My grade-school years were spent in LeMars, Iowa, where my dad was guidance counselor and coach at the public high school. Our family attended St. John's Lutheran Church. Dad was head of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at school, where the thrill of my young life was when star quarterback for the Bulldogs, DeeJay Donlin, and his girlfriend Kay Cobb took me to the annual banquet and I sat next to them at the head table. DeeJay, now a pastor, went on to set records at Augustana College and made it to the final cut day for the Minnesota Vikings, before losing out to a guy named Tommy Kramer. I loved our time in LeMars.
I knew there was another school in town, a Catholic school called LeMars Gehlen, but never gave it much thought as a grade-schooler. I just knew it existed and that was about it. There was no bigger booster of the public high school in town than my dad. There was also probably no bigger fan of the Lutheran Church than my dad. So if there was one guy who could've taken the opportunity to bash the private, Catholic school in town, it could have been my dad. But he never did. I never heard an ill word spoken about LeMars Gehlen.
Fast forward 40 years now and I'm Catholic, have graduated two daughters from the local Catholic school here in Rapid City (having transferred from the equally-awesome Brandon Valley Public Schools 10 years ago) and have a son with one year left at St. Thomas More.
Given my upbringing, the most shocking thing I've encountered this past decade is the straight-up animus some people have toward that school and private schools in general. I chalk most of it up to jealousy, some of it to ignorance, and on rarer occasions to bigotry. None of those three things are particularly good character traits in my book. But now I just get a kick out of drawing it out of people. Yeah, I like to instigate a little. It's enlightening.
At school football or baseball games I don't like to sit in the stands (mostly due to a bad back), so you'll often find me wandering around. Usually I end up talking to parents and fans of the opposing team in the concession area or along the baselines. It's almost always good conversations where if the Catholic school thing comes up I correct misconceptions or add to them, depending on my mood. "They recruited my kid in second grade," I've said, jokingly, but always leaving that bit of doubt for the listener to ponder on his own.
I've found that some people who claim to care most about education often really care most about public school education (of which I'm a fan as well). Because boy when you get them going on private schools or home-schoolers it gets their blood pressure up and you often find they aren't such fans of those types of education. I don't get that kind of thinking.
I don't get that at all, and for that I'd like to thank my public-school-teaching Lutheran father who was just a fan of good education no matter how you got it. Thanks Dad for raising me without that other garbage.