A Surprise at Catholic School April 6, 2011

A Surprise at Catholic School

Joe Zamecki has been an atheist activist for years… which is why it makes perfect sense that he attended Catholic school for eight years.

He’s written a book about his time there called Leaving the Quiet Room. It hasn’t yet been published, but Joe has provided me with an excerpt:

In fifth grade, my class had Ms. McNabb for a homeroom teacher. Actually she was one of the first lay teachers we called Ms. and not Mrs. We knew what that meant, that she wasn’t married! Oh terror!

Ms. McNabb was one of the first really “cool” people I ever met. Even though she was a teacher, she would talk to us like we were all long-time buddies of hers, and she said some really adult things. Not about sex or drugs or profanity, but about adult thinking. She seemed to be almost irreligious too, which I gravitated towards.

She also seemed like a lesbian, and even years before I fully understood what that meant, I understood that she was different from most women. She walked and talked like a man, kind of slumped over like Paula Poundstone (who calls herself an asexual Atheist). She was very friendly and seemed to want us to think of her as a teammate in life.

One day she had a nice long talk with our class. It was unorthodox from the start, and she told us so. It was to be a very special in-depth speech, or spiel, if you will. For about an hour, she told us about how life’s tough, and you have to be prepared. That people will try to burn you left and right, if you appear vulnerable. That the world is filled with con-artists, shifty salesmen and dishonest employers. I sensed that she’d had some problem with someone on the faculty, possibly her boss. But she never came right out and said it.

It seemed like this was her last talk just before a major change.

Sure enough, the next day, we had a new homeroom teacher. Ms. McNabb was a teacher we could finally relate to, and then she was gone forever.

To anyone who went to Catholic school, what was the biggest surprise you encountered?

If you’d like to be eligible to win a copy of Joe’s book, just put the word “Economist” at the end of your comment! If you’re the winner, I’ll email you next week.

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  • Lxndr

    This is a tragedy, losing that teacher. I wonder whatever became of her. I’m glad my education was almost completely free of religious woo. (Creationism showed up in a biology class – but it was a single class, not an entire section).

    Economist.

  • miss_ellie

    I went to catholic school from 2nd grade to senior ear of highschool. this is definitely part of why i’m atheist. it was actually my highschool that surprised me the most. i went to a medium sized all girls school in kentucky. of all the all girl schools in the city, i felt like we were special: we weren’t the snobby school, we weren’t the slutty school, and we weren’t the school everyone forgot about. we were cozy, and kinda laid back. we could talk about pretty much everything with out teachers, and we did.
    i’m pretty sure there was at least one lesbian teacher, and there were tons of lesbian and bi girls, myself included. we had teachers who swore, who would talk to us like friends, who didnt make school feel like school.
    we also had a lot of girls who werent even catholic or raised in catholic families. among my friends there were catholics, christians, baptists, atheists, agnostics, deists, pagans, and i think even a buddhist. considering how the church is normally about issues like sexuality and things like that, we were pretty cool with whatever made a person happy.
    do i regret my parents wasting all that money on a religious education? yea. but i wouldn’t have given up that environment for anything.

  • My first ‘Ms’ teacher was also unmarried, very young and very cool – and the second one insisted on her SO being called her ‘partner’. She had a baby the next year after she taught me, so I never found out if her partner was male or female – I wouldn’t be surprised either way.
    Luckily, I was never sent to a Catholic school, even though my father is Catholic. There was a public school within walking distance of my house.
    Economist!

  • Ross

    I have two.

    The first was the 8th grade religion teacher. Rather than teaching catholicism he taught every other world religion, past and present, and treated them all the same. The thought occurred to me: if they were all the same and every other one is false, why not catholicism? I wonder to this day if he was a closet atheist trying to make that exact point. Unfortunately he died of a brain tumor that next year so I’ll never know.

    The second was how I never realized how hot some of the chicks there were until the 8th grade retreat when they could wear normal clothes rather than those hideous uniforms.

