The value of a Mennonite education

Reprinted from my Facebook page:

Of all the classes that stuck with me from my Tabor College years, the one that remains most clear in my mind was an interterm my senior year called “Wartime Heroes of Peace.” I remember a little bit about heroes. What I mostly remember is our discussion of how dehumanizing language always prepped the ground for atrocities and disasters.

It was during the middle of taking this class I covered, as an intern reporter for the Marion County Record, a Marion City Council meeting that, toward the end, featured one member of the council worrying that the city was being “jewed” by some other entity, with a second council member agreeing that said “jewing” — he also used the word — was a distinct possibility.

If I hadn’t taken David Faber’s class in that moment, I probably wouldn’t have done what I did next: At the end of the meeting I did something I never did as a reporter ever again in my career: I stood and told the council the language they were using was reprehensible. And then I walked out.

The entire Marion City Council followed me back to the office.

There weren’t apologies, exactly. But there was a concern about if I had *special* reason to object to that language. (In retrospect, I’ve known a few other Joels in my life. Very few have been Gentiles, like myself.) I didn’t write about it. They didn’t use the language in meetings anymore, but I don’t think they felt chastened – one of the members complained to my dad about it. (I was 22 at the time.)

Anyway: The class continues to be a touchstone for me. Unfortunately, it’s still necessary. I remain grateful to David Faber for his smart, gentle and humane teaching. It remains an influence to this day.

Author: joeldermole

Joel Mathis is a freelance writer who lives in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife and son. He spent nine years as a syndicated columnist, co-writing the RedBlueAmerica column as the liberal half of a point-counterpoint duo. His honors include awards for best online commentary from the Online News Association and (twice) from the City and Regional Magazine Association.

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