Comment of the Day: What I Should Have Said about Strake Jesuit

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT I SHOULD HAVE SAID ABOUT STRAKE JESUIT Suburban Bubble“If people want to self-segregate and move somewhere like The Woodlands, great. I’m glad they are free to do that. What I don’t understand is the myopia that self-segregation can create, when people forget that anyone would ever value anything else over clean and shiny (and white) suburbs. An example of what bothers me so much: I was leaving a Strake Jesuit football game earlier this year, and a Woodlands dad and I fell into conversation on the way out. He commented “this is such a great campus. Too bad it’s in this neighborhood.” As a SJ parent, I didn’t have any choice but to answer him politely, so I murmured something about how the lower property costs made it possible for the school to buy more land to improve and expand. But in reality, I was just incensed by his comments — still am, actually. What, a working class neighborhood doesn’t deserve something nice like a private school campus in it? The school has nothing to offer the neighborhood, and vice versa? The neighborhood has less value in absolute terms because it’s not wealthy, or aesthetically pleasing? What is it about living somewhere like The Woodlands that changes the way a person thinks, that they can look at the (abundant) life going on outside their clean little bubble and not recognize its value? I don’t have an answer to this question — it just bothers me an awful lot.” [Vonnegan, commenting on How The Woodlands Has Gone Astray; A Suitable Houston Honor for the Inventor of Air Conditioning] Illustration: Lulu

33 Comment

  • Don’t let it bother you too much. You won at life, by not being like the guy you overheard.

  • Pot calling the kettle black. Why does he send his kid to Strake instead of the local public school?

  • i can’t think of anything more consistent with a Jesuit world view than putting an exclusive college prep school in the middle of the ‘hood.
    Let’s hope that the son understands it better than the father. If his experience at Strake is like mine at a different Jesuit prep school, he’ll get it if he keeps his mind open.

  • @jardinero1 It sounded to me like the Woodlands parent was not sending his kid to Strake — just attending the football game.

    The history of Strake having that land is part of the Sharpstown vision. Will the Woodlands vision meet the same fate? Maybe not, but there is a shared ideal that started both Sharpstown and The Woodlands separated by time and an oil bust and a scandal involving Frank Sharp & company.

    I like many parts of the neighborhoods around Strake. It’s way more interesting and seasoned than the layer of the onion The Woodlands is in.

  • The guy from the Woodlands is a tool, but Strake Jesuit did not select that site because of some desire to enrich a working class neighborhood. Strake got the land through a donation back in 1960. At that time, Sharpstown was a fresh new white flight suburb with country clubs (Sharpstown and Braeswood to the south) and a shiny new mall. Sharpstown back then was more or less the 1960s version of The Woodlands. I do not know whether Strake has ever entertained the idea of relocating as the surrounding neighborhood went into decline. The economics would probably be impossible. And there is an advantage to being sandwiched between Bellaire and the Memorial area. But I doubt the founders would have broken ground in 1960 had they known where the neighborhood would be by the 1990s.

  • That’s an indictment of the local public schools more than an indictment of individuals, Jardinero1. We live in the Sharpstown area, too, and we really like it. But we’ll be leaving for Fort Bend County soon for the simple reason that we’re not religious and we want a public education for our son, but we can’t in good conscience send him to the public schools in Sharpstown. Until Terry Grier tried to slash the Magnets in HISD, we might have stuck it out. But the threatened and realized cuts to HISD’s magnets make it much more dicey as to whether he’ll get into a good program. It’s easier to just buy a house in an area zoned to a good FBISD school, and be through with it.
    Believe me, it pains me to say this. If only my wife and I were church-goers, we’d have our choice of excellent parochial schools. If not Strake Jesuit then Westbury Christian. We could stay in our neighborhood and out home. Or if the world suddenly changed and the public schools in Sharpstown turned around completely.,,. But we’re not, and they won’t, and we just can’t risk our Son’s future on failing public schools. So we’ll suck it up, sigh heavily, and move out to Fort Bend County, like good little lemmings.

  • Jardinero1, your post presents a classic example of false equivalence. Thank you for taking the time to share that with us. I, for one, am a better person having read it.

  • whats the cost of that prep. school…..30k per year…..
    how does that help the kids in that hood???? do you live in that hood……i bet not………

  • Kurt Vonnegut, just chill out. That area of town is rough. Straight up gangster. What your buddy probably meant to say is “this school would be even better if it wasn’t in sharpstown.” You can’t argue with that. Probably not possible, but it would be better. I don’t like the woodlands any more than the next guy, but i do like living in a clean area. Call me crazy, but trash all over the street and graffiti tags every where are not desirable. Matter of fact, when Strake was built out there, that area was pretty nice. Nothing but fields. Took a MASSIVE dump in one of those fields after a football game back in 19 and 87. Thing looked like a loaf of rye bread. Anyways, i don’t think that guy was too far off in his comment. My cousin went to SAA next door and believe me — that area is a little sketchy. Frank Sharp’s nightmare. Let me know. Subpoena pastors and stuff.

