Country music singer Rodney Atkins has a line about getting “discount knowledge at the junior college.” My introduction to post-secondary education came at what was then called Dalton Junior College in northwest Georgia.
Though it lacked the academic prestige of nationally known schools, it was a good transition into a more responsible era of life. The commuter experience enabled me — financially, emotionally, academically — to then go on to a fine senior college.
My gratitude remains high for the good professors like Drs. George Jones, Tom Deaton and Terry Christie who taught me at what now carries the more uppity title of Dalton State College.
Their enthusiasm for history, political science and philosophy was contagious. Professor Christie was inquisitive — a searcher who carried us along. In the mid-70s he wore jeans to class and took us on a mountain behind the campus on occasion to enhance the pursuit of truth.
Dr. Deaton had a seminary degree, once sang in a quartet with the late Baptist funnyman Grady Nutt, and had been invited into theological discussions with Elvis. He introduced me to my first serious philosophical inquiry that continued through three additional educational experiences.
Dr. Jones was a Nixon Republican and Baptist layman with a warped sense of humor that connected to mine. Classes were simply unpredictable and rarely touched by boredom.
When a couple of students and I sought to establish the first Baptist Student Union (BSU) on campus, George agreed to be our faculty advisor — a role he filled wonderfully for many, many years. With his help, and that of then-college President Derrell Roberts and others, the campus ministry group was formed in the fall of 1975.
The teacher with whom I connected the least was a sociology professor with long frizzy hair, tie-dyed shirts and sandals. He pedaled a bike to school and seemed to have little in common with most in this conservative community.
He wrote his name, “Allen,” on the chalkboard the first day of class. I wondered if it was “Mr. Allen” or “Dr. Allen,” but it turned to be his first name. That’s what the hippie prof wanted to be called.
When we discussed the dynamics of marriage and family, a recent transfer from Bob Jones University insisted that God intended for husbands to be head of households. The weird professor said he didn’t accept the Bible as authoritative.
What? Our naïve little world had been shattered. It was commonplace to see behavior out of line with biblical teaching, but how dare someone come out and say the Bible is not true or applicable?
Allen not only insisted on gender equality, he talked about the importance of healthier lifestyles. He urged us to avoid nicotine addiction, fatty fast foods and sedentary routines. We laughed as we made our way to the Burger King or McDonald’s on nearby Walnut Avenue each day.
With more than three decades in the rear-view mirror, of course, I can see that the nutty professor was right about a lot of things. In fact, he saw truths we Bible-sure young Christians were blind to at that time and place.
Such confessions would be harder to make if not for the fact that I take a wider look in seeking truth than in many years before. While still convinced that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life — I don’t always get the inside view or the correct interpretation.
The lesson for me is that one should never discount what can be learned from others — even those with very different starting points.