by Bill Boerman-Cornell and Neil Okuley
During a 2005 commencement address, author David Foster Wallace pleaded with the graduates of Kenyon College to be aware of and do battle with what he called our “default setting.” He argued that our default setting is thoroughly self-focused, preventing us from truly being able to see and connect with those around us. This setting guides our day-to-day choices unless we make a conscious decision to challenge our thinking.
David Foster Wallace probably did not realize that he was paraphrasing Romans 12:3 wherein Paul instructs followers of Christ “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment” (ESV). Teachers and students at Christian schools have an incredible opportunity to practice this command every day. Thinking soberly in community is hard enough but can become even more challenging when cultural diversity is a factor.
Over the last few years, we have been working on starting Unity Christian Academy (UCA), a new Christian high school in South Holland, Illinois. South Holland is an anomaly in Chicagoland, reflecting wide socioeconomic, racial, and ecumenical diversity. In starting UCA, we seek to build a flourishing community not despite diversity but because of it. Trying to bring different communities, cultures, and traditions together is hard work. Different ways of worshiping, fellowshipping, and even speaking about faith presents a great deal of potential for misunderstanding, even when we are united by belief in the same God and savior. So why should we bother?
While it has been an exciting opportunity for us to have the chance to design a school from the ground up, working to connect our school to a multitude of diverse communities has taught us some things. While we certainly do not consider ourselves experts and while we humbly recognize that we have a lot to learn, here are ten lessons we have learned so far.
Bill Boerman-Cornell is professor of Education and English at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL.
Neil’s life has been a 19/14 year split between Van Wert, Ohio, and Chicagoland. His first experience with Christian education was as an undergrad at Wheaton College. From there, he spent ten years teaching social studies and coaching mock trial and track at Chicago Christian High School in Palos Heights, IL. In 2017, Neil jumped at the chance to help start Unity Christian Academy in South Holland, IL.