by Iris Wu
As an institution devoted to pursuing unfettered learning, Whitworth has taken significant strides to enrich its curriculum as a part of an effort to integrate the information propagated in its classrooms into the global arena. From day one as a freshman to my last semester as a senior, the university has encouraged me toward open thinking and engagement with other cultures and religious traditions. However, I find that the mincing and reserved steps which the school has taken to achieve this purpose have been lackluster and underwhelming.
One of my professors brought up some objections voiced by the powers that be to the Introduction to Buddhism class in the history department, saying there were concerns that the ideas put forth in the class would somehow provide a more attractive alternative to Christianity — in a sense, luring students away. My delicate student sensibilities were offended. Obviously, these concerns were overridden, as evidenced by my enrollment in the class, but these concerns raise serious questions about how the school views its students, the tenuous balance between maintaining academic integrity and enriching faith, and what the university’s role is in facilitating an environment that properly educates and equips its pupils to interact with different cultures.
Fears that the core tenets of Buddhism would somehow lead students away from Christianity are misguided. While this is an essentially Christian institution, it is not the responsibility of the university to insure that its students remain Christian, nor is it even the school’s place. It is insulting to think that certain classes with viewpoints contrary to Whitworth’s beliefs could have potentially not been offered solely because they would not be promoting the Christian faith. Universities exist to educate people about the information that is out there. Universities exist to help people learn how to think without blinkers. To omit certain kinds of information out of fear would be robbing students of opportunities to be better-rounded people. To withhold information would be falling short; how could one justify the existence of a school which would do something of that nature in an injudicious effort to save our innocent minds? Burying our heads in the sand will not change the fact that there are indeed people who adhere to ideas other than our own. Doing so will make fools of us. Keeping students in ignorance is not the answer.
As individuals who seek knowledge that would elevate our understanding of the world and the different peoples who populate our shared earth, we must learn about their worldviews in a nuanced and in-depth manner without interference. How do we expect to be truly competitive on a global scale in the future if we are hesitant to learn about ideas which have a pervasive influence on entire cultures? They are not dangerous ideas, nor are they heretical. They are simply different ideas — not wrong, just different.
Whether or not we decide the truth in their religions will be the truth that guides our lives is not for the school to decide. Is there not truth in all walks of faith? Anyone who is attending Whitworth has undoubtedly been exposed to the Christian faith. In the end, if Christ’s message is indeed the one and only Truth, would it not prevail? If people choose otherwise, it is their prerogative. It is not the school’s duty to make sure I remain a Christian during my tenure as a Whitworth student. I acknowledge and am pleased with the steps the university has taken, but I still believe there is much that can be improved.