This is a great week for my students. This past Saturday, students were honored with my friend and colleague, Mrs. Chili, who is an adjunct professor of English. Having great teachers who offer a distinct point of view is a luxury when it comes to education. Mrs. Chilli, who is an open atheist, discussed her briefs and how she came to such a conclusion. As I noted here, this is not a course on Christianity; it is one that looks at historical and anthropological matters that deal with Christianity in American society. My wife Janette will speak on Monday about her religious construct and why she holds Christian beliefs.
My friend and former Houston Christian colleague Stephen Hebert will teach my class on Tuesday. Hebert, who is currently the assistant chaplain and an instructor in the religion department at the St. Mark’s School, will discuss New Testament exegesis, mysticism, and Jesus as a radical countercultural Jew … which according to Hebert, this is his personal picture of Jesus. Thus, part of the course objective is to delve into the multifaceted perceptions of one’s American Jesus. Students will also here from Matt Grant, a colleague and friend who teaches in the visual arts department. Grant, who is Jewish and thus does not subscribe to a New Testament belief in Jesus, will offer a lens of believing in a religious construct — but one without Jesus.
Being at a school that allows me to challenge students is nice. It is my job to provide a venue for them to think in terms of “real” diversity. Intellectual and religious diversity is a large part of training one’s mind on thinking critically. Exposing students to various ways of thought allows them to travel down an avenue necessary in a world that seek critical thinkers. And, as I noted in a post before, as a student, I recall on a number of occasions challenging the status of my campus. Often frustrated by the same white protestant male espousing the same political, ideological, and religious beliefs. From class to class, I watched my anger grow as I sought to understand my own learning and identity from the likes of Richard Wright and W.E.B. Du Bois. I knew they would not sing the same old company lesson plan articulated by one-dimensional institutions. I asked more than once: Why the preachy lessons on moral abstract construct espoused by ONE ideological thought? or, What does the black teacher think? or Where are the black, Asian, American Indian teachers? How about ONE Jewish teacher? Maybe a pro-Palestinian professor? Creating institutions that inculcate the same values and norms does not allow students to become critical thinkers. It is a lie. We (including myself) recycle the same language but, each time we do, we ask students to think critically