At ten years old I kicked up a fuss willing my parents to send me to the local comprehensive (where most of my primary school friends would be going) rather than the Church of England state secondary school, St. Aidan’s, with my elder brother and sister.
My parents were resolute about their decision, and so I attended St. Aidan’s Church of England High School until the age of 18. At this time in my life, I was already volunteering my summers up for ‘Christian camp’. These summer trips began when I was six or seven when I spent a week sleeping in a tent in the garden of the Bishop of York. We had to memorise a Bible passage and recite it as our tent was checked in the ‘tidy inspection’ each morning. The Bishop of York has deep, velvety cream carpet in his living room. We padded across it and sat cross-legged to watch a VHS on a TV wheeled into the corner or the room one rainy afternoon.
When I reflect upon whether my schooling was ‘good’, I am immediately drawn to realise that so much of my school life was spent being conditioned into a good Christian. (It suddenly strikes me that it is no surprise that I previously themed a blog post around the religious ethos of ‘the good teacher’. My ideas about education are entirely inseparable from the religious upbringing that I reflect so critically upon). I went to a Christian school where any idea of goodness was filtered through the lessons of Jesus. My school was a ‘good’ school first and foremost, because it was a Christian school. We were all ‘good’ because we were all ostensibly Christian. We behaved well for the teachers because good behaviour and compliance is Christian behaviour and compliance. We performed lab experiments because these were good Christian lab experiments. We conjugated our good Christian verbs. We coloured in the borders of our good Christian countries.
I always remember a science teacher who carried the air of disillusionment about him taking our A-Level lesson in Physics, and telling us all: ‘you are so lucky to be at a Christian school… you should see some of the schools I’ve taught at before… the discipline needed, the behavioural management… you wouldn’t believe it.’ In so many respects, he was right. Classes were quiet and orderly. Lessons were lively and stimulating. I learnt a lot. But I’ve brought with me a lot of residuals from my good Christian schooling that I needed to unlearn. Through my school life, my perception of the world was limited to one ideological set of values, and I’ve spent a lot of my adult life unlearning those values so that I can look upon my identity and my sexuality in a positive way.