Sunday, August 15, 2010

University vs Fundamentalist Christian

 
Timothy Larsen writes for Times Higher Education [Opinion: Stop turning the other cheek].
I had lunch this summer with a prospective graduate student at the evangelical college where I teach. I will call him John, because that happens to be his name. John has done well academically at a public university. Nevertheless, as often happens, he said that he was looking forward to coming to a Christian university, and then launched into a story of religious discrimination.

John had been a straight-A student until he enrolled in English writing. The assignment was an “opinion” piece and the required theme was “traditional marriage”. John is a Southern Baptist and he felt it was his duty to give his honest opinion and explain how it was grounded in his faith. The professor was annoyed that John claimed the support of the Bible for his views, scribbling in the margin, “Which Bible would that be?” On the very same page, John’s phrase, “Christians who read the Bible,” provoked the same retort, “Would that be the Aramaic Bible, the Greek Bible, or the Hebrew Bible?” (What could the point of this be? Did the professor want John to imagine that while the Greek text might support his view of traditional marriage, the Aramaic version did not?) The paper was rejected as a “sermon” and given an F, with the words “I reject your dogmatism” written at the bottom by way of explanation.
It's religious discrimination. John didn't get an "F" because he was incapable of presenting a rational argument. He failed because he's a Christian.

This is a serious problem for IDiots and fundamentalists. They are, for the most part, incapable of learning how to think without abandoning their dogmatic religious views. In an ideal world, that would make it very difficult to graduate from university while maintaining their faith. (Unless they can fake it by pretending to be tolerant and rational.)

Fortunately John has found the solution—he's going to an evangelical college for his graduate degree. Now he won't have to deal with the problem of being challenged to think rationally.


16 comments :

  1. Assuming of course that this story is even true. It sounds a lot like the guy claiming religious discrimination on Chris Mooney's site that turned out to be lying and guilty of sock puppetry. Given the comfort many of the religious have with lying, it would not surprise me if Larsen, or the student, just made it all up.

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  2. Professor claims NY college favored gays over him
    WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. — A professor who was fired from a small private college says he was discriminated against for being heterosexual, Hungarian and a man; that his bosses favored gay colleagues known as the Merry Men; and that he was let go in retaliation for complaining to the state...

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  3. John had been a straight-A student until he enrolled in English writing. The assignment was an “opinion” piece and the required theme was “traditional marriage”.

    I'm confused. Since when does an English writing assignment to produce an opinion piece have anything to abandoning dogmatic religious views? It's an opinion piece that presumably should be judged on its use of the English language. Should a Christian English professor be able to fail an atheist who wrote an opnion piece in support of atheism irrespective of how well it was written?

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  4. You think if the student pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot the professor dead, the professor would implore him to look and see if his bible prohibited that?

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  5. An opinion piece for an English class, as opposed to a philosophy class, is as much about rhetorical devices as logic, so it doesn't necessarily imply thinking rationally. However, the audience has to be taken into consideration when using rhetorical devices. If the opinion piece was supposed to be targeted at the general public, then constant references to the Bible can be criticized as a poor choice (lots of Americans are Christians, but they don't all like to wear it on their sleeves all the time). Unfortunately, assuming the report is true, it looks like the teacher went overboard in giving the guy an F (as opposed to maybe a C) due to personal prejudices.

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  6. I think it's delusional to think that we can state what grade John should have gotten unless we have the text of the paper.

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  7. Pieret: "It's an opinion piece that presumably should be judged on its use of the English language."

    I can only assume you've never taken an course in writing. The ability to string words into sentences is not the objective here.

    Assigning students an opinion piece is an exercise in persuasive writing and critical thinking. Points are deducted for regurgitated arguments and unsupported assertions. An F is harsh, but without seeing the quality of the paper, who are we to second guess the instructor.

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  8. ... an opinion piece is an exercise in persuasive writing and critical thinking. Points are deducted for regurgitated arguments and unsupported assertions.

