Christ in the Classroom
November 29, 2005 8:43 AM   Subscribe

The Problem With Emily Dickenson "On August 25, six students, along with their school, Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, California and the Association of Christian Schools International filed a federal lawsuit against the University of California where, according to the LA Times (August 27), admissions officials have been accused of discriminating against high schools that teach creationism and other conservative Christian viewpoints." One of the textbooks used to teach literature has this to say about Mark Twain: "Twain's outlook was both self-centered and ultimately hopeless. Denying that he was created in the image of God, Twain was able to rid himself of feeling any responsibility to his Creator. "
posted by Secret Life of Gravy (90 comments total)

 
Also from the first link, the textbook published by Bob Jones University used to teach "Christianity's Influence in American History" has this to say about Thomas Jefferson:

American believers can appreciate Jefferson's rich contribution to the development of their nation, but they must beware of his view of Christ as a good teacher but not the incarnate son of God. As the Apostle John said, "Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son" (I John 2:22).

posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:46 AM on November 29, 2005


"Discrimination? Well yes in a way. We are selecting educated canidates. We are not selecting cultists."
posted by BeerGrin at 8:47 AM on November 29, 2005


Flag this for deletion; we cannot discuss these events, I'm afraid.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:51 AM on November 29, 2005


In other news, the church has decreed that medical experiments cannot be performed on cadavers as they are in the image of God. Pigs will suffice.

Now, who's for plague?
posted by bwerdmuller at 8:54 AM on November 29, 2005


"It resulted in untold suffering-most obviously for the black race but for the white race as well."

We were victims too!
posted by Slothrup at 8:55 AM on November 29, 2005


I love how I get to read the Sunday NY Times again during the week here on MeFi.
posted by papercake at 8:59 AM on November 29, 2005


Now, who's for plague?

I am definitely pro-plague.
posted by odinsdream at 9:00 AM on November 29, 2005


Every school discriminates by picking and choosing who they'll accept. Unless a school has a policy of accepting everyone (like community colleges, which is where these students need to start), then they have no case.
posted by amberglow at 9:00 AM on November 29, 2005


The piece notes the text books are puiblished by Bob Jones U. Why would good xtians want to go to one UC's heathenous campuses when they could just attend BJ U?!
posted by photoslob at 9:01 AM on November 29, 2005


Nice juxtaposition - I read "BJ U" and then the tagline for the next post, "bouguereau who"?
posted by notsnot at 9:06 AM on November 29, 2005


Why would good xtians want to go to one UC's heathenous campuses when they could just attend BJ U?!

Great point--it's because BJ discriminates too in choosing who they'll accept.
posted by amberglow at 9:12 AM on November 29, 2005


Looks like yet another Ahmanson financed lawsuit.

I wish these nutty billionaires would go broke or die and quit imposing themselves upon us and our courts
posted by nofundy at 9:15 AM on November 29, 2005


They can't be serious. Universities accept candidates who meet minimum education requirements and these students are lacking in both science and literature. Now, the university could give them conditional acceptance, like, they're accepted on the condition that they take and pass real science and literature courses with a B or higher before attending.
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:16 AM on November 29, 2005


Oh, wait, that's what the university did. The Christian schools have no case.
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:18 AM on November 29, 2005


The Christian schools have no case.

I'd be willing to bet they know that. If anything, this is an attempt to get more fodder for the claim that christians are "persecuted" in the US.
posted by drezdn at 9:21 AM on November 29, 2005


"Physics for Christian Schools," by R. Terrance Egolf and Linda Shumate (Bob Jones University, 2004), addresses the question, "What is Christian about physics?"

Some people have developed the idea that higher mathematics and science have little to do with the Bible or Christian life. They think that because physics deals with scientific facts, or because it is not pervaded with evolutionary ideas, there is no need to study it from a Christian perspective. This kind of thinking ignores a number of important facts to the Christian: First, all secular science is pervaded by mechanistic, naturalistic and evolutionistic philosophy. Learning that the laws of mechanics as they pertain to a baseball in flight are just the natural consequences of the way matter came together denies the wisdom and power of our Creator God. ... Second, physics as taught in the schools of the world contradicts the processes that shaped the world we see today. Trying to believe both secular physics and the Bible leaves you in a state of confusion that will weaken your faith in God's Word.


