Thursday, February 25, 2010

Diversity

One of the "hottest" topics in the college pedagogy world is "diversity" and/or "multiculturalism." The follower of Christ who works in a college environment, especially as an instructor or professor, is both blessed and challenged in terms of this subject.

On one side, we know our faith and world view transcends culture and we should be (I say should be) able to see beyond cultural limitations and not be affected by prejudices. We know Revelation 5, where people of every tribe and tongue and nation will worship at the throne of God in the future kingdom. We know that God is love and our first job, before we even think of professionalism, is to love our students, to treat those students sitting in our class as God treats us. We know the beautiful, quiet, dark complected girl in the head scarf is as loved by God and as worthwhile to Him as the little blonde cheerleader.

On the other side, the philosophical implications and the practical applications of the "diversity talk" is a problem for us. I will explore this later; I want to stay positive on this blog. But I will end with an experience I had today. It reminds me how complicated the subject of diversity and multiculturalism and sensitivity can be.

I have a student from a South American country. She came to my office for help with her informative speech because she is very new to the country and her English is really not where it needs to be for her to take college courses. She's bright, she'll get there, but why she's in my speech class I don't know (well, I do know, but that's another matter, too.) I asked her how she ended up at our college in our area, and she said she was in Atlanta but had friends in this town. I mentioned that at least here, there were many Latinos and she would at least be around people who spoke her language (the population of the town my college is in has over 50% Latino population, almost entirely Mexican). "Of course," I said, "I know most of them are from a different country, a different culture."

I detected a little offense in her response. You see, she is not Mexican. "I do not want to be around poor people." Her idea of Mexicans, the predominant Latinos in our area, was negative. Spanish or no Spanish (and her version of Spanish is definitely not a Mexican version, even I can tell that), she preferred not to be around the Mexicans even if it did mean someone to speak her mother tongue with).

No matter how hard we try, there's no accounting for human nature's propensity to be suspicious of those who are not our kind. And no amount of multicultural and diversity training is going to free us from it.

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