It’s been a year, and the only thing Sarah misses from school is the tuckshop. Artwork by Sarah
I’ve had this conversation with a lot of people, but I refuse to go to all future high school reunions. “Oh, why not?” said the bewildered nob who catches my bus and perpetually dresses like a long lost member of the original Degrassi cast. Isn’t it obvious? However, you may be like old mate and not find it so. “You can’t have hated high school,” he said. But I did, person who barely knows me and who needs to stop his irritating habit of dressing ala Kmart Christmas catalogue: Summer 2003.
Old mate needs to realise that there are a multitude of reasons why I harbour a spiritual connection with his style muse’s song “Started From the Bottom”. I haven’t even done anything substantial with my life since I graduated, I just started from the bottom and now I’m here which isn’t really anywhere, but it’s hella better. School just sucked. And here is why.
1. Stupid people.
I am fully aware that I am a member of the human race and that even though we are meant to be the most intelligent species on planet Earth, we are still going to hit some low points in our collective intellect. There are going to be idiots everywhere I go in life, and I’m not sure that I would be as painfully aware of this had I stuck to my original education plan of home schooling. It’s just that in high school, I was surrounded by idiots all day, erry day.
The best example of this that I can think of is my senior Study of Religion class. We had a girl who literally thought that a valid point of discussion in the ethical dilemma of organ donation was that we should just like, let people die like they did in medieval times. This was probably the most intelligent thing she said all year.
Also note, I said stupid people. Not kids. People. Adults are inclusive. Shout out to one of my old religion teachers, there is a difference between burqas and hijabs and you should probably know it.
These were a weekly period where happiness would go to die. As tradition dictated, our principal addressed the school in a tiresome monologue, which sometimes occupied the majority of the prescribed 50 minutes for assembly. Just as I guess No. 1 of this list was necessary, so was this life lesson, that you can talk a lot without really saying anything. (See: all assignments from year 8 onwards)
I figure you could have filmed my school’s principal’s speech, with average length of 21 minutes and edited it to a watchable video showing highlights and relevant announcements, using less than 3 minutes of footage. Thanks Miss, you prepared me for Tony Abbott’s prime ministership, and for a lot of other politicians’ standard discourse and I really appreciate it.
3. How much my school valued its reputation.
I was a private school girl at a Catholic school, and it hurts to say how deeply I relate to Ja’mie. The emphasis on Christian values, how highly the girls think of themselves, how elite the school is. My school valued its reputation, and it valued it a lot. It was a business, and everything they did reflected that.
There was the great stress on the mission statement, which like any other school wanting to attract upper middle class Australians with desirable salaries, said something about nurturing good Christian leaders of tomorrow. There was those times that they shut down numerous parties, in the stance that they had a duty of care concerning pupils, even when they weren’t on school grounds and it wasn’t on a weekday or even if it had been organised by a parent, because when it comes to a child’s life, obviously the school has more authority than their own legal guardians!
Every action, in some way, was prompted with the reasoning “this school has a reputation”. It felt like once you became a student, you became a tool to get more students. And it didn’t matter how much you were compromising, just as long as you were maintaining the school’s precious status. This is also a reason for why university is 10 000 times better. They don’t give a fuck just what your extra curricular activities entail; just as long as they can shotgun a considerable amount of your future earnings. “Hakuna matata dweebs” – all tertiary educationalists ever.
4. Mean people.
Movies like Mean Girls are fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but it triggers people saying things like “teen girls are just bitches”. A girl at our year 10 spirituality day said something like this, that we’re girls and we can just be so mean and we can’t really help it. I agree with the part about girls being mean. Yes.
However, I hate this assumption that we are mean, because we are adolescent females. People tend to do this a lot but I have to tell you as an undergrad science student, correlation does not equal causation. My vagina isn’t whispering “kill everyone” in my ear while I sleep. I don’t get to hurt other people, because I have ovaries. It’s not an excuse to be a shitty human being. But hormones you say. But bullshit. There are people from school that caused others a lot of pain, and they’ll probably never know that they did. They’ll just go on thinking that they did what normal teen girls do, that it was all in good fun. And victims will still carry that hurt with them, for a very long time.