Perhaps this prepares students for "Christian physics" as taught in some universities. It's not good preparation for physics as taught in any university that I know of that is properly accredited. Bob Jones U. has the right to reject credit for courses in standard physics that don't cover their Christian approach.

This will be used by people who claim Christian bashing. I understand the appeal of religion, and I respect people with faith, but I do not get the need to rearrange the entire world this way.
posted by theora55 at 9:28 AM on November 29, 2005


The Christian schools have no case.

Stop with the "religion is dumm" arguments, please. All of the comments in this thread are insultingly rational and they should be deleted.

I love how I get to read the Sunday NY Times again during the week here on MeFi.

I agree. I get plenty of quality discussion reading the Times alone, thanks.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:28 AM on November 29, 2005


Since no one has said it yet: "The problem with Emily Dickenson" is that her name is misspelled.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:33 AM on November 29, 2005


Rather than snarking in a thread and dissing it because you don't think it relevant or post worthy, how about just NOT posting anything.

If it's good, it will get built into a community conversation, if not it will die with few comments. (evolutionary theory at work btw)
[/derail]
posted by nofundy at 9:33 AM on November 29, 2005


And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily

It is awfully good ketchup, yes.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:34 AM on November 29, 2005


This is like something from a dystopian future world of 2050 in which George W. Bush is considered to have been the greatest president of all time.
posted by johngoren at 9:35 AM on November 29, 2005


Christian physics

You're kidding ... right?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:39 AM on November 29, 2005


From what theora55 quoted... does that mean that christians are better baseball players?
posted by cusack at 9:40 AM on November 29, 2005


I've been following this story for awhile because in previous discussions about creationism/Intelligent design being taught in high schools we have always reassured ourselves that the Fundamentalists and the home schoolers can teach whatever they want, but their children won't be admitted to accredited universities. It looks like they are beginning to realize this and are starting to work on changing the state university admission policies.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:43 AM on November 29, 2005


The bits about Twain and Dickinson are really something... I find it hard to believe that textbooks like that are actually allowed at all. Even if it's in private schools. It's just something I can't conceive.
posted by funambulist at 9:45 AM on November 29, 2005


The sin in this case was greed - greed on the part of African tribal leaders, on the part of slave traders and on the part of slave owners, all of whom...

Nice work there. Not only does it imply the African leaders were as bad as the whites involved in the slave trade (and certainly they weren't innocent), but by ordering it that way there's the subtle implication of their being the most responsible/culpable.

These people are good at what they do. They're evil, they're nasty, and they're smart. I am very concerned for the future of the US education system.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:46 AM on November 29, 2005


Rather than snarking in a thread and dissing it because you don't think it relevant or post worthy, how about just NOT posting anything.
posted by nofundy at 9:33 AM PST on November 29


Heh. Nice troll noob. Maybe you should join the dummycrats at DU if you want to flame Christians.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:46 AM on November 29, 2005


Why would good xtians want to go to one UC's heathenous campuses when they could just attend BJ U?!

Great point--it's because BJ discriminates too in choosing who they'll accept.


yes, but bob jones is a private school, so they can do what they want in this arena, including discriminating on the basis of religion, if they so choose. Berkeley is a public school and therefore has to abide by the federal and state constitution. Both presumably forbid discrimination based on religion.

That said, as others have noted, this isn't discrimination based on religion, it's discrimination based on academically defined entry requirements.
posted by duck at 9:48 AM on November 29, 2005


Okay Chyme, you've made your point.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:49 AM on November 29, 2005


i'm a little uncomfortable with this ... clearly, science courses taught from the perspecitive of some christians are going to be severely lacking and shouldn't be regarded as proper education

but literature? ... isn't that a bit subjective? ... if the students are actually reading examples of the writers in question, is it necessary to dictate what they think about them before being exposed to differing viewpoints in a university?

would an afrocentric high school class in literature be treated the same way? ... a marxist one?

literature isn't a science ... doesn't the free exchange of ideas and the ideal of diversity apply to everyone, not just those who are considered acceptable?

again, there's a subjectivity here i find disturbing ... even if i think the statement that emily dickinson never accepted god is rather ridiculous
posted by pyramid termite at 9:50 AM on November 29, 2005


Since no one has said it yet: "The problem with Emily Dickenson" is that her name is misspelled.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:33 PM EST on November 29 [!]

