Where I come from, Catholic schools are practically the norm. Some of my friends expressed they quit Catholicism because of their not-so-happy years in Catholic school. While I still believe in the existence of a higher power, perhaps even God himself, I do understand and share their resentment.
Whether you loved it or not, if you ever grew up studying at a Catholic school you’ll probably know what I’m talking about. But then again maybe your experiences are different. As for me, I’ve got 8 reasons why Filipino Catholic schools suck:
1. Prayer As Habit Instead Of Genuine Action.
Everyday we had a 15-minute-long prayer session during flag ceremony before classes officially began which meant we had to be at school as early as 6:30 AM. If you arrived after prayer had already begun you’d receive a “tardy slip” which would amount to a day’s absence if you were late three times.
During the course of the day, we’d pray before and after every class, so if we had 6 classes then that’s automatically 12 prayers. We also prayed before meals during recess and lunch break. There was a special prayer around lunch called The Angelus and another special prayer in the afternoon called The 3 O’Clock Prayer. If it’s October (the month of the Rosary), then we’d pray the Rosary every day.
I won’t even lie. I and many of my classmates just recited the prayer by memory, and did not really pray with intention or from the heart.
2. Relaxed Tolerance To Bullying.
I attended Catholic school from kindergarten to University. You don’t really have options since majority of the best schools in Philippines are Catholic-owned. In total, I went to 4 different Catholic schools. All of them had crappy ways of handling bullies.
When I was in High School, a group of girls kept bullying several students. It took the faculty a really, really long time before they took action, and it was only when an incident escalated with a schoolmate nearly getting physically abused. The bullies received a couple of days suspension and nothing more pro-active. The school never offered counseling for the targets of bullying.
In University, I experienced this myself. A classmate (and later on his friends) bullied me by yelling at me in front of a teacher and other students, and the teacher did nothing and even laughed afterwards as he thought it was awkwardly funny. This escalated to other incidents. Again, the school did nothing despite complaints and only acted on them when I threatened to take legal action.
The Head of Student Affairs practically begged me to “forgive” the bully and not cause trouble for the school because it was the “Christian way.” When I dropped my case because I wanted to transfer schools instead (yes, it got that bad), I heard the same bully physically assaulted a different classmate. Nope, he didn’t get a suspension or a mark in his record. The only repercussion he got from what he did to me and the other classmate was a worthless, insincere public apology.
3. Concerns On School Reputation.
Despite a fixation with promoting Christian values, Catholic schools seem to be more concerned with their revenue and their reputation. As I mentioned earlier, my old school asked me not to press charges and obviously did everything they could to not let anything leak to the media or public. I was involved in the University department’s newspaper and any articles critical of the school or its body were always met with outrage or with an attempt to get it removed from the paper.
When I transferred to a different Catholic University, I signed up for the school newspaper there as well. The nuns and priests encouraged us to be ”transparent” in our journalism, but would require us to have the entire newspaper checked and approved by a head nun before it could be published to the student body. Again, articles which cast the school in a negative light were removed such as investigative pieces on some missing students’ fees that didn’t reflect in the student budget, cost breakdown to find out why items in the shops or canteen were overpriced, interviews of complaints aired by students, etc.
You can see there’s a pattern here.
Just recently I stumbled upon an acquaintance’s Facebook post. She exposed how her 14-year-old sister was bullied BY A TEACHER yet the school did not sanction the teacher. That is until she wrote about the incident on Facebook and the post turned viral.
The same thing happened to another student at a different Catholic school wherein the school ignored her complaints of sexual harassment against another student, and only listened (albeit half-assed) when the student’s brother’s Facebook post went viral.
4. Controlling Dress Codes.
I won’t dig into how dress codes or uniforms are misogynistic and classist. That needs a whole other discussion. Let’s focus on how obsessive Catholic schools become with regards to a student’s physical appearance.
Most people don’t know how crazy, insane Catholic schools reinforce the dress code.
Girls’ skirts must be a certain number of centimeters below the knees, the socks have a required length, and the heels of shoes must be exactly 2 inches thick. Boys’ pants must also be a certain number of centimeters above the ankle and their hair are required to hover 2 centimeters above their shirts’ back collars. Teachers would do surprise check-ups wherein they would measure your hair, skirt, pants, shoes, socks, nails, necktie, etc. to make sure you were following the dress code.