    Economist

  • John Powers

    I attended a catholic high school (Creighton Prep) in the 80’s in Omaha, NE. The school was having a fund raiser, and were selling buttons that called this decade the decade of one of the brothers on the faculty. I refrain from giving the name in the interest of his privacy. The theme was inspired by Al Franken, when he was on SNL in the late 70’s.

    Shortly after the fund raising button promotion, that particular brother was removed from the school. It turned out he may have been involved in an incident of was inappropriate behavior at a gay bar.

    After this news came out, every student who had one of the buttons wore them to class, until a mandate came down from the Jesuit administration that the buttons were not to be worn ever again, under pain of Jug (detention).

    “Economist”

  • Regina

    My first Ms. Teacher was in 6th grade. She thought the curriculum was terrible and insulting to our intelligence, so she taught us things she had learned in college and we read actual books instead of excerpts and abridged nonsense. She was a little rough around the edges, but she treated us as people. By the time I was in 8th grade, they had her babysitting the in-school suspension kids.
    Economist.

  • Craig

    Wow, in all my years of catholic school the furthest we got from a catholic teacher was the odd protestant christian. I did have some fairly liberal, open minded teachers, though. My high school in particular had plenty of liberal-catholics, who didn’t think other religions or non-religious were going to hell and refused to teach the backward sex-rules of the church.

    Economist

  • Freemage

    A tad off-topic, but I, for one, was surprised that the banner ad on the site today was one for Buca de Beppa advertising for “First communion” celebrations. It’s one of those moments of cyber-dissonance that makes me a bit more secure that when Skynet comes online, it will mistakenly attempt to conquer us by building robots with giant penises, because that’s what our (spam) email seems to be mostly concerned with.

  • Nick

    I vaguely remember in 4th grade my classmate’s mother was teaching 5th grade science at the same school, and I remember there was some big contraversy over her leaving, and I know it had something to do with a disagreement over what was being taught in the science textbook. I was really young and don’t remember the details much, but I do remember my parents taking her side. Whether it had to do with evolution vs. creationism I’m not sure, but that’s the only thing I can remember that was really surprising at my catholic school.

    Economist

  • Mr Ed

    In the late 70’s the local high school was in rough shape so my parents, both atheist but nominal Catholics, sent me to a Catholic high school. At the time the school was known more for academics than religion and had a diverse staff and student body. The principal was a priest who only entered the seminary after his wife died and he had a more grounded view of life.

    I took a freshman science course which was on semester of astronomy and one of geology. The teacher was Robert Bochian and he was excellent. The whole class really bonded and we even started a science club with him as an advisor.

    At the start of the next year Mr. Bochian was no where to be found. When we asked we got the curt answer that he left. I sort of forgot about it until one time when I was home from college I read his obituary. He was at a park known for gay pick-ups and some one shot him. After learning that I wondered if the reason he “just left” was that some one outed him.

    I think this more than anything formed my views on homosexuality. I never gave much though to some one else’s sexual preferences but I wish people could just be themselves so the don’t risk becoming victims at parks late at night some they can fit in.

    Lxndr At this catholic school the biology department address creationism by the simple statement, we don’t teach that here. The did teach creationism and the gospels in the mythology class.

  • Marsh

    I had a teacher at a public school say he knew which teachers were gay but would not say so for fear of losing the teachers.

    Does adding the word to the end of the the post boost Search Engine results for the word?

    Economist

  • I went to Catholic school in Kindergarten only, and I remember one day the teacher announcing that there was a ban on crossing one’s fingers for good luck.

    I guess the mentality was that since that kind of stuff should be reserved for praying to God, that wishing for good luck was too non-religious and too removed from God. Almost like relying on luck was not relying on God and therefore blasphemous.

    I remember my parents (who were and are still religious) being surprised and baffled by the decision.

  • Veritas

    I didn’t go to Catholic school, but there was Catholic influences drowning my entire elementary school. I still get upset about having to do the Lord’s Prayer when I was 6.