I am so sorry. Ever since I saw Sophie's Choice I have wanted to call her Emile Dickens.


I love how I get to read the Sunday NY Times again during the week here on MeFi.

I agree. I get plenty of quality discussion reading the Times alone, thanks.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:28 PM EST on November 29

Sorry again, but as has been pointed out many, many times not everybody reads the N.Y.Times. I thought the article was great because it excerpted from the actual textbooks that are being used in these classes. The passages quoted are mind-boggling.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:51 AM on November 29, 2005


but literature? ... isn't that a bit subjective? ... if the students are actually reading examples of the writers in question, is it necessary to dictate what they think about them before being exposed to differing viewpoints in a university?

Good point, though I'm not entirely sure I agree. The point of English classes isn't just to read some list of writers. It's to learn different ways of analyzing literature. So if they're taught only to look at the books with an eye to the author's religious beliefs, that would be a problem. Are they taught about Psychoanalytic and Jungian approaches to novels (and all the others I've forgotten by now)? Literary devices? Archetypes? etc. etc. If not, then how can they say they've received an education in literature?

If English were just about reading the books, then you wouldn't have to take english, you could just a few books on your summer vacation and be done with it. Maybe have a quiz on the character names and plots to be sure you've read it. Obivously there's more to learn than that.
posted by duck at 10:00 AM on November 29, 2005


From the AiG story:
Sadly, that won’t be the case for six high school students whose acceptance to the University of California (UC) system has already been decided, even though they haven’t even applied.
So the lawsuit was filed by people who have no interest in UC as a school in the first place? That sounds more like a publicity stunt than a serious discrimination case.

The Times story doesn't say the students have been denied admission to UC - it says only that they won't be given credit for certain courses:
...a lawsuit filed by a consortium of Christian high schools against the University of California system for refusing to credit some of their courses when their students apply for admission.
That may or may not mean that they wouldn't be admitted, if they were to actually apply for admission.

I didn't go to a Christian high school, but not all of my high school classes were recognized by the college I went to - I had to (GASP!) take some courses again. That's just the way college works - isn't it? Has no one involved in this suit ever attended college?
posted by Western Infidels at 10:01 AM on November 29, 2005


The point of English classes isn't just to read some list of writers. It's to learn different ways of analyzing literature.

i agree with that, but i'm not sure a great deal of what you've talked about happens in a typical high school english class ... i certainly don't recall psychoanalytic and jungian approaches to novels in my high school

i think such approaches are more likely to be encountered in a university setting
posted by pyramid termite at 10:03 AM on November 29, 2005


Heh. Nice troll noob.

OptimusChyme = /user/17767
Nofundy = user/7324

I hope that "noob" comment is taken care of. You were the one trolling and I was politely suggesting that you quit. Mirror, pot, kettle.

Maybe you should join the dummycrats at DU if you want to flame Christians.

Now we see where the real troll lives. Are you a sock puppet? You remind me of a former nemesis here on Mefi who hated what I had to say. Ooh!! A lawyer? Are you paid to post here?

And what's up with that off-the-wall comment? I said absolutely nothing disparaging about Christians, only that you should quit criticizing threads you don't like.

The "dummycrats at DU" are a damn sight more civilized than you it seems.
posted by nofundy at 10:04 AM on November 29, 2005


reminder to self: do not respond to trolls, even when they call you a troll. [me, washing hands]
posted by nofundy at 10:05 AM on November 29, 2005


Psst, nofundy: Chyme is putting on a little play for us because of this Meta thread.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:07 AM on November 29, 2005


would an afrocentric high school class in literature be treated the same way? ... a marxist one?

