Before you turn the tassel, take a class on cultural conversations

By Mesha Mittanasala | Photographer

Oftentimes, required classes may seem unnecessary and unhelpful in our everyday lives. However, each one has been chosen to further our education and our perspectives at Baylor. Classes that should be added to this list are those emphasizing cultural conversations. This could include English classes that focus on multicultural literature, history classes that examine a certain ethnic group, medical humanities classes that discuss race in medicine and so many more.

These classes are so important for the betterment of our student body and our society. The Baylor campus is filled with many different people from many different backgrounds. In order to further unify our student body, we must start by learning our histories and why we act a certain way. We may be well-versed in the American Revolution, but what about the civil rights movement, the Trail of Tears or the Japanese internment camps? By going beyond our textbooks, this allows for stereotypes and biases to be questioned and dismantled. Further, students in underrepresented communities are encouraged to pursue their academic interests when they read texts written by those who look like them or have similar experiences.

Classes like these expose students to difficult conversations that they wouldn’t have on their own, topics that they wouldn’t know about before and literature that they wouldn’t have read prior. These activities can highlight the privileges someone has as an individual and shift their perspective on things they take for granted.

Overall, classes that feature cultural conversations improve students’ cultural competency, which is “the ability of a person to effectively interact, work and develop meaningful relationships with people of various cultural backgrounds,” according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This skill is incredibly important in any career in any industry, as students work with people from different parts of the country and different parts of the world. In her book titled “Conditional Citizens,” Laila Lalami highlights the importance of learning about other people’s history when she explains, “The more citizens of different backgrounds know about one another, the better they are able to work together, form alliances on issues of common interest and resist calls of division from merchants of war.”

In addition, these types of classes encourage students to adopt a social justice mindset in their other classrooms, their future workplaces and their communities. With critical thinking abilities and other skills they develop, students are empowered to become agents of change.

So, why should these classes be mandatory?

Because if we can’t have these conversations in college, when will we be able to have them in the workplace and beyond? These conversations are very difficult to have, but a professor who is well-versed in topics can lead discussions and create a safe space so that everyone has an opportunity to learn and express their opinions.

Registration for next semester is approaching, so you may want to consider a class that encourages cultural conversations — such as EST 2300 (Introduction to Ethnic Studies), CSS 3314 (Cross-Cultural Communication), MH 4398 (Disrupting Racial Disparities in Health Care), TED 3380 (Social Issues in Education) and JOU 4305 (Gender, Race and Media). Look at the registrar to see if there are any classes in your major that may give you a new perspective on your career path or life. If classes like Christian Heritage and Christian Scriptures are mandatory, classes that promote cultural conversations should be required as well.