    Again, the contest doesn’t specify if this is open to people outside of the United States. Please remember those of us who don’t live in “God’s Chosen Country”, Hemant!

    And if it is open to others:
    Economist

  • I go to a Catholic University which is in no way the same thing. I have had some really cool professors and they never came across religious. The only professor I think that truly didn’t like my presense was my theology professor. I was the token atheist in that class and my papers showed it. Squeaked by with a “B” though. My major is economics so one day I hope to be an…

    ECONOMIST!

  • Kat

    I never went to a Catholic school either.

    My first “Ms” teacher was in grade 4. The very first day she wrote her name on the board and explained that “Ms” meant that she was divorced. She was the first person I knew who was divorced.

    During my grade 7 (public school) experience, my french class teacher was explaining to us why something – I can’t remember what…I think it was something like smoking or doing drugs – was a poor life choice.

    Anyway, I remember her the reasoning she gave the class was that “Your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit”. At the time I was very, very, very Catholic and agreed that our bodies were temples of the Holy Spirit. I also knew, however, that she was very wrong in giving that as her reason in a public school setting. I was even angry and embarrassed that she said what she said. Despite being uber Catholic and quite young, I had this intuition that she had crossed a line and that she shouldn’t be saying such things at public school.

    Economist

  • Pony

    From Joe’s Facebook feed:

    “The 2nd printing of “Leaving the Quiet Room” is in the works right now. Since the 1st printing was small, and sold out in about 2 weeks, a 2nd printing is needed tootsweet! I’m now taking names for a waiting list for copies of that 2nd printing. In about 2 weeks, I’ll be ready to ship ’em out! So if you’d like to be put on that list, please let me know. :o)”

    So it’s not entirely accurate to say that it hasn’t been published yet.

  • Rickster

    I don’t have any experiences to share but I do like to win things and read books.

    Economist

  • PJB863

    I went to public schools through high school. I then attended what was perceived to be a very Catholic college. I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that while about half the instructors were nuns, they were extremely open-minded and encouraged the students to question everything – including church teachings, and make our own decisions about them.

    I later found out that this approach had drawn the ire of the Cardinal, who forbade the sisters from renting out their chapel for weddings as a sort of revenge. It was a source of revenue for their order. This, and the fact that the school was very picturesque, had a fully equipped kitchen, and stunning dining hall made it an attractive venue for summer weddings, when the school was unoccuped for the most part (with the exception of the convent).

  • TerilynnS

    I went to Catholic school for 12 years. (4 years in an all girls school.) In 9th grade, our teacher (a nun) informed us that the Old Testament was “mythology” and was not to be taken literally – that it was a collection of stories written by people in order to try to teach morality lessons.

    How they expected me to somehow draw the line at the New Testament from that point on kind of makes me laugh – but I have to admit, I was a doubter long before then.

    I received an excellent science education however and I don’t regret a day of my Catholic high school experience. Evolution was taught, creationism was taught as myth. Biology, history (even history that showed the Church’s dark side), physics, chemistry – I soaked it up. Even the sex ed class was realistic. They always pushed for abstinence of course, but they weren’t stupid about it.

    So yeah – my Catholic high school was my biggest surprise. I still talk to teachers – none of whom are surprised by my atheism. But they’re awfully proud of my success without the need of a college degree – mostly because of the quality of, and legitimacy of the science education I just happened to get from a Catholic school.

    Economist.

  • I also don’t really have an experience like that since I’ve never gone to a Catholic school. It was nice to read that honest people, especially like Ms. McNabb, do exist.

    Economist

  • fiddler

    There was a teacher that never spoke the word god or mentioned religion. He was singular in that aspect. Like the teacher in this excerpt, he was a dynamic presence. We asked him once why he avoided the religious aspects. His answer was a question.
    “How many of your teachers talk about those topics?”

    “All of them” we answered.
    “So why should I need to?”

