16 December 2016


Taking a moment to acknowledge my privilege: high school for me was awkward, as it is for most, but it didn't suck. I was fortunate to attend a small, private college-prep. The intimate classes were a welcome change from my previous existence (crowded public schools and overworked/overwhelmed teachers, charged with cranking students through the floundering education system as best they could). I'd had a decent enough experience in public education up until that point, but the high schools in my area were struggling--significant overcrowding, high teen pregnancy rates, low college acceptances. So, I ended up at a Catholic school for girls. I'll take a stab at the usual questions before moving to topic:

1.  No, I didn't mind that there weren't any boys. Excepting two particularly good childhood friends, I found that pubescent boys were largely shitheads. And I was sure I'd meet the good ones in my new extra-curricular, multi-school theatre program. Even if some turned out to be gay, at least they weren't the slightest bit date rapey!

2.  No, my parents weren't particularly worried about me being indoctrinated into Catholicism. In fact, there is quite an ingrained respect for religious-private education within the South Asian community (thanks, British Imperialists!).  

3.  No, I didn't mind the uniforms. I had my morning regimen down to 15 minutes flat. I like my sleep. And without the constant worry of presenting myself as a suitable mate to opposite sex, my brain could focus on, you know, my education.

The school was actually pretty progressive, as far as Catholic high schools go. As an independent school that wasn't part of the diocese, educators were granted a certain level of autonomy in creating their curriculum. As a result, we had some fantastic classes that I thought I wouldn't encounter until college--World Religions, Oceanography, British Lit, Philosophy of Personal Morality.  

As forward-thinking as the school was, I still remember feeling pegged as the token Muslim (and I was until a couple more gals enrolled). I think it came out of a well-intended effort to acknowledge diversity. Excessive recognition can come off as labeling. But being on the liberal end of the spectrum let me share a version of Islam that perhaps my peers would not have otherwise ever encountered. I find profanity to be cathartic, had no plans for an arranged marriage, and don't wear a hijab. Keep in mind that 9/11 happened my junior year. Anything I could do to normalize my family and our way of life during that time, I would do. I'm not a spokesperson for a diverse religion of 1.6 billion people, but I hope I made a halfway decent impression. Maybe even one that stuck with them at the polls this last cycle.

For more on the merits of single-sex education, check out this most excellent read.

Keep on keeping on,