Sunday, December 4, 2011

St Pauls Catholic College

If my high school ever had a reunion in twenty years’ time, the rsvp on my invite, in addition to the traditional two, would need one more option: 'attending', 'not attention' and -the one I would tick – ‘I'd rather be dead!’ People often ask me why I hated going to St Pauls Catholic College, Greystanes so much, and sure, I always mention conflicts with other students and the relatively minor bouts with bullying, and that all goes without saying, but that's only the half of it. The biggest stone in my shoe I always had to deal with being a St Pauls student was that the school itself wasn't so much an educational facility as a business masquerading as one. From an outsider’s perspective, this may seem like a petty administrative issue in relation to a student, but in actual fact, a money-obsessed undertone was always at such a constant that it had some influence over every ridiculous decision that was made, be it regarding the students or not, and I was done with it.

Businesses have mottos, and like a business, St Pauls’ motto is: preserve self-image at any cost. This meant that, while other students were getting crucified for minor things done while off the premises in the public-eye, the universal approach to any incident that happens within school grounds, no matter how severe, would involve little punishment for those responsible and a cover up operation akin to a gangster-hit in a Scorsese film. Essentially, to the principals at St Pauls, students were just meat-bags with family bank accounts, so if things aren’t looking picture perfect to the prospective public, fewer parents will enrol their meat-bags for the following school year and, thus, fewer parents can be billed.

And let’s not pretend that St Pauls doesn’t have a history of cover ups. In fact, get this, the name ‘St Pauls Catholic College’ itself is the result of a cover up operation, orchestrated five years before I was enrolled. The story is: back in the days when the school was known as Newman High School, its parish priest was a man named John Gerard Patrick Sweeney. To say the least, Father Sweeney liked little boys…and he’d been liking them for eleven years before he and his pseudo-catholic ring of paedophiles were publicly exposed around 1994. Sweeney was later convicted in 1998. That same year became Newman High School’s final one. That’s right, as opposed to bearing the responsibility of foolishly turning a blind-eye on sexual assault for over a decade, operation St Pauls Catholic College came into effect that following year.

That’s basically the school I attended for six years - Newman High School. Don’t get distracted by the new name, the warming tagline, the pretty emblem, the welcoming school song or the amended school history found in every standard-issue diary, because that same business-mentality that existed in Newman lives on in St Pauls - a mentality where school fees become more important than the life-long trauma that is inflicted upon a student when the very people they trust molests them.

This constant fear of public-perception is the number one reason why all of the issues the school had with me were never regarding things that had gone on inside of school. For example, I used to have a load of trouble regarding my uniform when getting to and from school. Anybody who lived close-by or were picked up from school would’ve had little to no trouble here, as they’d be home within ten minutes, but for me, it often took me well over an hour to get home due to bus connections and other bullshit I’ll get to later. Not only did it take that long, but I would sometimes stop off at the library on my way home to do some homework, which meant that sometimes I wouldn’t end up getting home ‘til dark that night. But St Pauls being St Pauls had this no excuse policy that you either wear the uniform fully and properly or get your fingernails ritualistically removed, regardless of circumstance; it was a full stop, ‘I don’t give a shit about your life policy. So, this library was only fifteen minutes from my school and some teachers, for whatever reason, would sometimes be in the vicinity to see us walking around. So what this meant for me was that I basically couldn’t even loosen my necktie until I got home late that night unless I wanted to risk an eye-piercing pink detention slip, which happened time and time again. I mean, how ridiculous. And it wasn’t just me, others did the same and were punished all the same. Meanwhile, in my last year there, there was this boy who had been having some sort of escalating playground back-and-forth with another boy, both in my grade. One day in class, one taunted the other so badly that he grabbed a pair of scissors and stabbed the other in the arm. I’m not sure how severe it was or the specifics of what happened next, but what’s important here is that neither of the students were expelled and there was, what I like to call, a really big hush-meeting, which was basically a strategic move in operation cover up. They basically pulled my entire grade out of class, gathered us around and told us not to tell anyone, like all one hundred and fifty of us had to keep this dirty little secret for the rest of our lives…but I digress. The hypocrisy is gleaming, where at six at night, I can’t walk from the library to a bus stop with my blazer in my bag without earning a detention but somebody stabs somebody else in one of our classrooms and they got…a stern talking to? Questioned by the police? MY point is if I was getting detentions, they should’ve gotten expelled. So, were St Pauls really meaning to say that missing an item of clothing outside of school is a bigger offence than a potentially dangerous assault inside? In a word, yes, because it was never about what happened, it was about where it happened.

