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Professor Fails Student for Refusing to Conform to His Anti-Christian Bias
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Old 05-08-2015, 11:36 AM
mjr mjr is offline
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Default Professor Fails Student for Refusing to Conform to His Anti-Christian Bias

The headline reeks of "headline porn", and I couldn't figure out whether or not to put this here, or under "Social Woes"...so it's here...

Professor Fails Student for Refusing to Conform to His Anti-Christian Bias

http://www.breitbart.com/big-governm...hristian-bias/
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Old 05-08-2015, 12:41 PM
Kheldarson Kheldarson is offline
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I'd be interested to see how an independent group views his curriculum and her assignments. On the one hand, some of the questions he asked were fair (like focusing on how Christianity was over how it is now), but he asked them in horrible ways. And I'm not sure how you discuss Luther without discussing his theology. That was kinda what drove him.
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Old 05-08-2015, 03:55 PM
Aragarthiel Aragarthiel is offline
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I can understand how he might not want students to answer in ways that might be considered religious (like the part about not talking about how Christianity is great for women), considering most of what he seems to be teaching (or is supposed to be) is historical. But once he starts asking questions that delve into religion, he can't really expect an absolutely non-religious answer.

It reminds me of when I was taking World History in high school. When we reached the time for us to talk about the time and places that coincided with Jesus, he explained that he would try his best to stay out of religious talk and only present the facts. He did rather well, we learned quite a bit about Julius Caesar's presence in the Middle East at that time, and Jesus was only mentioned a few times. The Bible was never "debunked," he simply elaborated on events of the time. I live in the Bible Belt and not one student was made uncomfortable by his lessons. We also explored the histories of other religions, and again, not one student was uncomfortable. I live non-religiously and found his class to be one of my favorites throughout school, as a matter of fact.

My point is, there's a line between anti-Christian and non-religious. By continuing to speak in any sort of religious way and not allowing his students to do so in their answers, he crosses that line.
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Old 05-08-2015, 07:24 PM
s_stabeler s_stabeler is offline
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It depends on what the course IS, actually.

why? because the first assignment seems to be looking at how Christians acted in the poast- and, I hate top say it, but Christianity WAS bigoted in the Middle Ages. As for the second assignment, it appears to be asking for an analysis of political reasons for Luther's Reformation, rather than an assignment rehashing the theological arguments.

In other words, it sounds like while the teacher IS biased, it could well be a history class- in which case, he isn't entirely wrong to want the religious arguments kept out of his classroom.
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Old 05-08-2015, 07:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kheldarson View Post
I'd be interested to see how an independent group views his curriculum and her assignments. On the one hand, some of the questions he asked were fair (like focusing on how Christianity was over how it is now), but he asked them in horrible ways. And I'm not sure how you discuss Luther without discussing his theology. That was kinda what drove him.
If you look at the article on Brietbart (hardly an impartial source) you can find one of the student's actual assignments, uploaded. So I looked at it.

Now I do have some issues with the way the assignment was worded. You could easily interpret the instructor's characterization of Christianity's "male gods" to be inflammatory and showing an anti religious bias since in Christianity there is only one God, the Triune God. The instructor also uses the word mythology in the assignment; another loaded term that has implicit bias.

However, it is quite possible to do well on this assignment and be a devout Christian if you simply ignore those loaded terms and follow the directions of the assignment.

The student did not do that.

For example, the instructor told the student to:

Quote:
You are to only answer the above three questions. SECOND, and this is VERY important, I DO NOT want you to write about how wonderful you think Christianity is now because women can do A, B, or C. History is history and facts are facts and your opinion on if it is better now or not is irrelevant for this discussion.
The first paragraph of the response the student proceeds to state:

Quote:
However, the true universal Christian Church from ancient times to the present has always been one that is grounded in the principles of God’s Word as explained in the Bible. The collective “Church” of the Middle Ages was thus not completely grounded in the teachings of Christ or Holy Scripture.
What the professor wanted to avoid was students gushing about how wonderful Christianity is. Just because the student didn't gush about Christianity and women doesn't mean she followed the instructions of the assignment. Her statement is her personal opinion of the Christianity practiced in the Middle Ages as seen through the lens of her Protestant faith. It is opinion and not fact which is what the professor specifically told the class not to include.

Her answer to question one starts out very well, and had she stuck to that I actually would have accepted the answer and given her credit, even though what the professor really wanted was for her to answer the question using her understanding of Christian values in the context of the time in question, not the modern lens. Unfortunately, the student couldn't resist viewing Lady Julian through her personal lens, which is what she was specifically instructed not to do.

She also misunderstood Catholic teachings of the time, which didn't help when she finally got around to addressing the meat of the actual question.

Question 2 is harder to evaluate since I don't have the source material at hand. I found her comment that the authors of that material were "filtering their views through a feminist and Marxist lens" intriguing . . . while it may be true, she needs to provide supporting citation for the claim or it is mere opinion, and therefore I would have deducted points on that basis.