I suspect that a Marxist high school lit class would be treated with overwhelming shock at its existence, first and foremost.
posted by aaronetc at 10:09 AM on November 29, 2005


I always thought her last name was the big problem.
posted by wakko at 10:09 AM on November 29, 2005


Nofundy, have you been living under a rock for the past few weeks? Any thread even remotely connected to religion or Christianity has been jumped on by a small set of MeFites who believe that all remarks even slightly disparaging are useless, and that further all such threads should be immediately deleted.

My remarks were made in jest to preempt those who hate to see Christianity put in a bad light, even when it brings such attention on itself.

P.S. The "I am a lawyer" stuff in my profile was put there after the poster "esquire" claimed to be a lawyer but was really a student in junior high.

On to serious business: Christians and non-Christians alike should be horrified to see lawsuits designed to change the curriculum, especially in a state university system. It boggles the mind.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:12 AM on November 29, 2005


"Physics for Christian Schools"

E=mc2

Where:

E is energy
m is mass
c is speed of light in a vacuum Christ

Thus, class, we see in this equation the enormous power of Christ which we can unleash upon the heathen world through relativity.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:15 AM on November 29, 2005


Yup, under a rock.
I enjoy religion threads, nuts and all.
Thanks for the tip PST, I don't get over there much.
posted by nofundy at 10:16 AM on November 29, 2005



I love how I get to read the Sunday NY Times again during the week here on MeFi.
posted by papercake at 8:59 AM PST on November 29 [!]


Hm. You're a dick.
posted by wakko at 10:16 AM on November 29, 2005


i agree with that, but i'm not sure a great deal of what you've talked about happens in a typical high school english class ... i certainly don't recall psychoanalytic and jungian approaches to novels in my high school

i think such approaches are more likely to be encountered in a university setting


I think my more general point is that Berekely's point isn't to tell people what to think about the books, but how to think about the books. I did both approaches in high school. But Canadian authors are Jungians. I didn't take any university English courses because while I love to read, I hate analyzing books to death.
posted by duck at 10:17 AM on November 29, 2005


E=mc2

Where:

E is energy
m is mass
c is speed of light in a vacuum Christ


That made me laugh.

I think the real problem with the Bob Jones approach to literature (just typing those words makes me shudder) is that it's more about slamming the author than actually discussing the book. Maybe the excerpts aren't really representative that way, but they seemed to amount to little more than "Emily Dickinson was not saved! You can tell from her letters! Oh, and she wrote some poems."
posted by 912 Greens at 10:32 AM on November 29, 2005


but literature? ... isn't that a bit subjective? ... if the students are actually reading examples of the writers in question, is it necessary to dictate what they think about them before being exposed to differing viewpoints in a university?

No. By fetishing each writer's religious stance, they're reading the author, not the text. While it's true that some literary types favor biographical approaches to understanding literature, the particularly skewed (and often irrelevant) angle used here is a wholly inadequate approach to the academic study of literature.

Academic literature is the study of literary works, not "viewpoints."
posted by DaShiv at 10:44 AM on November 29, 2005


cusack writes "does that mean that christians are better baseball players?"

Are you trying to tell me that Jesus Christ can't hit a curve ball?
posted by caution live frogs at 10:44 AM on November 29, 2005


What 912Greens said. Ideally, you can present an author to high school kids with as little biographical information as possible to let them draw their own conclusions. I do think context is important, but more as the second course.

That said, these fundies really should move to Utah and secede as Dumbfuckistan. The rest of America should do all of us a favor and not try and get them back.
posted by bardic at 10:49 AM on November 29, 2005


i agree with that, but i'm not sure a great deal of what you've talked about happens in a typical high school english class ... i certainly don't recall psychoanalytic and jungian approaches to novels in my high school

i think such approaches are more likely to be encountered in a university setting


For the most part, yes, but in my case I was in an AP English class where one of the major parts of our curriculum was literary theory. But our class consisted of less than 30 kids out of school with over 400 graduating seniors, so my experience was obviously atypical. (I had to give a presentation on Postmodernism for three days straight...good times.)

What's happening here is not a case of religious discrimination, it is a case of a state college system requiring applicants to have credits in certain academic areas, and not all high school courses meet these requirements.

