Transcending Culture, Location and School Size
Unity through diversity at first glance appears to be an oxymoron, juxtaposed against a landscape crying out for similarity. As we near the final moments of Earth’s history, unified diversity will prove to be the cord of solidarity that will bind all persons together regardless of age, ethnicity or location. In 1908, Zangwill described America as a “melting pot,” but by the 1960s Crevecoeur altered the metaphor to reflect a “salad bowl.” The melting pot celebrated unity, with the intentional melding of our differences for the sake of the new culture. While the salad bowl, which also celebrated unity, highlighted the importance of maintaining each person's individual uniqueness. It illuminated the fact that our differences actually made us richer, and set the stage for a well-rounded, culturally rich learning environment.
One could ask, how does all of this apply to not just education, but specifically to an Adventist education? Adventist education is both a ministry and a movement. It is the living embodiment of the salad bowl, which fosters the development of the 7C’s missional directives, which are inclusive of: A Connection to God and Others, Citizenship, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication and Character. With that foundation, both students and teachers learn to embrace and appreciate their world through a multifocal perspective, which mirrors how God sees and interacts with each of us. This commingling is a mere replica of what will be experienced in our heavenly classroom. It will be the illumination of the different God-ordained journeys that were meticulously interwoven to enable us to meet, unified at the feet of Jesus.
As a third-generation Adventist, a preacher’s kid, a teacher’s kid and an educator myself, I can personally attest to the fact that my life has only been enhanced by the unified diversity of the Adventist movement. While I was fortified by the differences that enriched my experience, the consistency of Adventist education remained a welcomed constant no matter where I was residing. It has been my privilege over the years to partner with and learn from a diverse group of educators that broadened my professional practice and enriched my personal life. Despite the new faces, languages and cultural experiences, the unifying cord was always the same: an unwavering, loving, nurturing dedication to providing academic excellence for each child. Even though that was a primary goal, it was second only to the ministry of ensuring that each student was introduced to Christ and the benefits of cultivating a lasting relationship with Him.
Whether teaching slope-intercept form in Algebra I or letter of the week during kindergarten circle time, the ultimate goal was always the same. It was the promise of introducing each child to Jesus. It is and will always be the one unifying theme that will transcend culture, size or location of any school. It is the guaranteed equitable unification of a God-centered nurturing educational experience through a myriad of differences. It is the globally diverse unified distinctive imprint of an Adventist education.
By Renee Whiting, Southwestern Union Associate Director of Education