Question 3 is also hard to evaluate without the original reading material. However, I find there is something to what the student says; as I noted myself Question 3 used loaded language such as Christianity's male gods (when there is only the Triune God). But then again, that actually seems to have been the point; to challenge the student with provocative language and questions.

But here's the thing. The point of a liberal education is to challenge ones preconceived notions. So if I wanted to challenge the prevailing view points towards Christian thought and the history of Christianity which are still pretty much mainstream, I would ask questions with loaded terms like this. So while I recognize the language, terms, and phrasing for what they are, I also think the professor did not do anything improper in making his assignments.

It seems to me the student was offended by the assignment and decided to argue with the professor in her work rather than make a persuasive argument in the opposite direction of what she perceived him to want. That's not a recipe for success. I would not have given the assignment a zero. But I would have marked it down.

I think the idea of discussing Luther as a humanist is very advanced for undergraduate level work. This is a graduate level topic. But that's just my humble opinion. I actually have no problem with the assignment itself, for the reason I just mentioned above.

The dean had a good point in his response to the family when they complained. The professor DOES have academic freedom to teach the course the way he wants and as long as he treats all students the same, he's within his rights. You do not appeal individual grades to the dean. You can only appeal the course grade. You have to show that the professor was inconsistent in his teaching methods, didn't stick to his Syllabus or Rubrics (if he had them, which I wonder about--I always use them) or calculated the grade incorrectly to get a grade changed.

The parents countered the professor was not "teaching the textbook." No college professor does. A textbook is only support material. It is not the final word. The professor teaches the course with texts as supporting material, not the other way around.

The student was given an opportunity to drop. She should have done so. She wasn't being downgraded for being a Christian. She was downgraded for not doing the assignment as it was given.

The college didn't back down to the lawyers her family hired. A lawsuit will go nowhere; the courts are unlikely to take up the case since the student was afforded the opportunity to drop, didn't, and was given a grade change to an A when she bitched. Professors have academic freedom, and the courts aren't going to tell professors how or what to teach.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Aragarthiel View Post
My point is, there's a line between anti-Christian and non-religious. By continuing to speak in any sort of religious way and not allowing his students to do so in their answers, he crosses that line.
College is not high school, and this was a college level course. The student was in high school but taking a college course for college credit and she was told it would not be adjusted for her benefit because of her age before she registered.

College courses are meant to challenge our usual ways of thinking. Crossing lines is the PURPOSE of higher education, and it's why the tenure system developed: to protect professors from the same kind of blowback the professor is dealing with when crossing those lines makes people uncomfortable and upset.

The professor was trying to get people to look past the religious aspects of the topic, and into other issues. The student utterly failed to do this, and that's why she was failing his course.
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Old 05-08-2015, 07:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kheldarson View Post
I'd be interested to see how an independent group views his curriculum and her assignments. On the one hand, some of the questions he asked were fair (like focusing on how Christianity was over how it is now), but he asked them in horrible ways. And I'm not sure how you discuss Luther without discussing his theology. That was kinda what drove him.
Luther didn't want to change or destroy the Catholic Church. He wanted to reform it. And he was in fact a Humanist. What a humanist meant back then is different from what it means today; humanism was originally a philosophy within Christianity, not external to it as it is often perceived today (the proper term for modern humanism is Secular Humanism). Thomas More and Henry the VIII were contemporaries of Luther, and were also humanists. Humanism of that time turned away from medieval thought on religion and returned to the roots of Western civilization in Rome and Greece. Rationalism and independent thought were valued over taking everything on blind faith, but it did stay within the cocoon of Christianity.

Henry abandoned humanism in his quest to seek a divorce and through his battles with the Pope, and his subsequent need to maintain an iron grip on his throne.

You can easily discuss the humanist thought of these major figures without relying on the Bible, simply by looking at the Roman and Greek thought humanism sprang from; because the early humanists saw no conflict between religion and humanism you can focus on the emphasis on reason, rational thinking and independent thinking that is what drove the Renaissance.

Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is anathema to fundamentalist Christian thinking which relies only on the Bible as a source of truth, and it's why this student couldn't bring herself to complete the assignments as given: she could not bring herself to look at humanism as Luther would have seen it to answer the question, and insisted on looking at it only through the modern view of secular humanism, which she conflated with Marxism and feminism.

This student threw away a golden opportunity to look at the world in a different light.

Quote:
Originally Posted by s_stabeler View Post
It depends on what the course IS, actually.

why? because the first assignment seems to be looking at how Christians acted in the poast- and, I hate top say it, but Christianity WAS bigoted in the Middle Ages. As for the second assignment, it appears to be asking for an analysis of political reasons for Luther's Reformation, rather than an assignment rehashing the theological arguments.

