This morning I reunited with my friends, and there was a catch in my voice when I greeted them. We all admire and genuinely love one another. After studying for three years, this is our last summer. A few may stay in touch, but we know that some of us may not.
As far as education graduate programs go, our diversity is special:
Two are New Jersey natives and teach in New Jersey.
One grew up in Iowa and now teaches in Rhode Island.
Two are from New York, but one of them teaches in Florida and the other teaches in London.
Two grew up in Michigan, but one of them teaches in Michigan and the other teaches in South Carolina.
One is from Connecticut and now teaches in London.
Two grew up in Texas and teach in Texas.
Among us, one is Cuban, one is Filipino, one is Chinese, one is Indian, one is Jewish, two are pregnant, one has a disability, and one didn’t vote for Obama. Hint: I am represented twice.
Of course I expected to encounter liberal ideology when I embarked upon a degree plan at Columbia University. I do not necessarily mean “liberal” in reference to politics. My program espouses an excessively liberal position with regard to American education that, frankly, scares me to death sometimes. I had to speak up more than once along the way. My friends and I are close-knit because we have had some hard conversations.
For instance, last summer, the core of our studies was sexuality in public schools. We read scholars who suggested that human beings retain the ability to select their individual gender identity after birth, and one way educators can remove the stigma associated with switching genders mid-adolescence is to promote transgender sex education in classrooms and to remove male/female designations in front of school restrooms, so that kids can be more free to “choose their identity”, even on a day-to-day basis. There were expectations and implications in our readings and discussions that were far more shocking to me, but I won’t go into those. I thought to myself, “Y’all don’t know Texas. If we read THAT book as a novel selection in my classroom, there would be a posse of parents calling for my resignation by the last school bell of the same day and they would have it all wrapped up with the school board in time to be home for a warm dinner.”
I tried to be as gentle as I could when explaining my stance as a believer. At first, with a slight tone of derision, they assumed I must be conservative. I guess that term doesn’t offend me, but it doesn’t accurately define my problem with the issues at hand, either. Personally, this was not political as much as spiritual. When some people face social and political questions, they use the Constitution as a strict standard. Well, when I face social and political questions–life questions of ANY kind–I use the Bible as a strict standard. It’s a practice that’s old-fashioned and quaint, I know. But I have found it to be incredibly relevant and effective, too.
These brilliant teachers listened to me when I voiced my concern. I went on to explain why I would not be able to compromise my beliefs by incorporating certain literature, materials, instructions, or philosophies into my lessons. Yes, those were some hard conversations. There were times when I was shaking. But my colleagues surprised me, because they did not diminish in their respect for me; they offered me more. Which is not to say that we ever reached a point of agreement. Yet, they felt I had trusted them with what I really believed and they honored the fact that I had been true. Is it any wonder why I love them so?
The thing I want most in life: To be true.
I want to be true to my whole family, to my future husband, to my friends, and to God. I want to be true to myself. At the end of any day when I have denied those entities, I don’t need to hear a rooster crow in order to be reminded of my infidelity. I can just look up.
“He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” Isaiah 40:22
How small-minded am I when I deny the One who can pitch a tent of stars? He would kneel to hammer the celestial pegs, saying over His shoulder, “You have so much to learn, Grasshopper.”
This photo is of one dark corner by the library on campus. The blue brick canopy is breathtaking, but students pass underneath without noticing anymore. They have seen it every day. Maybe we lay beneath the heavens that way, almost uninterested. We’ve seen constellations every evening of our lives. But if we take a moment to look up into the midnight, to look deeply, there is something empowering about knowing that God is in His tent and He’s not sleeping. The sky we’re under, this dark canopy, is His. It gives us grasshoppers the courage to wake up the next day and have the hard conversations.