World Divisions

North American

Diversity on Campus: The Role that Educators Serve (Part 1)

Did you ever read, as a child, those giant, blue books called “The Bible Story”?  Every Seventh-day Adventist household with children that I know of had those books.  They were like the equivalent to Marvel comics or Mother Goose’s nursery rhymes, complete with happily ever after endings and good triumphing over evil.  These stories make us feel good.  We love happy endings.  We like being on the winning side. But in order to share that victory or win, we must face and conquer struggles, overcome plot-twisting challenges, and stand strong in the face of unfortunate events.

So where are we at when it comes to equality, diversity, and multiculturalism in Adventist Education?  I believe we are on the verge of a win, but we are not there yet.  Significant progress has been made; however, we have shortcomings. Discussing a sensitive topic such as ethnic and racial relationships can often be uncomfortable and emotional, and quite frankly, it doesn’t make us feel good.  So, my request is that you indulge me for a minute in an educational dialogue. 

Multi-ethnic group of young people looking at a tablet computer outdoors in urban background. Group of men and woman sitting together on steps.During graduate school, our multiculturalism class was divided up into three groups and separated into three rooms with art supplies. We were challenged to create something out of the materials that were supplied to us.  It was an exciting competition where we would be judged on functionality, creativity, colorfulness, beauty, and style.

I entered the room and there on the table sat a stack of newspapers, tape, brown paper bags, and a lousy stapler.  This was going to be tough!  Time was limited, so we had to think fast! A tree? We jumped right into twisting newspaper and tearing paper bags to form a self-balancing tree.  I may be biased, but it was quite the impressive creation made in just a short period of time.

The time to judge each room’s masterpiece had come. Once they had reached our project there was not very much commentary, but I knew the judges were impressed.  Then we all went into the next room to judge the next group’s creation.  They created something that was rather impressive but, truth be told, not better than our tree. Upon further examination of their supplies, I noticed extra items to work with such as multiple colored papers, markers, glue, etc.  We moved on into the third room, and I was blown aback by their creation. Overcome with anger, I cannot recall what they made. I simply remember staring at their creation then their supply table, which was littered with colorful paints, construction paper, sticks, ropes, scissors, glitter, glue guns, and more. This group did not work harder or longer than us, they were just allowed easier access to valuable materials and helpful supplies.

Needless to say, they won, but I was left feeling disadvantaged, cheated, and unfairly treated in this activity. We were all judged on the same standard scale, but yet this other group was seemingly provided more materials to work with.  I can admit, I am a little competitive but this was blatantly unfair.  By the time the class opened up for discussion, I had been holding in a lot and had some words to share on the fairness of this competition.  That’s when they broke it down for us, “Privilege.”

In my next post, I’ll share more about how our understanding of privilege and everything it entails, should radically shift our own teaching methods and overall approach as educators in academic settings.

James Cephas

Cephas, PsyD. works as a clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor at Pacific Union College, USA. He has over 25 years in the human service field including Psychologist for the California Department of Correction, Therapist at Loma Linda University Behavioral Medicine Center, Program Director at Keystone Schools, Detention officer at Cook County Juvenile Detention, and Social Service for Orange County.
James Cephas

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