    Economist

  • maria

    I went to a catholic school from three to eighteen years old! LOL

    When did i become an atheist?? never!
    ive always been wihtout feeling the need to express it.
    My parents always encouraged me to read, explore new things, think for myself, even thought they still feel culturally religious, like most adults in Spain.

    My father used to read me old tales and myths from different cultures and countries and i think thats the best explanation that, even thought i was tought religion, i always thought of it just like any other greek myth.

    My attitude changed when they started teaching about hell, that other views or religions were stupid (my biology teacher said that)and false and that homosexuals and jews are evil…
    The only time i was punished at that school, me being an ATHEIST, was defending religion.
    All of my classmates were laughing at a movie about Mahoma just like the nun told them to and i just simply said religions, they are all equal, searching for answers and for a meaning to life, and yes, and for that i almost got expelled for saying that religious people shouldnt laugh at the beliefs of others.

    And that i was jewish from both sides of my family…that was in my graduation speech it was great seeing the hipocrisy and disgusted stares of those in the room.. But one of the nuns of my school was lesbian and she was kind to everyone, what a true nun should be but she had a sad life.

  • Hangnail

    Well, thank science that I didn’t go to a Catholic school. Sorry I don’t have a good comment but I DO want a chance to read that book!
    Economist

  • Godless Lawyer

    I have a lot of memories from my time in Catholic school. I transferred into grade 2 from a public school when my family moved. I didn’t understand the difference, of course, and when they took us to the gym for my first school mass, I was very cofused.

    Small for my age, I was seated behind several older children (grades were seated in reverse order from the front, with the soon to be ‘confirmed’ 8th graders at the front. 7 years old, and never having been to a catholic mass, I took it literally when my teacher told me we were ‘going to hear the word of god’ and since I couldn’t see the priest talking, I actually believed I was hearing god speak through the school PA system. Nobody banished this illusion, and it wasn’t until several school masses later that I actually got a look at the priest at the front of the gymnasium. The teachers didn’t seem amused when I said something along the lines of ‘Hold on, that’s just some guy with a microphone!’

  • I did not go to Catholic school myself, but I did have girlfriend when I was in high school who went to Catholic school. There wasn’t actually much surprise in it. Her parents were devout, and I had to go to mass with them every once in awhile to keep them happy, so I guess it is worth mentioning that I had to hide my atheism from them.

    Economist.

  • Randy

    Sorry, I went to a Southern Baptist school which was more like paramilitary training.

  • Tusk

    Economist

  • Andrew

    I never went to a Catholic school, but I was forced into going to catechism around the age of 7. The people who instructed those sessions could never answer my specific questions which is what I believe eventually led to my atheism.

    Economist

  • Shaun

    I went to an all-boys Catholic high school run by a Jesuit order but only about half my teachers were priests. At the time, I was not an atheist. Two of the biggest surprises were: The first day of biology class, the teacher told us there is nothing in the bible that contradicts evolution. My junior year religion teacher, who was a priest, always dressed like a college professor. He never wore his priest outfit (except when performing mass). He also had a habit of throwing bibles at anyone who fell asleep in his class. And of referring to Disneyland as Dismalland.

  • ScarletTricycle

    Economist.

  • ButchKitties

    My biggest surprise was that my Catholic high school was a lot more liberal than the public school system I was fleeing. The town I grew up in was a very WASPy former KKK stronghold. I was something of a minority just for being Catholic. The Catholic school had a more diverse student population, both ethnically and religiously, than my old public school. It probably helps that the Catholic school was located in a lower income neighborhood in a traditionally blue county, while the public school was in one of the most Republican counties not just in the state, but in the whole damn country. (It’s the kind of place where the real local elections happen in the primaries, because there probably won’t even be a Democrat candidate.) The kids were nicer at the Catholic school. The traditional cliques all bled into each other. The star wrestler was also on the chess team. Some of the football players were also in marching band. Etc. But from what I know from kids who went to other Catholic schools, my school was a real anomaly. It took in all the misfit kids who would have been miserable in the other parochial schools.