That brings me to my final point: the transport to and from school. My primary school was a lot closer to home than St Pauls and when I was in my final year there, St Pauls was the school that visited us to try and sell the school to us (a.k.a. the prospective market). Because they did this every year, and St Pauls was, I’m ashamed to admit, one of the better schools in the area, a considerable amount of the male students would go on to become St Pauls students; to my misfortune, I was one of them. One of their selling hooks that day, and at a parent information night months later, was that the wheels were in motion for a direct school bus route between my primary school’s suburb, where I reside, and the St Pauls grounds. In fact, they actually talked like it would come to fruition sometime in my first year. That was 2002. When I left school in 2007, they were still using that same business hook. I’m not sure if it was all talk on St Pauls' part, if they just kept having issues with the bus company or just the fact that coming up with a direct route from home to St Pauls isn’t something that can be done in under a decade, but it just never happened and nobody ever explained why. Nevertheless though, having to catch two buses to get to school wasn't the problem, as for me there were an ample amount of services, it’s what happened after this where it all just got a little too ridiculous for words. Six months into my first school year, either because the bus company got sick of the misbehaving group of St Pauls students who caught the buses or because the school did it as punishment to those students, the two buses we had each in the morning and the afternoon got cut down to one. This meant that, in the morning, there was now a forty minute gap between my connecting bus arriving and the overcrowded school bus departing, but that's still not the problem. Mind you, I was still on tenterhooks waiting for this direct bus from my area, merely treating this connection as a meantime alternative. So the following year rolled around and some kids from Greystanes High School waiting for other buses at the same stop began giving me some trouble. These kids were just arseholes and to prevent things coming to blows, I began to catch the public route to school, which was similar to our school route only that it meant a five minute wait, as opposed to a forty minute one. Long story short, this was an ideal resolution to all of my AM transport problems. The bus drivers never asked questions, they accepted my bus pass, it got me to school early, drama-free and I did this for years. The following year I made friends with a boy in a younger grade from up the road, which would catch this bus with me for the same reasons. Who knows what prompted them, but then a year later some St Pauls morons came along and fucked everything up. They started doing what we were doing, the only difference was that they were doing it noisily and disruptively, and within months, the school held one of their 'you can’t eat' lunch meetings telling us that we were no longer allowed to catch the public routes from that particular stop. I didn’t feel like it was there place to police how I got to school, so I continued, but because our principal was now on the case, St Pauls stonewalled us. Whenever I would try to get on one of the buses that wasn’t that one designated bus for my school, the drivers, who knew my face from years of no trouble, would mention my dick principal, Chris Dutfield, by name and tell me that he had told them that we couldn’t catch that bus anymore. I’d argue and argue but there was never any use. So when I tried politely explaining to Dutfield the full story about the trouble I was having and my elaborate journey between school and home, I basically got the same responses I got from the bus drivers, an ‘I don’t care’ response. I pretty much felt like he was saying ‘if you don’t like it, don't catch the bus to school, and he had the audacity to make me feel that way after dangling the direct route infront of me for years. The way I see it is they can do what they want inside there grounds, hell, they could've expelled me, toward the end I was encouraging that, but as long as they still had me down in the roll book, they had no right to tell me what forms of transport I could take to get to school and which ones i couldn't, as long as I got to school on time.

