Today, an article I wrote a few days ago for MainStreet.com, about 15 values in higher education, appeared on Yahoo. And, since I said something about a cultural group, I was taken to the woodshed. A couple folks pointed out that JMU is in Harrisonburg (I’m embarrassed to say that I sloppily forgot the “on” in my original article). Also, some tried to say that I had tuition numbers wrong. So I spent a lot of time posting links to the tuition information offered by the schools, and pointing out that the tuition numbers I quoted didn’t include fees, books, living expenses and other costs. But what most people had a problem with is my apparent bigotry against Mormons when I began my description of BYU thus:
If you don’t mind living in the heart of Mormon country, BYU can be a good choice, especially in terms of private school value.
Since I am, in fact, LDS, I didn’t think about how culturally/religiously insensitive I was being to imply that someone might have trouble adjusting to life in a Mormon enclave if they aren’t LDS. When I moved from southeast Idaho (with a relatively high LDS population) to Cedar City as a college freshman I had trouble adjusting to the Mormon culture present in Southern Utah — and SUU isn’t 98.5% LDS like BYU is. I’ve been LDS my entire life. Brainwashed from birth and everything. I’m still very active in the church, teaching Sunday School for the teenagers (although I’m not sure if that will continue now that my bigotry is exposed). But it required adjustment to move to Utah and live in the unique culture that is here. My husband, who has been LDS since he was something like two, experienced an even bigger culture shock when he moved from New York to Utah.
So, I can imagine that it must be an even bigger shock for non-LDS folks to move to Utah and go to BYU. I was recruited by Pacific Lutheran University. It is a fine school, but a period of cultural and religious adjustment would have been required had I chosen to go. I don’t think it’s bigotry to say that, as a Mormon, I would have had to get used to going to school with a mostly Lutheran student body. Any time you go anywhere that you are a cultural minority, you can expect to experience a degree of discomfort until you learn the ropes. But, frankly, I think the particularly insular nature of Utah County (88% LDS in 2003, according to the Deseret News, and probably still at least 75% LDS) would provide a rather large culture shock for anyone who hadn’t lived in Utah before. Mormon culture is different. And Utah Mormon culture can, in my opinion, be even more different.
I’m sorry if that offends you.