I had a student the other day ask me how my love of learning about other cultures had impacted by own religion and life. As a teacher of world history and culture, I live for those kinds of questions. However, I am careful about how I answer because I know that, as a teacher (especially a young teacher), I can be an overly influential force in my students’ lives.
Well after some thought, my answer to this student was essentially this: “My learning about other cultures and religions has only strengthened my own. My desire to learn about others has made me painfully aware of how little I knew of my own religion and history. So in actuality, it awoke in me a desire for traditions that I had previous brushed off as superstitious. However, there are some people who learn about other culture or religions and leave their ‘home’ tradition. So it is a knowledge to gain with careful thought.”
Read more: Learning not Converting
We continued to talk about the value of a global perspective in our modern-day world but this conversation really touched me on the real purpose of being an educator: to teach contemplative self-awareness.
Sure, I want my kids to remember the purpose of Stonehenge or the names of the great Greek philosophers, but deep down inside I would be happy if they just walked out of my classroom with a sense of curiosity in their place within the history of the world. And in this narcissistic social media society I don’t mind that my kids become more self-aware of their smallness in the trek of time.
My aim isn’t that my students to convert to my brand of political or social ideology but I do want them to understand why they believe what they believe, how that shapes their actions and thoughts, and be more thoughtful of their personal growth as they change into young men and women. I can’t image that that student ever thought his simple question after my lecture on Hindu art and architecture would inspire such introspection in me! Goes to show, you never know the influence you have on others. 🙂