I was a Junior in a Catholic High School. Since it was a Catholic High School, we were required to take a "religion" class every term.
Through some mysterious process, I found myself in a "seminar" taught by Sister B.Z. Lee (not her real name).
Before I go on with the story, I need to give a tiny bit of background...background that was not available to me when I was a student.
Before Vatican II and Women's Liberation, Catholic women entered the convent in vast numbers. Their labor was not highly valued in the Church if only because of its abundance. Supply-and-demand and all that.
VII and Women's Lib fell on the convents like the Black Death. And like the Black Death in Europe, the price of labor shot up.
Nuns are not stupid. With number of women joining the convent reduced to the tiniest trickle, the nuns who were in place realized that they now had huge amounts of bargaining power. Whereas the least academically gifted had been used as janitors and to wash clothing, they were elevated to fill the ranks of teaching positions that hither-to-fore had been filled by younger nuns.
Grasping their moment in the sun, nuns started protesting nuclear power plants, military bases, construction equipment and they happily allowed themselves to be arrested and tossed into the hoosegow. It was a heady time. Jail was not that different from the convent except they didn't have KP duty.
Another thing that happened is that nuns demanded...and got...access to advanced degrees. The Church hierarchy thought/hoped that it would trim off some of the nun's new-found energy.
Back to Sr. B.Z. Lee
It seems likely, in retrospect, that Sr. B.Z. Lee was collecting data for a Master's or Ph.D thesis. The "seminar" was held in a cozy room with padded easy-chairs. Sr. B.Z. Lee worked from a crib-sheet where she read off "facts" and then we earnestly discussed what we had just "learned".
Did I mention that I got a "D" in this class?
Religion class was pretty much a guaranteed "A" if you attended and I pulled a "D" in this one while demonstrating 100% attendance.
One example of the chemistry between Sr. B.Z. Lee and me:
Sr. B.Z. Lee reading from her script and pointing at a map of Africa "In most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, four-out-of-every five babies dies before age five. Not only that, but the life expectancy in those countries is fifty years of age."
Me, clearing throat and raising my hand. "That doesn't make any sense at all."
Sr. B.Z. Lee, avoiding eye-contact by looking down at her notes. "What doesn't make sense?"
Warming to the opportunity to share my insight "Well, if the average life expectancy is 50 years and 80% of the babies die before age five, then the person who survives past age five has to live to almost 250 years of age. I mean, that is not a bad deal if you think about it...as long as you make it past age five."
Sr. Lee lifted her eyes from her cheat-sheet and stared at me with a look of complete incomprehension. There was probably a reason why her advanced degree was not going to be in math.
She reacted to my "sharing" by grating out through clenched teeth "In most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, four-out-of-every five babies dies before age five. Not only that, but the life expectancy in those countries is fifty years of age."
Every session she presented "facts" that were supposed to shock, horrify and enrage us. Every session I pointed out common sense facts (clearly obvious to high school kids) that were impossible to reconcile with her "facts".
By the end of every session I had her on the verge of having a stroke.
And like all good Social Justice Warriors (forty years before I first heard the term) she was vindictive and gave me a "D"...even though the syllabus said we were encouraged to discuss the "facts".
The more I think about my parents' non-reaction to my pulling a "D" in religion, the more I respect them.
Catholic schools are expensive. Indexed for inflation it probably works out to about $6k per kid. My parents drove ancient station-wagons, wore second-hand clothing, never ate out and did without many things to send us to Catholic schools.
The primary reason we were sent to Catholic school was so we could attend religion class.
And I pulled a "D".
I suspect my dad asked a few question regarding the nature of the "seminar". Dad was nobody's fool. He had the misfortune of working with people pursuing an advanced degree; ones who were trying to spin smoke, mirrors and cotton-candy into a thesis.
We never talked about it. If it had bothered him in the least I am sure we would have.