    The other surprise from Catholic school: realizing that none of the kids in Promise to Keep (a virginity pledge program) were virgins. They only signed up because A. it was an easy way to get out of class (they traveled to middle schools to preach the virtues of waiting) and B. the assumption that they were virgins made it easier for them to sneak around and have sex.

    Economist

  • I went to a Jesuit high school. I doubt they weeded out teachers based on their views much, because the faculty was full of characters. But if any were queer, I was oblivious.

    Economist

  • Jesus

    I went to a Baptist school for a couple of years, but it was pretty far off from Catholic school. Which reminds me, I told my father that I was an atheist the other day and do you know what he said to me? “You’ll grow out of it.” I don’t know how making a slow slide into ignorance would be considered ‘growing’.

    Economist

  • Shannon

    In my Catholic School – sex education was about abstinence and having children with your spouse. I always found it odd- especially since we had the handful of pregnant girls walking around in Catholic school uniforms.

    Economist

  • Meejan

    Hey! Love, love, your blog. (and probably you, too!) 😀

    I went to a Catholic high school and it was a good experience. I always tell people that it was there where I learned that I was an atheist. Learning is never a waste, to me, and so I don’t really regret my time spent there. It taught me things I might not have learned on my own.

    As for surprises… years later, in college, I learned that my old History teacher is also, and always has been, an atheist. I didn’t ask him why he taught at a Catholic school, though. :O

    Economist!

  • ButchKitties

    We had a male biology teacher and a female math teacher that everyone strongly suspected were gay. They ended up marrying each other. Whether the marriage is real or if they’re acting as mutual beards is still a topic of gossip.

    Our band director was out and proud, but he was one of those guys with charisma out to wazoo, and he really had the loyalty of his students. He could get away with being flamboyant in ways that no other faculty member could have managed. I think the administration would have told him to keep quiet if they thought they could without massively pissing off students and parents, but they knew they couldn’t, so they didn’t.

  • Curtis

    I started going to Catholic school in the 6th grade in Dallas because my parents didn’t like the quality of the local public schools. Both of my parents were nominally Methodist and chose Catholic schooling for it’s good reputation and the fact that they were serious about me learning evolution (my parents were also considering a Baptist school at the time). The school was very small and the students were mostly Hispanic, so my being a white protestant made for a big culture shock, at least for the first few weeks. My first major surprise was getting my ear pulled after eating the eucharist for a second time at our weekly mass. Methodists allow anyone who wants to to accept the eucharist, and since I was the only non-Catholic in my class, I was just following everyone else’s lead.
    I guess I’d say the biggest shock came from the theology teacher during 7th grade, who one day was trying to describe who goes to heaven and hell. He described how Catholics get preferential treatment, and that Hitler might not be in hell as a result. He also made a point about suicide victims going to hell. My grandfather had recently committed suicide after several years of dealing with heart disease and depression, so I quickly asked the teacher if my grandfather was in hell. He seemed shocked by my question, and backpedaled a little and tried to say their might be special circumstances that could keep him out of hell. The tone of his response made me believe he was just trying to placate me.
    By the time my family moved to Kansas City and I enrolled at the Jesuit-affiliated Rockhurst High School, I was more able to see through the religious dogma. My biggest surprise at that school was the teachers who seemed so open-minded in every other aspect of their lives and our education yet completely followed, and seemed to believe, official Catholic doctrine. Our biology teacher taught evolution more thoroughly than some of the local public school teachers seemed to, but she also spent a few lessons fear-mongering about premarital sex and STDs. When another student tried to ask honest questions about using condoms and birth-control, she continually responded that there’s always a chance of pregnancy or infection.
    I noticed an earlier commenter mentioned the word “JUG” for detentions at his Jesuit school. My school also used this, which stands for “Judgement Under God,” which cracked me up even when I was still a believer. It’s just one of the many reasons I was already having doubts about Christianity before I graduated.

