I’m worried, a little bit, about my career. And that’s partly because I’m going to be graduating from Wheaton College in Illinois.
I just can’t help but wonder what future employees are going to think when they realize that I am from the college that is now known for apple-throwings at LGBT activists, leaving hundreds of students hanging out to dry by dropping their student health insurance plan mere days before the new insurance cycle began to protest allegedly abortifacient drugs, and being the alma mater of now shunned former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.
The bad reputation that Wheaton College gets makes me slightly nervous. Employers might think that I’m just a Bible-thumper pulled fresh from the most “churched” town in the nation.
And in a less extreme sense, the stats show that mainline Protestantism doesn’t enjoy the same popularity that it did a year ago, and it continues to fall while more and more people ascribe to an “unaffiliated” status when it comes to religion. That might also make it harder for employers to relate to me.
But some of the things I’m learning at a conservative evangelical school are valuable. Very much so. And the bad press we get wouldn’t match up to the serenity and grace that you, as a visitor, would experience here. Wheaton College is a peaceful, idyllic campus featuring students from dozens of countries and nearly every state. Professors extend undeserved grace. Students will say, “good morning” to you (usually if you initiate).
Some of the things we learn, like offering grace, being compassionate and self-controlled, are useful tools that we’ll carry with us for a lifetime. When crises (like this terrorist attack in Paris) happen, the community gathers and people pray. Our diversity, our integrity, our ambition, and our kindness — those are things that Wheaton College wants to be known for.
Hopefully, that’s something that my future employers will catch on to. And to add to that — the things that you read online and in the newspapers don’t capture what Wheaton students are like. We would like to believe that there is a relatively silent majority on campus that is not there to push any extreme agenda or attack those who don’t believe what they do.
Of course, now that I’ve said all that, I’ll show my hand: I do want to change American culture. I want to rework the complex fabric of the mainstream media by entering the workforce as a journalist. I’m not exactly the same as the secular journalist that you might hire from the University of Missouri or Northwestern. And in this case, the fact that I’m different in ideology might work for me.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to talk to Michael Luo, deputy managing editor of The New York Times, when he explained to me the lack of newsroom diversity at the Times, particularly in the ideological department.
One of the reasons why Wheaton College — and many religious institutions for that matter — get a bad rep is because the newsrooms that people turn to are echo chambers within themselves. These big metropolitan newsrooms have managing editors who hire people like themselves, so they start to resemble a regular metropolitan business, in terms of race and in terms of thought. This makes the newsroom vulnerable to the influence of groupthink. They don’t have the people on their editorial boards who would sympathize with an institution like Wheaton College.
A great piece of news for me is that the newsroom today realizes its deficiency and seeks people who are from different backgrounds, including ideological ones. I wonder if I would be able to fill any gaps in the mainstream American newsroom?
One more connected thought: If Wheaton College wants the media to stop maligning its name, then it should do its part. How? Well, for starters, its journalism certificate program needs to be taken care of better. How about a journalism major or minor at least?
Send well-equipped, Christian journalists out to change the mainstream media from within and the College will see the change in the media that it desires.