We didn’t organise our student body in the style of a typical American film with jocks, hot girls, etc. but we did have groups and they were a pretty big deal. A common icebreaker between people who didn’t frequently associate was “so who do you sit with?” If you skipped between groups, it was as scandalous if not more than that time that Drake called a girl a slut on Degrassi. This was only the surface of it; the real drama was in intragroup politics. It was like a constant competition between friends, but for what I’m still not really sure of. And it got to a point where I realised, that I didn’t really like a lot of my friends throughout high school. The only reason we were friends, is not because we had the same interests, but we were in the same clique.
In no other way, during the year since I’ve left that I’ve been stuck with people in this manner. In the real world, I’ve actually made friends that I like! I only have to force myself to be polite to friends of friends and arseholes on buses, because I actually like all of my friends! It’s fucked up that this has only happened now!
6. Stupid ignorant people.
Again, like Ja’mie I went to a private Catholic school, where the majority of the student population were upper middle class white Australians. Many of my classmates were privileged, and too sheltered to even know it. One time in English, a girl was spitting her heated opinion about her experience with a foreign taxi driver, broadcasting her serial disagreement with immigrants coming over here to ‘our country’ to take ‘our jobs’. We read to refugee kids, and some people couldn’t understand why their English was less than perfect. My sister Jess once was told that by someone that they were terrified of Islanders, because they look ‘dangerous’. Jess was understandably enraged, being half Samoan, but apparently according to her friend, she was fine, she just meant like, other Islanders. This was around the time that Trayvon Martin was shot for the same reasoning. And let’s not forget that I did go to a Catholic school, where god forbid any girls take a female partner to their formal. My principal once said something about our generation being the most accepting and open minded yet. If we really are, I’m going to take this as a sign from the man upstairs that I should become a hermit and give up on humanity.
7. The emphasis on religion.
What did I expect from a Catholic school. Of course they’re going to stress their very selling point for a lot of people. It just didn’t help me as an atheist/agnostic/Idon’treallyknowitdependsonmymoodjustleavemealone. And it irritated me when we finally got to learn about other religions, that it had to be from a Catholic perspective. We were pretty progressive for a school based on what is often called out as an ‘outdated’ creed. I guess, the sex ed sessions were pretty good in terms of covering differing forms of protection. Yet, I still feel that a lot of it was just unnecessary.
If anything, the endless prayer and thanking of God probably strengthened my atheism/strong criticism of religions (especially Christianity). Funnily yet, it also gave me a greater respect for anyone who still pursues their faith. This respect will still however evaporate whenever they turn around and ask what do I think of Jesus. And I’m not going to lie, I did place the Australian Christian Party as one of my last preferences beneath the line in the recent federal election.
8. School Dances
These events were truly heinous. To the younger girls at school, school dances were essential for attaining your lacking doses of pre-pubescent testosterone. They played shitty music straight off the top 40 charts, with parents patrolling the premises to intervene if anyone was grinding a tad too violently. School dances were lame to the capital L. The only way to have fun at these nights was to have fantastic sense of humour, and nothing can ever beat the matching oversized Qantas pyjama shorts my friend and I wore to the year 9 dance in ‘09. I even had a sweet hookie. We emailed for weeks afterwards, before he moved to Townsville.
9. The subtle but always prevalent misogynistic values
What did I expect from a Catholic all-girls school. Of course I’m going to be told at the entrance of a school dance that my shorts are 2 millimetres too high up on my thighs and they are highly inappropriate and I should be ashamed. You’re right Miss, the numerous anklets bulging from underneath my sock does make me look slutty. If I have intercourse before I get married, of course I don’t respect myself, at all. If I get a fake tan, boys won’t really like me for who I am. See that girl there? She wears make-up to school, the whore.
See how we judge each other incessantly, and how it doesn’t even make sense? See how we’ll become grown women, the kind that will say, “I’ll make my man all the sandwiches he likes” before telling her daughter that it’ll be her fault if she gets raped when she goes out in that new skirt? Oh good golly, thank goodness that such a school exists to encourage young girls to be the good strong Christian women of tomorrow!
10. The people.
There are only a few individuals who I genuinely miss from school. But to contact them I won’t have to drag myself to a school reunion. For that, I have Facebook. I don’t really want to interact with anyone else. If I ever have the urge to see just how many of them are still kicking, I HAVE FACEBOOK. Zuckerberg deserves more credit than we give him.