    Economist

  • I’m still in catholic school (grade 8). My biggest surprise was being assigned to write our own creation story after learning about Native American creation stories.

    Also I managed in a couple days to find out that about three other people in my class were secular.

    Economist!

    (I’m in Canada, might that be a problem?)

  • Annie

    I survived 12 years of Catholic school. From as early as 2nd grade, I thought something was terribly wrong with me, as the stories and lessons in religion class just didn’t make sense to me.

    In seventh grade, I had my own version of Ms McNabb. Although it was a male teacher, and although I knew he was a bit different than the other men I had encountered, I didn’t know at the time that he was gay. Since he was “single” several families would invite him over for dinner occasionally. One family in particular, that had 16 (!) children, became rather close to him and included him at many meals and celebrations. I remember hearing through the grapevine that at one point, this male teacher came out to the family and told them he was gay. Their response? They completely rejected him, treated him worse than a leper and more like a pedophile, which he most certainly was not. That scenario was the icing on the cake for me. I knew that not only was I not like the other people in my parish, but more importantly, I didn’t want anything to do with them. How could they preach about loving everyone (I went to school in the 70s and 80s… when the mean god was replaced by the loving god) and then turn their back on one of the kindest people I had ever met?

    Economist

  • Pony – Good observation. Technically it’s self-published, which a lot of people don’t consider real publishing. So it’s a bit of a grey area.

    I’ve pitched it to a few Freethought publishers, but no takers yet. It must be too HOT! 🙂

    Thanks very much to Hemant for posting this, and the contest. Teamwork! 🙂

    BTW-If you don’t win the book, you can always purchase it through me, for $15. Just e-mail me at Joe Zamecki at Hotmail dot com 🙂

  • William – Canada is no problem at all. Eh? 🙂

  • Sinfanti

    I went to Catholic school all the way from K to 12. Surprisingly, I remember that in my elementary school days the worst teachers were actually the lay people. Not that they were all bad, but the worst ones weren’t nuns.

    Economist

  • Never been here before, but I like it!

    I went to Catholic school for a few years, and this’ll probably make you laugh, but my favorite teacher, a sprightly young guitar-playing sister celebrated her 23rd birthday during the school year and one of my classmates’ mothers bought her a filmy pink negligee as a gift. The other sisters got a kick out of it and I remember being surprised that all nuns didn’t wear plain, white, long cotton nightgowns!

    Of course, she’s left the order. Most of the cool ones do.
    Economist

  • cheryl

    My husband and I, both devout Christians, have been reading Joe’s book. It is an honest portrayal of a sweet man who was abused by the “powers of the church”. Joe is humorous in his portrayals of his past and brutally honest.
    I think that non-theists and theists as well will receive valuable insight into the life and road of this man from religion to atheism, and understand his cause to warn others of the dangers of religion.

  • Jagyr

    Fortunately, I never attended catholic school, but this book sounds vey interesting. Even if I don’t win it, I think it may find it’s way to my “to be read” pile.

    Economist.

  • I never went to Catholic school, but if I had gone, my biggest surprise just may have been getting sodomized by a Catholic priest. [/rimshot]

    Thanks, everyone, I’ll be here all week :/

    [obvious joke is obvious]

  • Catholic school K-8, then public high school. I got a great education, and went to high school, where I found that I was ahead of most of my peers. Honestly I can’t remember much of my time there, but I do remember the masses and such, and looking around thinking–this can’t be right.

    Economist

  • w1znerd

    I went to a public elementary school prior to 1963, which means that my third grade teacher could have a daily flannel-board bible lesson with prayers & not get into trouble.

    Economist

  • Gregory Marshall

    My education experience was similar to TerilynnS. In my freshman year religion class we completely deconstructed the creation myth, I mean really read it and what they were taking about, after doing that, it became laughable that anybody believed that.