Apparently Jesus Christ himself gets really angry if your pants are 1 millimeter shorter than what is stated in the school rulebook. God forbid the Pope fly all the way from Vatican City to reprimand us for wearing too short socks.
What’s even more absurd is some schools require female students wear long sleeved shirts made of thick cotton. They don’t care their classrooms don’t have air-conditioning or that the average temperature in the tropics is 30 degrees celsius. But, as our teachers and nuns and priests used to say, ”It’s important how we present ourselves to other schools and people – our students must give the impression we are a top quality school consisting of neatly-dressed professionals.”
I think what they meant is the uniforms are their brand and they wanted us students to be their free walking advertisements.
5. Money, money, money.
At the end of the day, a private Catholic school is a business and businesses care about profit. And because Jesus preached in the Bible how greed is important (sarcasm), Catholic schools got creative in how they earned extra dough.
Under the pretext of ”following the dress code” the school would disallow you from getting your uniforms made by a seamstress of your choice and would instead instruct students to buy uniforms from the school itself. You were also not allowed to purchase gym shoes that aren’t white and that aren’t, again, sold by the school because ”White shoes are a symbol for the Holy Spirit’s purifying powers” or whatever.
Students were also not allowed to eat or buy food outside school premises unless we applied for a special “lunch pass” because it was “too dangerous for young people to cross the street.” In hindsight, it probably wasn’t for our safety that we weren’t allowed to eat out during breaks. It may have been to force us to buy food from the canteen which, surprise, is run by the school.
6. The Misogyny.
Catholicism is a misogynistic religion (or at least the followers I know practice the religion in such a negative way). Thus Catholic schools tend to expel female teen students who get accidentally pregnant. There were also instances where teachers slut-shamed female students in front of the whole class to teach others a “lesson” on virginity and purity.
7. Hypocrisy and Favoritism.
In Kindergarten and Elementary School, corporal punishment was allowed. Even some of the nuns would spank students or smack their hands with a plastic ruler or make them raise their arms forwards for extended periods of time with several books lying on top. Despite the fact this was made illegal shortly after, we’d still get weird punishments should a teacher or nun get pissed at us. Some of these gems include: not being allowed to sit down for 1 hour if you forgot to bring your book thus you had to do the entire lesson standing up even if you had a quiz, OR standing in the middle of the school field while the principal lectures the entire class on morality.
Our Catholic schools’ grading system also had this mysterious criteria called ”Good Conduct” where a teacher gets to grade you based on their personal assessment of your attitude – e.g. if you’re quiet in class, or if you participate during discussion, or if you’re respectful towards teachers. I remember I dated a teacher’s son and for some reason I always got the lowest failing grade in her class in all four semesters although my quiz and tests were average passing scores. Later I realized it was because she’d given me low marks for my Good Conduct, which dragged down my overall average grade in her subject.
It’s also suspect how the same group of students would get… special treatment for lack of a better word. The top 20 students who performed well academically and had good relationships with the faculty would often be the same ones given special responsibilities, or sent out for seminars, or leading a school program. Not only does this create a classist divide amongst students, I personally believe it also lowered the self-esteem and motivation of other students who were never given that kind of attention, encouragement, or opportunities to perform.
8. The Schools Are Sketchy AF And Are Probably Haunted.
For schools that charge a ridiculous price for their tuition fees, many of their buildings and facilities sure as heck look as if they’ve never been renovated since the 1920s. Also, I’m pretty confident they’re haunted.
In conclusion, there’s a lot of screwed up mumbo-jumbo Catholic schools wreck on their students. To be honest, it’s a major precursor to why I actively began to question my own faith, too. How can a religion – and subsequently its schools – that preach Moral Values TM be ideal examples of goodliness when its followers (the staff, the teachers, the nuns/priests, the students) breed greed, envy, discrimination, and insensitivity?
I think for this lent season and all lent seasons thereafter and any other seasons in-between, I’ll be giving up Catholic schools.