Contact Zones of Education

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In 1885, Bishop John Ireland turned his dream into a reality when he founded Saint Thomas Academy. The mission of the all-male, college preparatory institution read as follows: “to help young men build a solid foundation of responsible leadership within themselves, the Academy, the Catholic Church, and the community” (Ireland). His vision has turned into one of the oldest high schools in the state of Minnesota. This idea has both of Pratt’s elements heterogeneous and homogeneous folded into one simple Academy. Having the opportunity to be educated in this somewhat unconventional style, I was introduced to a community and contact zone through my many different experiences throughout my career there.

One of the most obvious attempts to create a homogeneous atmosphere associated with Saint Thomas Academy (STA), is the all male aspect forced onto the students. This style of education provides individuals with the ability to be themselves without the pressure of impressing a female or the self-consciousness many teenage males experience throughout their education. In other words, the all-male experience created, what Pratt refers to as a “safe house” or more specifically a “social and intellectual space(s) where groups can constitute themselves as horizontal, homogeneous, sovereign communities with high degrees of trust, shared understandings, temporary protection from legacies of oppression” (511). The level of trust created here is unrivaled compared to anything else I have ever experienced. The community acted as a family rather than a student body. This idea became more evident in smaller communities such as the athletic and extra circular activities. These teams were often very successful because of this unique bond created.

The idea of an all-male student body did not always favor an ‘imagined community’- the term Benedict Anderson uses to describe the existence of safe houses within the academy. He expands this idea by saying “Languages were seen as...
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