For example, the UC and CSU systems require that in order to be accepted, high school students must have taken and passed three years of math. However, if a student is on a decelerated math program, the student must take and pass four years of math classes. (I was in the latter category) If I had followed many of my peers in the regular math programs, I wouldn't have made it to college, at least not without having to do a stint at a community college first.

Or, to give an example more appropriate to the situation in the FPP, both the UC and CSU systems require one year's worth of some form of art must be taken in order to meet application requirements. According to these systems, marching band, orchestra and percussion (drumline?), when taken as classes for credit, fulfill the art requirements. However, I was in the colorguard, and we practiced with the marching band every morning, went and performed in every competition that they did, and had our on season of separate competitions in the spring, like the percussion. And while taking colorguard did fulfill my arts requirement for graduation, it is not recognized as meeting the UC and CSU art requirement.

So, did I kick up a fuss and file suit? No, I took a fun photography course, got all my credits in time for graduation and made it into a fully accredited college. These students are free to take a creationist class if they wish, but the should be aware that if they want to get into a UC, the will still have to take the two years required (three recommended!) of science classes.
posted by kosher_jenny at 10:55 AM on November 29, 2005


I love how I get to read the Sunday NY Times again during the week here on MeFi.
posted by papercake at 8:59 AM PST on November 29 [!]

Hm. You're a dick.


I'm a dick for making a mild snark in passing about a post that's a link to a major news outlet on a topic that usually slides into a flame war? Well, I certainly apologize if I hurt anyone's feelings.

Everyone's so damned touchy here, sometimes.
posted by papercake at 10:56 AM on November 29, 2005


80% of Emily Dickinson's poetry can be sung to the tune of Yellow Rose of Texas.
posted by MotherTucker at 10:59 AM on November 29, 2005


I think the real problem with the Bob Jones approach to literature (just typing those words makes me shudder) is that it's more about slamming the author than actually discussing the book.

Precisely. Emily Dickinson lived in Amherst during successive waves of evangelical fervor. The pressure on her during her youth to be saved was tremendous. Much of her poetry traces the line between her sincere desire for salvation and her intellectual awareness that it's all bullshit.

So it's not hard to see that for the ideologues of BJU, Dickinson represents a profound threat. This sort of "literary analysis" is designed primarily to equip young Christians with the arguments necessary to sidestep a real engagement with her art. The point is not that she wasn't saved, it's that she struggled with and ultimately overcame the urge toward salvation.

Ironically, though, if we're talking about a real understanding of Dickinson's poetry, the sort of scripture-intensive education these students have received is itself a necessary prerequisite for understanding her poetry. She grew up in an environment steeped in biblical language and her poetry is dense with scriptural allusion. Unfortunately, most kids reading Dickinson's poems in a secular high school without exposure to biblical literature are equally ill-prepared to understand her.
posted by felix betachat at 11:04 AM on November 29, 2005


E=mc2

Where:

E is energy
m is mass
c is Christ


Heresy! Everyone knows you can't square Christ.
posted by COBRA! at 11:07 AM on November 29, 2005


Obviously, Christians are better at baseball - I know you've suppressed the memory, but recall "Angels in the Outfield."

Non-Christians just get physics, Christians get physics plus interventionist demi-gods.
posted by Crosius at 11:16 AM on November 29, 2005


Seems to me there's a contradiction here. The whole point of Christian / home-schooling venues, along with Bob Jones U. and the like, is so that the devout don't have to have their minds and bods sullied by contact with the non-believers. Be not conformed to this world, and all that (from Romans). Now, having gone through that separation, to the extent of writing separate textbooks not only for science (Christian physics??? Which direction is Hell, anyway?) but for Dickinson and Mark Twain and the like, they want to go back on the separation and get into UC-Berkeley, of all places?

I'd be curious about authors not represented in their canon. Ambrose Bierce? Thomas Pynchon? Henry Miller?

The real problem here is that the fundies' idea of interpretation is to Get The Right Answer. The point of literary study (among other topics) is to engage in a process of questioning those who claim to have The Right Answer. Much worse than biology.
posted by palancik at 11:16 AM on November 29, 2005


pyramid: I am suprised you don't see that what they're doing is not even a "subjective" education approach or biographical focus on the author and their beliefs/views/experiences etc. including religious ones or something like that -- they're just putting a seal of approval or disapproval on the source based on relation to their brand of Christian orthodoxy. And they're doing it also to scientific subjects so there is no difference there, science or humanities, same treatment. The problem is it's got nothing to do with teaching anything of actual substance.