    That sounds more like a rhetoric or political science class than an English class. And, since the topic was supposedly "traditional marriage," why couldn't a student make an argument that would be persuasive to a sizable portion of the public based on their beliefs? Would he gotten points off for "regurgitating" the Constitution?

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  9. Pieret: "That sounds more like a rhetoric or political science class than an English class."

    Rhetoric classes are often offered in English departments. Why do you assume critical thinking and persuasive writing have no place in English Comp?

    And since you suggested it, regurgitating the Constitution and nothing more is a failure of the assignment. At best he should have had to re-submit.

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  10. Rhetoric classes are often offered in English departments. Why do you assume critical thinking and persuasive writing have no place in English Comp?

    What reason is there to assume that this class was aimed at critical thinking or persuasive writing of a particular type that excluded appeals to religious belief?

    And since you suggested it, regurgitating the Constitution and nothing more is a failure of the assignment.

    And why assume that the student in this case didn't do "anything more"?

    Granted, we're all just groping around without access to the assignment and the paper but there is no reason to assume there was no rational argument simply because he appealed to the Bible.

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  11. Given the comfort many of the religious have with lying, it would not surprise me if Larsen, or the student, just made it all up.

    These sorts of denials are always funny. The same people who argue that anything drawn from the "Jewish influence" should be censored, discriminated against and so on will often insist that nothing actually happens.

    As it was said in the original post:
    In an ideal world, that would make it very difficult to graduate from university while maintaining their faith.

    And yet if a case comes to light in which the "ideal world" comes about, well that's probably just a lie?

    (Unless they can fake it by pretending to be tolerant and rational.)

    Traditional marriage has much to do with the rise of "tolerant and rational" civilization as we know it. Ironically you are taking the other side, as those who believe in nature based paganism generally do.

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  12. Granted, we're all just groping around without access to the assignment and the paper but there is no reason to assume there was no rational argument simply because he appealed to the Bible.

    You don't need to grope around, just look at the original post as a matter of principle. They said:
    He failed because he's a Christian.

    This is a serious problem for IDiots and fundamentalists. They are, for the most part, incapable of learning how to think without abandoning their dogmatic religious views. In an ideal world, that would make it very difficult to graduate from university while maintaining their faith.


    olerance has generally been a virtue of proponents of ID like Thomas Jefferson and the American Founders, not those who fall into nature based paganism in the name of science.

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  13. Pieret: "What reason is there to assume that this class was aimed at critical thinking or persuasive writing of a particular type that excluded appeals to religious belief?"

    The particular type of persuasive writing is obviously one of scholarship, where simple appeals to authority are don't pass muster. Why is that so hard to understand?

    Pieret: "Granted, we're all just groping around without access to the assignment and the paper [...]"

    Indeed, you are! This entire time you've been defending the student, without having read the paper, and second-guessing the judgment of the instructor. I'm not saying the student didn't make a rational argument, I'm providing a reasonable explanation why the instructor would dock points.

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  14. Vene writes: I think it's delusional to think that we can state what grade John should have gotten unless we have the text of the paper.

    Exactly. Larry, I'm quite surprised. You're usually better than this, unless the idea was to provide some sort of Rorshach at which people can throw whatever entrenched opinions they have in the absence of evidence.

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  15. Re mynym

    Tolerance has generally been a virtue of proponents of ID like Thomas Jefferson and the American Founders, not those who fall into nature based paganism in the name of science.

    Of what relevance is the opinion of Jefferson and other "founders" on creationism? They lacked the benefit of findings in biology after Charles Darwin and could not have believed in anything except creationism. Charles Darwin was a creationist when he stepped on board the Beagle. It was the evidence he collected during the voyage of that ship that convinced him that the Reverend Paley was wrong.

    They not only knew nothing of the evidence collected by and after after Darwin, they were also ignorant of quantum mechanics and relativity. Is Mr. mynym going to claim that quantum mechanics and relativity are wrong because Jefferson didn't know anything about it?

    Mr. mynym preaches tolerance. Intolerance of ignorance is no vice, tolerance of stupidity is no virtue.

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