    That very same year, I learned about evolution and astronomy and after contrasting the two, it was obvious that big bang and evolution were true and that creation, was, well just silly.

  • Suffered through 4 years of Catholic high school and it was more than enough. I’d spent K-8 at a private school for gifted kids where independent thought & inquisitiveness was encouraged, so the transition was shocking, to say the least. Wasn’t my choice, but the aunt & uncle I moved in with after my parents died argued that the Catholic high school was “better” than the public school (it wasn’t).

    I wasn’t an atheist yet, but I was decidedly not Catholic and definitely not Christian – through junior high and into college I experimented with Buddhism, being a Wiccan, vague spirituality, etc., pretty much anything as long as it wasn’t organized religion. And admittedly, doing so while in Catholic school was partially a big “F you!” to my relatives and the school for making me feel like I had no choices at all except to conform or feel left out in the cold (surprise surprise, I chose the latter).

    I expected to get into tussles with the theology teachers and for last 3 years at that school, wasn’t surprised at all – the worst was my junior year theology teacher, who was a failed nun and DID NOT like questions about Biblical inconsistencies or having factually-based Church hypocrisies pointed out. She couldn’t fail me, though, since I always turned in my homework and tested well, although the handful of times I ever got detention were from her for “disrespectful conduct” (ie – challenging her with historical facts & logic).

    My freshmen year, however, was a big surprise in that my theology teacher was a nun who *gasp* did not shut down challenging questions to Church doctrine – in fact, she encouraged difficult discussions about faith and doctrine and wanted her students to consider nuance and shades of gray. She said that faith meant nothing if it was coerced, so she wanted us to think for ourselves. She would start off class by playing a piece of pop music that someone had volunteered to bring in and spend the beginning of class discussing the lyrics, not matter what the genre. I never expected to meet a nun who would actually listen to the lyrics of Metallica or Megadeth (she really liked Megadeth’s “Sweating Bullets”). Sister Catherine wasn’t a new or young nun, either – she had to have been at least in her mid- late-40s. She never treated me as if my thoughts and opinions about Catholicism weren’t to be taken seriously because I wasn’t Catholic (can’t say the same for other teachers I had there) nor did she ever try to preach at me or give me the “you’ll come around to Jesus” speech when I would stay after class to talk to her. Some of the best and most challenging discussions about religion I have ever had were with her.

    Not surprisingly, Sister Catherine only lasted a year – when we came back for sophomore year, we were told that she had left to “pursue other opportunities.” My guess was that the administration hadn’t been a fan of her more “liberal” form of teaching. Her replacement was far more supportive of enforcing strict Catholic doctrine and dismissive of dissenting voices. I was sad to see her go – she’d given me a brief hope that Catholic school might not turn out to be the intellectually squashing, alienating experience I was expecting it to be. Instead, spent the next 3 years being the “perfect academic student” and doing whatever I had to so I could get into a good, urban-based college as FAR away as possible, without compromising my principles.

    Economist.

  • mdrcesd

    I went to a non-denomination Christian school from 3rd grade through high school. It was an extremely narrow minded place (think young earth creationism, evolution is just a theory, and homosexuality is a sin). Looking back, there were a number of unfortunate surprises.

    First, I now realize that you had to be one of the “good kids” if you wanted any chance of getting into any of the advanced placement (AP) classes. If you were not an outspoken Christian with exemplarily behavior and known to the faculty, you would not be recommended for placement into those classes; academic skills be damned. I’m pretty confident that the reason I wasn’t recommended for AP Chemistry had more to do with the fact that I just sat there when the biology teacher spewed creationist nonsense than my scientific reasoning skills. I took college level chemistry at a large state university and I did fine with it.

    I later learned that many of the teachers had no other qualifications other than a bachelors degree in a related subject. A written statement of faith was a requirement to teach there, and I think that was pretty much one of the only things needed! And this school was accredited by Assoc. of Christian Schools Internation.

