were taught to be thankful for everything that we had and to give to those who didn’t have what we did.
We learned about Bible stories, songs and traditions.
Not once were we told that being gay was a sin, that practicing another religion was a damnation or that we were condemned to hell from the minute we were born.
So after middle school, going to a Catholic private high school wasn’t that outlandish. That’s when things began to change a bit.
Some of you might think that this is the part where I profess my hate for Catholic schools, where I admit that I was held back, forced into ignorance and paddled by nuns for days. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a story like that you should continue your search for “Reasons Catholic Schools Should Be Shut Down,” because that’s not what happened.
High school is where teachers began giving us choices as to how we interpreted our own faith and spirituality.
It was up to us to decide how close our relationship was with God and how we chose to read the Bible. Our religion classes were very open-minded, with lots of questions, open discussions and judgment free zones. It was okay not to be sure, it was okay to be scared, it was okay to question.
In times of struggle the entire school banded together and prayed. It was never mandatory, always optional. The chapel was open for anyone and everyone, giving a safe environment to anyone who needed it. Which is why it confused me when people seemed to pity my life within the school.
I wasn’t taught to hate. I wasn’t trained to be a Jesus-obsessed-gospel-singing-girl. And I most definitely wasn’t a “slutty Catholic Girl” Halloween costume. Seriously, how did people think of that? An all-girls school means appearances aren’t important. No one judges you for how you look, it’s about who you are and what you do. We rolled out of bed with bird-nest hair and skirts down to our knees. Our collared shirts were oftentimes quite an ugly yellow and a little disheveled after a long school day’s work.
I guess that’s the funny thing. We worked so hard not to judge, to give to others, and to never expect anything in life except hard work and love. But when we graduated into the “real world,” people judged us. People judged everyone. It’s human nature, and I can’t blame people for having this stereotype burned into their brains.
But I hope one day, people won’t screw up their faces or burst out laughing when I say,
“I went to a Catholic girl’s school.”
Because I’m tired of being a stereotype.
And a Halloween costume.