The situation itself was just ridiculous, and it ties in with everything else I’ve mentioned – St Pauls wanting to police us anywhere, anytime. I mean, they had some guts telling us what we could and couldn't do outside of school. I mean, where does it end then? Will they start telling us that we can’t catch taxis to school? What about what shops to eat at and what footpaths we can and can’t walk? And what’s the cut-off time there? Is it really ethical for somebody to be getting punished for wearing a uniform incorrectly after the sun has set? It was just such a silly set of ambiguous rules. This is no joke, but once when I was jigging school, I caught a public route to Parramatta wearing my uniform and no body batted an eyelid, but catching that same bus going the opposite way to get to school, that wasn’t allowed!

Unfortunately, that was the tip of the iceberg when it came to transport, because then there was the whole I have a penis and you’re a Muslim problem. If I could count for you how many lunchtimes this whole thing stole from me, you’d wonder how nobody ever put a bullet in their brain, what I can tell you was that for a while there, it seemed like we – and when I say we, I mean any student who caught this particular school bus - were having meetings once a week. The catalyst to these meetings was that the afternoon bus had recently been merged with Holroyd High School’s bus, which meant that the bus would first pick us up and then we would stop off there on the way. For anybody who doesn’t know, Holroyd High welcomes a lot of refugees and migrants and is specialised in teaching their foreign students how to speak English and, for what I’m assuming is a precipitating factor of this, this meant that the school had an abundance of Islamic students, male and female. St Pauls, however, was an all-boys Catholic school. The problem St Pauls had with us was – get this – that we weren’t getting out of our seats when we arrived at Holroyd. According to our teachers, according to Islam, 'practicing Muslim females' cannot sit next to males. Firstly, I did Islam for my HSC and I never found any hard facts to support this, is that even a thing? Secondly, regardless of how fabricated the facts of their case, let’s get this straight: they decide to mix an already crowded bus that an all-boys catholic school has been comfortably and privately catching for years with a school which consists of a large number of Islamic girls, who, allegedly, are not allowed to be next to males. So, after we’ve settled into our seats, because they’re Muslim, we’re in trouble because we won't cater for them. Let's call it the entrapment of St Pauls - a conspiracy contrived so that we don't eat lunch. Not only was I losing lunchtimes because of this shit, but we were once parked on the side of the road for forty minutes being lectured by an inspector and getting our bus passes collected, causing all types of trouble when catching my connecting buses and any buses the following day. I mean, talk about being bowled over by the weight of your own balls. And what does it all come down to, how we look in the eyes of everybody else. God forbid, can’t be the school who won’t forfeit their seat for Muslims!

And those are just a few things that I hand-picked from the batch. I could write a separate blog on my five years at St Pauls.

You see, St Pauls want to make themselves look like a great school, but the irony here is that their methods in trying to achieve that prevent them from being so. St Pauls’ attention was just always too busy to concentrate on education, for example, too busy creating mind-pretzeling verbal policies, too busy keeping count of how many students are attending and making sure everybody knows about it, and too busy smuggling Mr Dutfield and his mail-order wife out of the country after he makes a mess of a student’s HSC exams. And, I know, the teachers won't admit it, but some of them were around when those boys were molested in the ‘90s, including the aforementioned principal. So, don't be fooled; when it comes to a student-count mantra, cosmetic-trickery and educational slight-of-hand, St Pauls are the experts. Sure, private schools need money, but it shouldn’t be the focus and that’s what creates a significant disparity between a well-run school and St Pauls Catholic College, Greystanes. Don’t send your kid there.

“All it takes for evil to succeed is for people to say 'It's a business'.

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1 comment:

  1. Yeah no such rule that girls aren't allowed to sit with boys that is just ridiculous and embarrassing and I will hate St Pauls for you just for that. And woah, your hatred for St Pauls goes way beyond what you told me. Wowwwwwwwww sucks.