In Lindon, a new charter school – a public school that operates with taxpayer money – and a seminary operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are occupying the same building.
That doesn’t technically violate the constitutional mandate that government not support or endorse any religion, since each organization separately leases its space. The Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy and the seminary don’t even share an entrance. But the perception is there that the public school is simply too cozy with the LDS Church. And that makes a significant number of people, already sensitive to the church’s influence in Utah, uncomfortable.
Given that precisely that perception is reality to so many, either the school or the church should look for other quarters.
I was a public school student in Utah about 30-40 years ago, but it didn’t matter one bit then that the LDS seminary buildings in junior high and high school were not in the same building – I still had to listen to what everybody else was hearing about. Every day in more than one class, I’d overhear what the other kids had seen or heard in their “sem” classes – gossipy stuff about the videotaped soap opera that was the big thing in junior high, and whispered stuff about what the high school seminary classes were covering about more adult topics like dating within vs. without the faith.
People talked around me as if I had been there, or more significantly, as if I wasn’t there at all. I was invisible.
It was not a comfortable place to be a “not.” It was not a friendly and fun place to be a “non.” I spent my entire school career feeling ever-so-slightly unwelcome all the time, and sometimes I felt like there was nowhere to hide from enemies who wanted to hunt me down for being “differnt”, and nowhere to find friends who might accept me without asking what church my family attended, before deciding if it was okay to be seen with me.
Before we actually attended any church, of course, I was almost completely on my own… once we started attending a Protestant church regularly and I joined a Masonic girls’ group, I had friends, but not at school. With one exception – Mark, who went to my church, also went to my grade school. We were buddies the last couple of years there, but he went to a different junior high although we still were in youth group together. And then when we got to high school, his family had moved, and we ended up graduating together.
My 30th high school reunion was supposed to be last year, but it was cancelled or postponed due to the very sad death of Steve Tempest, who had been student body president and was one of the organizers. He was a good guy, who did good things in his life. I ran into him unexpectedly on a trip to Salt Lake years ago, and was totally surprised find out that he knew who I was in school – actually knew my name.
You could have knocked me over with a feather, as it was a revelation to me to realize that I hadn’t been as invisible as I thought I was in high school. You’d think that a big, tall, red-headed girl with a goofy laugh would find it hard to be invisible, but I was, at least as far as I could tell. So to be greeted by name by somebody who was “somebody,” after so many years, was really odd.
I did attend one reunion at about the 10-year mark and amused myself by covering up my nametag and going up to former jocks and saying “You don’t know who the hell I am, do you?” That was a fun time, but the fact that there was alcohol probably made it easier. Utah does things like that to you, or did then, anyway. If you drink socially, you drink as conspicuously as possible in order to show everyone else you’re “not” like them. It can make for some rather colorful stories afterwords (and worse hangovers than necessary). If you use bad language, you use it as conspicuously as possible, too. I always start swearing more when on trips to Utah – it kind of creeps my husband David out, especially if I get together with my salty oldest niece, Holly (she’s David’s age). Then: look out.
During the time I was staying at Mom’s house trying to sort stuff out after she died in 2006, somebody called me to get my mailing address and email address so that I could be contacted for whenever the reunion happened. It was supposed to have been this August, but I never heard a word. I checked with Mark, and he never got a response to his emails, either.
Oh well. I expect there was some kind of event, probably locally organized and arranged, and someone dropped the ball on contacting the “unsocial” types such as myself and Mark, who were kind of non-entities in school because of our “differnts” and didn’t stay in touch with many other people after graduation. As a hopelessly disorganized person myself, I can understand if the information didn’t get collected and organized and used effectively, but it would have been nice to be invited, even if there was no way in Hell that I’d bother to attend. I don’t know anybody anymore, Mom’s not there anymore, I don’t want to see what’s become of our old house since it was sold, and I’m not skinny and gorgeous and well-preserved enough to show up with a glint in my eye at the classic reunion dance, in a kind of “wallflower’s revenge fantasy.”
As far as I know, seminary classes are still conducted across the street from my old high school; Salt Lake has gotten more culturally diverse since my school days, but I bet the “nons” and “nots” still have a pretty good idea of what’s being taught and discussed in the building across the street. It’s probably still inescapable.