Public and private middle schools both shape long-term learning


Blot graphic by Ravenna Gemignani

A survey of 63 students from Jan. 2 to Jan. 8, 2020.

Zoe Conner-Bennett

Thirty years ago, CHS’s school nurse Dorothy Condon attended St. Rose Parish Schools. For 13 years, Condon dressed in a school uniform every morning and walked alongside nuns in the hallways. While she said that she received a very good academic education, the most prominent skill she gained from her years of private Catholic schooling was respect.

“I think they really pushed manners in Catholic school, which I really don’t see much of in public school,” Condon said. “I still try to use those same morals and things like that today.”

Though appreciative of some aspects of her private education, Condon said that her current teaching methods starkly contrast the conservative, one-dimensional principles that made up the health curriculum when she was in school. 

“We were only taught straight abstinence and that if we had any premarital sex or if we were doing drugs or alcohol, our soul was going to turn black and that we were going to Hell,” Condon said. “Kids are kids, whether you’re brought up in the Catholic faith or you’re brought up with no religion.”

Junior Francesca McCaffrey of West Long Branch, who attended Saint Jerome School, believes that aspect of Catholic school has not changed, even thirty years later. “I didn’t have health at all,” she said. “I didn’t take one health class until I came to school here.”

Junior Isabella Carmona-Ramirez of West Long Branch, a middle school classmate of McCaffrey’s, said that the overall environment at the school differs from that of CHS as well. 

“CHS students are a lot more open-minded and open to discuss ‘taboo’ topics, which comes with maturity,” Carmona-Ramirez said. 

“I feel like everything here is almost opinion-based and there’s many class discussions,” McCaffrey agreed. “I feel like [in Catholic school] you weren’t really allowed to be your own person; you kind of had to conform to what they wanted you to be.”

Junior Maddy Williams of Wall said the difference in culture at CHS is not just due to classroom dynamics, but also the wide variety of students that walk the halls. “I think the biggest difference is just the amount of diversity here,” she said. “There’s people of all different races and sexualities.”

Still, Catholic school allows many students to connect with their religion and spirituality. Sophomore Mackenzie Carey of Little Silver appreciated the opportunity to build and strengthen her relationship with her faith while at school.

“I liked the aspect of learning about religion during class, because then you’re learning about God and Jesus from preschool on,” she said.

For others, however, Catholic elementary school was just a stepping stone to a high school education that resonated more closely with their own personal values.

“I marched to the beat of my own drum, regardless of the rigidity of my middle school,” Carmona-Ramirez said. “CHS offered me the freedom and independence I was looking for.”

Compared to her background in Catholicism and private schooling, Condonviews CHS’s extensive curriculum as worthy of applause. She believes that students should be taught from a young age the health topics that are covered at Communications.

“I try to tell my students in my class the stories that I grew up with, because my priority for the kids here at CHS is to keep them healthy, both inside and outside, and to protect them,” she said.