In other words, it sounds like while the teacher IS biased, it could well be a history class- in which case, he isn't entirely wrong to want the religious arguments kept out of his classroom.
Here's the course description from the Polk State College web page:

Quote:
Course Description:
In this course, students study the humanities through interaction with creative achievements from the past in music, art, architecture, dramatic arts, literature, and philosophy. Students study the fundamental elements of each art form to participate, using both creativity and critical evaluation. Though this course emphasizes Western heritage, material within the curriculum represents diverse cultures from around the world and provides a global perspective.
It's a humanities class: HUM 2020 in their course catalog (I got this from Brietbart's page). So there's a bit of history, a bit of religion, and a bit of philosophy, art, etc all mixed together.

It really seems to me more and more the professor wanted to spice up the class rather than drone at them for 3 hours a week. While I might question whether some of the assignments were appropriate for the level of the course, there is no question he had the right to assign what he wanted, and the actual nature of the assignments is perfectly appropriate.
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Old 05-08-2015, 08:26 PM
Kheldarson Kheldarson is offline
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Originally Posted by Panacea View Post

If you look at the article on Brietbart (hardly an impartial source) you can find one of the student's actual assignments, uploaded. So I looked at it.
Was at work and very limited data plan. So hadn't had a chance to look at it.

But if her assignments were all like that, I can understand her grade.
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Old 05-09-2015, 02:43 AM
Aragarthiel Aragarthiel is offline
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Originally Posted by Panacea View Post
College is not high school, and this was a college level course.
I wasn't trying to compare high school classes versus college classes, but the teaching methods used. It's entirely possible to teach a student the curriculum without risking offending said student, and he didn't use that method. I understand that yes, the student did seem to say, "This is what I believe, and I'm not going to do your assignment because I don't like what you say," but his method was not the best choice. Not because she was in high school, but because religion is something that some people will defend no matter what. Something like this was going to happen sooner or later, and he really should have seen it coming.

Having never been religious myself, there are parts of this that I don't understand, but having read through the other posts here, I can see it pretty clearly from both sides. Her approach was immature, but his approach wasn't squeaky clean either.
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Old 05-09-2015, 02:26 PM
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After reading only the direct link, it looks like two general rules still hold:

1) Anything from an address containing "breitbart" is going to be, at best, presented in such a twisted light that it's best not to bother reading it at all, and


2) Anyone Liberty Counsel supports is probably in the wrong.
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Old 05-09-2015, 03:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aragarthiel View Post
I wasn't trying to compare high school classes versus college classes, but the teaching methods used. It's entirely possible to teach a student the curriculum without risking offending said student, and he didn't use that method. I understand that yes, the student did seem to say, "This is what I believe, and I'm not going to do your assignment because I don't like what you say," but his method was not the best choice. Not because she was in high school, but because religion is something that some people will defend no matter what. Something like this was going to happen sooner or later, and he really should have seen it coming.

Having never been religious myself, there are parts of this that I don't understand, but having read through the other posts here, I can see it pretty clearly from both sides. Her approach was immature, but his approach wasn't squeaky clean either.
If you're going to challenge a student's assumptions you have to take the risk you might offend the student.

You might not have intended to compare high school with college, but it's what you did.

The professor is probably used to dealing with adults, not children. Of course, blowback can happen no matter what subject you're teaching or regardless of the age of the student. I've had students very upset with me. You should read some of my course evaluations.

For example, one of my students called me a "nightmare of a professor" and complained about my use of podcasts to teach lecture; she said she'd rather I lectured from a Power Point in the classroom.

What she doesn't understand is that is an abysmal way to teach, especially in a 3 hour long classroom. My methodology has a lot of evidence behind it, while what she said she wanted is known to be very ineffective (students tune out after 15 minutes). So why is she complaining? Because she's angry with me. This student (and based on her commens I know exactly who wrote this) had her self image challenged when she flunked my first two exams, barely passed the third, and did just well enough on the Final to pass the course. She's used to getting all A's (and did get an award for highest GPA in the program).

Does that mean I write bad tests, or am a bad teacher? Of course not. I had nine A's in my course that semester. The problem is, she had to change the way she thought about nursing in my course because it's the capstone. She had to think like a nurse, which means thinking in shades of grey. She wanted everything black and white: do this always for this. Healthcare doesn't work that way, and neither does life.

That student of mine is going to fail the NCLEX. I see it coming.

This professor is facing the same challenge. His job is to get students to think differently, and to do that he has to take away the framework by which they usually think. This student wouldn't do that (note that I said would not, rather than could not). Not being allowed to frame her answers in her usual fundamentalist Christian POV was too difficult for her, and she refused to try. And she blamed the professor for the predictable result. But had the professor allowed her to stay in her comfortable frame of mind, then she would have missed the entire point of the course . . . and of course, that's what happened. She missed the entire fucking point.

The college never should have given her an A in that course (it was a shut her up grade). They should have let her get the F, because that's what she earned. She did not meet the objectives of the course.
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