EDITORIAL: Have faith in education

Posted by the Editorial Board

On Sept. 11, 2010, a few members of the college's community came together. Amidst the turmoil sparked by the "Ground Zero Mosque" and "International Burn a Koran Day," faculty and students quietly answered questions related to their own personal and intellectual connection to Islam. In contrast to the rampantly combative arguments occurring across the country, everyone involved spoke civilly and with respect.

This kind of dialogue is rare in a country that sometimes seems fueled by hysteria and half-truths. But the Sept. 11 event, called "Unburnable Qurans," holds a different kind of value in a college community that too-frequently falls uneasily silent when discussing faith.

On a campus that comfortably embraces identities related to ethnic background, sexual orientation and economic status, religious belief falls to the margins of the community discourse. With the predominant voice on campus being the indifferently agnostic, students of faith can feel uncomfortable bringing up their religious beliefs among friends or in class discussions. But by relegating religion to the margins of the campus dialogue, students can graduate with only a narrow engagement with different faiths.

When the college talks about diversity and intercultural dialogue, it's easy to just picture the changes to the student body that can be spotted on a promotional brochure. But a college community representing varied religious backgrounds can play an important role in breathing life into campus discourse that, when it comes to topics related to faith, can feel stagnant.

As a college that seeks to make educated and contributing citizens of its students, this is the place for students to engage with other cultures and beliefs through intellectual dialogue. If students graduate without an understanding of other faiths, we just contribute to the rampant ignorance in today's discourse. This is the time to start our journey toward becoming educated members of society, and an understanding of religion is essential to that education.

Events like "Unburnable Qurans" give students the opportunity to learn about religious beliefs as they relate to worldly matters. The newly revitalized Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, which had formerly been associated with only the resources it provides to students of faith, has engaged students in a new way. In events like the one on Sept. 11, the college provided programming that is applicable to the entire campus, both spiritually and intellectually.

The college can only go so far. As students, it's our responsibility to go to events, sign up for classes and engage ourselves in discussions that improve our understanding of the world around us – which includes educating ourselves about other faiths. Let's count ourselves among our country's voices of reason, rather than the deafening fomenters of ignorance.

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