  • “i can’t think of anything more consistent with a Jesuit world view than putting an exclusive college prep school in the middle of the ‘hood.”

    You know they offer scholarships for those who can’t afford, and only have a 57% white student body, probably a lot less than schools of similar quality, right? They also have a community service requirement for graduation. The Jesuit worldview is heavily committed to social justice, as embodied in the “Men For Others” motto.

  • What I’ve learned, and this is just for myself and my humble opinion, is that virtually always when someone or something outside of myself upsets me, then I have a personal issue that needs some attention. I hated this when a wise man taught me it while I was in my 30s, that “All criticism is Self-criticism, just as all love is Self-love.” Whenever I have these very common (and very human) experiences that the original author describes, it pays not to believe my own BS, but to move into Curiosity…about the other person AND about my (reactive) self…and what I can learn about myself. Self-compassion is the #1 job for me, and with it I can truly live and think and act live a real adult man of compassion for others. Blessings to all who have shared their individual experiences here, on this wonderful website. Thanks. Joe D.

  • It’s also important for those of us who live in urban Houston not to generalize to much about the demographics of the suburbs. Whilst The Woodlands was 92% White in the last census many of the suburbs have demographics that are far more mixed in terms of diversity than many of the inner loop neighborhoods. Sugar Land for instance is 44% White whilst 77008 (Heights) is 59% White.

  • That Woodlands guy was right!! Who the fuck wants to pay thousands of dollars to send their kid to school in the ghetto! My parents sent me to Kinkaid because it was a great school in a great area. Don’t think for a minute that the neighborhoods don’t sell St. John, Kinkaid, Duquesne, and even St Thomas. My patents never even considered Strake because it was in a very sketchy area that was getting worse by the minute. You’re indignation was ridiculous, he had the right to a valid opinion. Frankly, I completely agree with him.

  • i can’t think of anything more consistent with a Jesuit world view than putting an exclusive college prep school in the middle of the ‘hood.
    To be fair….that wasn’t the plan

  • Shannon, Strake Jesuit is an excellent school. Always has been, always will be, no matter what happens with the neighborhood surrounding it. I am forever indebted to my parents for making the sacrifices to send me there. My life is so much better for it.

  • No, CB. Almost everyone who lives in Sharpstown agrees that Strake Jesuit (and their sister school, Saint Agnes) is an asset to the neighborhood. The only people who say it’s not, are investors who think they know better than the neighbors what’s good for the neighborhood. I’ve talked to them. It’s really infuriating.
    One of them was actually trying to block St. Agnes from buying the old Gilman Ford property, because they were too exclusive for his tenants. Kind of ridiculous, really. Lucky he wasn’t trying very hard.
    And Shannon: we get it, you hate Sharpstown. you will always hate Sharpstown. Your parents started hating Sharpstown the second blacks started moving in…. Give it a rest. It’s really unbecoming of you.

  • This thread contains quite a bit of hatred and vitriol. All Houstonians should empathize with our less fortunate and make our city a better place for all, irrespective where one lives.

  • So you finally met “commonsense”?

  • Segregation is a little insulting. I think people are moving where crime is statistically lower and schools are radically better. All are welcome to move even the Italians. Are the others so predisposed to crime and litter that they cannot escape themselves? Or should that be part of the gringos burden and immerse themselves in filth?

  • @shannon apparently a lot of people pay thousands of dollars to send their kids there.

  • My parents sent me to Kinkaid because it was a great school in a great area
    They would be proud to know all their hard earned money helped to educate a future blog troller!

  • @Shannon–I’m sure Kinkaid is as great as you say. Since you’re so keen to let us know you went there, please consider spell check before posting, so as to maintain the school’s sterling reputation.

  • Don’t slam others as being intolerant and then state that your child is too good to go to schools with these very people. It’s hypocritical.

  • @ZAW – not everyone that attends parochial school is religiously observant or a believer. I would submit that the quality of education one receives at schools like Strake or St. Thomas can trump any concerns about religious indoctrination.

  • Former SJ student, here. I didn’t graduate from there but the time I spent there was very beneficial to me. Of course back then more of the Jesuit priests were teaching than today and the campus was old, and the kids themselves often helped maintain it via the Saturday detention program (which I was admittedly often a part of). Strake Jesuit has been on that land since 1960, and at one time owned everything from Bellaire back to Town Park, and from the bayou all the way to Gessner. The Jesuits donated the land where St. Agnes was built next door. In the ’70’s when the Sharpstown State Bank collapsed, the school was left bankrupt, and sold off land piecemeal to keep afloat. That’s why there’s a nasty Fiesta shopping center in front of the campus on Bellaire and apartments cutting in on the north side of the campus. The school bought back one parcel and tore down one of the apartment complexes itself about two years ago. Eventually they hope to get back ALL of their former land. I went to SJ in the ’90’s and the neighborhood was getting rough then. I’m not sure what the intent of the original comment was, other than to somehow imply racism or elitism, but the school’s location isn’t the best and everyone knows that. But they aren’t going anywhere, I can tell you that. There is too much tradition and history on that campus now. Just the same as St. Thomas isn’t moving from it’s awkward location on Memorial Dr anytime soon either.

