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Two Minds Diverged in a Culture

The longer I am in academia, the more I see just how different of a mindset there is between ‘ordinary folks’ and ‘movers and shakers.’ This difference in worldview is there independent of the presence or absence of faith.

Both groups are acutely aware of the difference between them, and both tend to look upon the other disparagingly. The ‘movers and shakers’ (academics, politicians, etc.) are viewed by ‘ordinary folks’ as ‘elitist,’ and ‘out of touch with the real world.’ The ‘ordinary folks’ are viewed as simpletons, hics, seeing in black and white what is really shades of gray, ‘nuanced’ and ‘complex.’

As a general rule, the ‘ordinary folks’ tend to come from the world of sweat, dirt, and hands-on work. The ‘movers and shakers’ tend to come from the world of ideas and theory. They tend to feel that if the idea works on paper, it must work in reality and when it doesn’t, it just means it wasn’t implemented properly; it can’t be that it was a bad idea in the first place. That said, the ‘ordinary folks’ also need to realize that ideas and words do have power to shape things, and there is benefit in appreciating complexity, working through ramifications; that not everything is black and white with a simple solution.

Having grown up semi-rural, currently living in a small town and going to a rural church, yet having spent most of my adult life so far at some of the most prestigious universities in the world, I am painfully aware of the dichotomy, and really feel like I live in two worlds.

While I see truth in both the positive and negative stereotypes of both groups, I find it difficult to translate one group’s worldview in a way that the other group can really understand.

Both groups are fully human, with all that entails. Both have reasons for their views that are based solidly in reality. Both have blindspots.

It seems that as educators, we have the opportunity to bridge the gaps, if we will humbly extend grace to each and not take sides so strongly, trying to force our students to fit into a given mold, but engage, possibly even learning some of what we have forgotten if we came from the others’ background and lost it over time.

God deliberately created us with a spectrum of viewpoints, and we would be wise to charitably and from a Christ-centered viewpoint take the strengths of each and soften the weaknesses. It would be amazing to see the progress we would then make.


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