Around the dinner table at mothers’ day we started talking about some verboten subjects. Ok, so it was the lunch table, but the sentiment stands.

Among the things you should never discuss in polite company:

  • Religion
  • Politics
  • Immigration
  • Child Rearing
  • Sex

Thankfully we didn’t discuss sex. That would have just been horrific. <shudder/>

There’s an interesting intersection between religion and politics that I will talk about today: religious schools versus public schools.

I think I’m in a fairly unique position that that I’ve experienced both and can make a comparison between the two. Or course at this point I’m biased and you should know that up front.

I started off in a private religious grade school at St. Gregory the Great in South Euclid, OH. St. Gregs was a standard private school in the 80’s set in the Cleveland suburb of South Euclid. There was a mix of religious and lay teachers at the school, mainly nuns and women teaching. I think there was only one male teacher when I was there. But that’s par for the course. The students in the school reflected the folks in town: mainly third-generation Americans; the sons and daughters of mainly Irish and Italian immigrants.

My mom sent me there because the conventional wisdom was that the Catholic schools were better than the public schools. Mom wanted to have the best for me. The family (mainly mom since my dad wasn’t at home most of the time) made lots of sacrifices to send me and my brother there.

The curriculum was fairly normal for the time. It of course included religion classes. Every day we had a class on how to be Catholic. Over the course of my time there, I would suspect an entire school year was spent on teaching about the church and whatnot. It sounds like a lot because it is. But if you thing about the school day of around 6 hours, just 45 minutes a day is one-eighth of the day; it adds up over time to one-eighth of my time there. I’ll get back to that year in a moment.

After St. Gregs I went to Benedictine high school in a fairly rough part of the city. Religious education continued in an all boys school. This time most of the teachers were men. Seemingly the biggest interest in any of the staff was recruiting me for the wrestling team. This sentiment seems to be still reflected on their web site right now: sports over education.

When I got to my junior year I went to class on the first day of school and didn’t get the math class I wanted. I no longer really remember the reason why I didn’t but I was completely besides myself at the prospect of not learning.

I went home that night and told my mom “I’m not going back there.”

The next day my mom (Thanks mom! Happy mother’s day!) my mom signed me up at Cleveland Heights High School. Heights was always used as a threat: you’ll go there if you don’t do well. The Heights school year started a week after Benedictine so I had two first days of school that year. It was a rough week for mom deal dealing with shit-storm I just made for her.

I kept my promise about not going back to Benedictine. I had a friend of mine clean out my locker for me. I never did go back.

I never looked back either. From here on I was on to learning!

In comparing the proverbial notes with my new classmates I realized that St. Gregs wasn’t offering algebra when I was there even though the neighboring public school was. The sciences were generally neglected as well. Thankfully, my mom (Thanks mom! Happy mother’s day again!) the scientist showed me much more than I would have gotten in school. I was able to keep up there just fine. Similarly I noticed that the kids from the public schools were ahead of me in the type of literature they were reading.

Back to that year of religion classes though. When I started at Heights, I realized that I was more or less a year behind a lot of the other students! I was in a pre-calc when other students were already in Calc. Heights offered a calc-II if I recall. That year of religion classes put me just about a year behind everyone else.

Why would you willingly inflict that on you child?

I’m just glad that my brother-in-law seems to be on the right track. The Broadview Heights schools, like Solon’s schools, are reportedly top-rate. Why pay your taxes and not use the better schools. Paying twice to get a worse education seems doubly dumb.