  • Nice artwork, Lulu – nailed it on the head!

  • Wow, this is great! I’ve been chewing on what The Woodlands Guy said for over a month now, and it’s wonderful to see so many different points of view on it. One point in addition, since several people brought it up: the LAST thing our family considered when deciding to send our son to SJ was the demographics or pedigree of the boys at the school. My son was in HISD before this and did very well there. We were happy with the academics and loved the diversity of the community. If he’d stayed in HISD for high school, he would have been just fine academically, and would have continued to have a great group of friends. But he works SO HARD and gets such good grades, he deserves the chance to go beyond “just fine” academically. He has earned the right to spend these 4 years really being challenged in the classroom and pushed to excel. It’s also the last time we will be able to pick the people that influence him. Sending him to a place where people will pray over him and demand that he give back to the school and the community is the right way for us to use the resources we’ve been blessed with. Not that any of that is y’all’s business, but no, I am not a hypocrite. :-)

  • The best answer would have been the truth.
    Strake was in that location long before the current demographic ruled the area.
    I mean, let’s not kid ourselves, the founders didn’t choose that location in 1960 because they thought to themselves “Gosh, in 2014 land prices should be low in this area, let’s build here so we can expand in 55 years!”.
    Now you’re empowered to tell the next uppity person the truth, rather than some half lie.

  • Most (not all) people I have ever met who live in the Woodlands tend to behave like elitist snobs. Let them have their insulated community. Rising property values will keep the hoi polloi away anyway, thanks to Anadarko and Exxon/Mobil moving in. Back in the mid 1980s when the price of crude collapsed and Black Friday of 1987 impacted the NYSE the Woodlands had earned the unfortunate statistic of having the highest suicide rate in the state. Most likely due to so many of the residents being overextended, and their house of cards collapsed when layoffs inevitably followed, and the real estate market all over Houston tanked. So many forget that the higher up you go the more your butt is exposed, in both work and life. Color me not surprised.

  • It’s sad that Houston has such poverty amid such wealth. Strake is a great school. Some view gender separation as a negative but down the road these boys eventually learn all the social skills their coed peers have learned (their freshman year at school is rough, lots of drinking and adjusting socially) but it’s a great school.

    One of the worst things about Houston. Is that private schools are even necessary. Many neighborhoods like Tanglewood are zoned for schools like Lee where whites won’t go(unless Bosnian immigrants). It’s like another tax of sorts. High property taxes and high private school costs. Who can afford that? Actually many can.

    What do middle class whites do? Keep leaving the core for the outlying burbs.
    We are tuning into Europe where very poor and very rich live in he core and the middle class and very poor live outside he core. So middle class people will continue to commute and get fatter due to the sitting involved in commuting.

  • At least the OP has proven that The Woodlands doesn’t have a monopoly on sanctimonious jerks. And going back to the original thread — let’s drop the pretense that “diversity” is anything but a euphemism for “too many white people,” a condition that is reprehensible somehow.

  • FYI Strake Jesuit is not considered to be a top private school in Houston. The top private schools (first tier) in Houston are members of the Southwestern Preparatory Conference (SPC)- Kinkaid, St. John’s, Episcopal, and John Cooper.

  • While we lived in The Woodlands I went to St. Agnes and my brother went to Strake. We carpooled with other people who did just the same. They are excellent schools, many of our teachers were professors and wonderful mentors who did everything they could to make sure we were successful. They went above and beyond and gave us networking opportunities and listened to our opinions. We had a wonderful mix of male and female teachers and friends of all backgrounds. It was wonderful being right across the parking lot from each other and nice to be focused in the classroom without distractions, but at the same time be able to everything with the other school outside of class. The food is top-notch at both school( really it’s amazing). Strake Jesuit really does make men for others. They start of as foolish boys coming in freshman year and they graduate as young successful men who are responsible and ready for college. For many of them, college was actually easier. Having gone to St. Agnes, I can say that I had many friends and The diversity really makes for a wonderful experience and I saw no bullying or anything( I know that’s hard to believe). I can also say that at St. Agnes we were able to be ourselves and people embraced each other’s differences. My brother admits Strake was very academically challenging. However, he got use to its workload and was able to manage his time very well and was very successful with both academics and sports. He also had many friends and they still meet up each summer as a group to catch up and hang out. Strake and St. Agnes hold a special places in our hearts and we are forever thankful for our time there. We traveled 45 miles to school and 45 miles back every single day and it was worth it no doubt. Being in the middle of Sharpstown and China Town was a great way to escape the bubble of The Woodlands. It prepared me more for college and it gave me wonderful experiences could never have gotten if I had gone to School in The Woodlands. I have lifelong friends and lifelong mentors. I have a huge family and wonderful memories.