As I mention in my “about” section, I am a graduate student…allow me to elaborate upon that–I am a graduate student at the University of North Texas pursuing a Master’s in Art Education. This alone puts me in the minority…do you know anyone else in this field? My point exactly. However, even once you get inside my chosen field, I am in the minority. I am a Christian, and a fairly theologically conservative one at that. As if this wasn’t enough to set me light years apart from my fellow students, I teach at a private, Christian school. Now, I am not sure if all grad programs are the same, as I have only been in one, but all of my classes consist of about 12 people sitting around a large oval table discussing the various (and voluminous) readings we are supposed to have done over the past week. Twelve people…that means you have to contribute–a lot–or else it gets to be extremely noticeable.
So, this brings me to this past Tuesday. I am sitting in week one of one of my current classes, Art Education Reform, and I realized something: there was not one other like-minded soul in that room. (or if there was, they were hiding it very well). I was in the minority and it was a minority of one. Don’t get me wrong, in my undergrad days as a fine arts major, there weren’t exactly a lot of people like me either, but I never quite felt as alone as I did on Tuesday evening. As the conversation around me swirled, I heard comments such as “those freaky faith-based education movements” and “NCLB being an underhanded attempt at privatizing education” and “some evangelical spouting off about how public school is void of truth and only based on making children feel good” and “the religious right taking their kids out of school in droves for fear of corruption”, etc, etc. In addition to these comments, there was the typical Republican and conservative-politics bashing. Not that I reflect, or even resent, all of these comments, but it definitely gave the not so warm and fuzzies about how my opinions and values will be viewed in this setting.
I wish I could say that I joined in and eloquently presented my views on all of these topics, but I cannot. I sat there, listening, and barely uttered a word. I sat there wondering what everyone would think of me if I said something. I sat there and worried that my credibility as an art educator would be shot if I said something (at least in their minds). I sat there and fooled myself into thinking maybe I didn’t have anyting valid to say. I sat there and felt different and I let it get the best of me.
In Matthew, chapter 5, Jesus calls us to be “salt” and “light”, neither of which I was last Tuesday night. During this week I have pondered over how I might have joined in the discussion and I still have not come up with anything great, but I have realized something–I sit in the shadows far too often and let my belief in a holy God be hidden “under a bowl.” I believe my lesson from that class session was 3-fold (none of which were the professor’s agenda, but rather my omniscient Savior’s agenda):
1. to wake me up to the fact of how utterly disconcerting it can be to find yourself in a situation where you are the oddball and to help me look for this potential hazard in situations where I am of the majority in order to reach out to the minority
2. to urge me to become more well read and informed on a range of political, social and educational issues so that I might form a more intelligent and cohesive opinion when my next opportunity to share my convictions rolls around
3. to give me a kick in the pants concerning my severe lack of witness when I am at school, not so much from me denying my beliefs and acting like a heathen but rather from just being void of sharing any opinion which I feel might be the least bit controversial
The #3 lesson learned reminds me of a quote, which I will leave you with…
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. ~Edmund Burke