    Also, our senior paper for English class was a research paper where we were told to pick a hot political issue and “defend the Christian position”. Forget evaluating all positions and picking the most reasonable, we were straight up told to defend the “Christian” position!

    Furthermore, some other surprises came out a few years after graduation. One of the math teachers (whose wife also taught at the same school) was convicted of child molestation, made worse by the fact that the child was his own. The principle and English teacher were dismissed when it was discovered that they had been carrying on a lesbian relationship.

    If I have to say one good thing about this school, it would be that I am an atheist because of it!

    Economist

  • Thegoodman

    I would have liked to have had at least 1 very cool teacher in high school.

    Economist

  • Aguz

    Before the graduation trip our Bible studies teacher (a really hippie-looking long time missionary who we nicknamed “Jesus”) advice us that, if we decide to have sex, to use protection.

    Also, he included in the curriculum other religions and beliefs. And they told you the Bible was not wrote by the Apostles them selfs (hell, they were fisherman most of them) but for some people long after.
    Plus, maybe is because I don’t live in the USA but, evolution was never questioned and always speak of as a fact by all the teachers so, when I found out some people have issues with it in the USA, I got really surprised about it.

  • Sarah

    I was always surprised at how angry my teachers got when I asked, what I thought were, honest, legitimate questions. I spent a lot of time locked in the supply closet (for 10-15 minutes at a time) as punishment for my questions.

    I should give a little background before I describe my biggest surprise in Catholic School.

    I’m an insulin dependent diabetic. In the 80’s when I was in school my diabetes was controlled by a strictly regimented meal plan (and, of course, insulin shots).

    My grandmother always packed a massive lunch bag for me (I needed several snacks throughout the day plus a large lunch). About a month into the school year in first grade I started having insulin reactions in the afternoons which required hospitalization several times. When my mother finally asked me what was going on I admitted that a boy “Jack” [not his real name] was stealing my lunch during recess and eating it. My mother confronted the teacher who said that Jack’s parents were poor (as was my single mother but never mind eh?) so she had done the christian thing and allowed him to eat the other kid’s food or else he’d go hungry.

    She suggested that my (single) mother pack and extra lunch for him.

    My grandmother solved the problem by packing a special lunch for me. The food looked normal on the outside but she’d put super hot pepper on everything (my lunch for me, I was told to keep in my knapsack at my desk). Jack never stole my lunch again after that.

    To this day I am shocked that the catholic school would allow me to almost die because they felt that me feeding a poor boy was the christian thing to do. Thank FSM that my grandmother was a feisty thing who knew how to deal with a a thief. I feel for Jack but seriously people, call social services if a kid is coming to school unfed!

    /novel

    Economist.

  • malendras

    It would have to be the time I was told I was not allowed to finish an essay. My teacher asked us to argue one side of a controversial debate. I chose gay marriage, which I support. However, while my (English) teacher was grading the essays, one of the religion teachers saw my essay, read it briefly, and said I couldn’t continue the essay. Why? Because it expressed an opinion contrary to the beliefs of the catholic church.

    Lucky me, my teacher graded it as a first draft and just gave me the grade. But still, it’s the only time in my life I was ever told NOT to finish an assignment!

    Economist

  • Heather

    I didn’t go to a Catholic school, but in high school, my German teacher shared with all of us that he was an agnostic. I had no idea what that was, nor did many other kids in class, so when he told us, I was very impressed. First, that there was a name for someone like that and second, that he was brave enough to tell a room full of kids that in the bible belt. I had huge respect for him after that.

    Economist

  • Honestly? That there were people that took that stuff seriously. I did, for a while, but those were confusing times. I look back on them like I imagine that people who went through phases around that age where they were into alcohol, or drugs, or whatever would look at those points in their lives; as something embarrassing that they’d rather forget and pretend didn’t happen. 😛

    Economist

  • “William – Canada is no problem at all. Eh?”
    Very Funny, never heard that one before. I was just wondering because other contests have included a warning about no shipping out of USA.