It's just some kind of "you shouldn't give much credit to this author/theory because they're infidels". How they expect this to be taken seriously in an academic setting is a mystery to me.
posted by funambulist at 11:26 AM on November 29, 2005


mothertucker - you know, some of us have been trying to forget that

palancik - one of the interesting assumptions some seem to make when they follow a religious path is that it should be easy to follow, and there shouldn't be any socially negative consequences for following that path ... they want to believe what they want to believe, but don't feel they should have to sacrifice a career for it if the career demands things of them that aren't consistent with what they believe ... there seems to be a blind spot here in regards to the sacrifices that have to be made in order to get the benefits of belief

success in god's terms and success in the world's terms may be two conflicting things and i feel that some don't accept that
posted by pyramid termite at 11:29 AM on November 29, 2005


It's just some kind of "you shouldn't give much credit to this author/theory because they're infidels".

but how is that different than saying, "you shouldn't give much credit to this author/theory because he's a racist, or a sexist"? ... it seems as though there's a lot of this kind of sloppy thinking going around and some of it can be found in our universities

i guess my question is why some forms of doing this seems to be tolerated and others aren't
posted by pyramid termite at 11:32 AM on November 29, 2005


It's just some kind of "you shouldn't give much credit to this author/theory because they're infidels". How they expect this to be taken seriously in an academic setting is a mystery to me.

Looks more like personal advice: "you shouldn't model your life after this author" and therefor doesn't require being taken in any particular way by anyone else other than the students being advised.
posted by scheptech at 11:42 AM on November 29, 2005


"i guess my question is why some forms of doing this seems to be tolerated and others aren't"

Tenure.
posted by klangklangston at 11:55 AM on November 29, 2005


but how is that different than saying, "you shouldn't give much credit to this author/theory because he's a racist, or a sexist"?

because racism and sexism actually, you know, exist? and have historically been bolstered by the academy? and because judging someone for racist behaviour is judging them on how they interact(ed) with others, whereas calling them a heathen is merely a subjective judgement on how they interact(ed) with themselves?
posted by poweredbybeard at 12:08 PM on November 29, 2005


The textbook quotes are amusing and all, but I don't think they demonstrate that students taught from those books are uneducated. How does noting that Twain and Jefferson were "unsaved" detract from one's understanding of Twain and Jefferson? Unlike, say, a Creationist textbook, which replaces scientific facts with religious BS, the textbooks quoted in the NYT article appear to be teaching the facts and adding a Christian interpretation. So long as the facts have been taught, what's the problem?
posted by pterodactyler at 12:20 PM on November 29, 2005


"It resulted in untold suffering-most obviously for the black race but for the white race as well."

We were victims too!


I think this is defensible. Participation in any moral crime has negative consequences for the perpetrators as well as the victims. Call it the wages of sin, call it karma, call it The Hidden Wound, or call it "blowback" if you like, as we often do here with Iraq. Perpetrators may not deserve sympathy for their actions, and suffering on their part may not equal or atone for what the victims suffered (especially in this case), but consequences come back to haunt you.


That said, these fundies really should move to Utah

We have enough, thanks, and honestly, I don't think they'd mix. Mormons have their own oddities with some areas of scholarship, and maybe a few things in common, but in general, take education very seriously. I went to BYU, and learned physics from Halliday and Resnick rather than the Bible, and was taught evolution and left to sort out the religious implications for myself. There doesn't seem to be a lot of religious maneuvering in the natural sciences, at least.
posted by weston at 12:21 PM on November 29, 2005


because racism and sexism actually, you know, exist?

Uh oh, here we go, another 200-comment thread about 'reality' and 'existence'. Not that I'm liking the comparison but, don't racism and sexism stem from beliefs? We're talking about thoughts and ideas here, not something made of ah... atoms (or are they? maybe in another couple hundred comments we'll find out...). Again, horrible comparison but oh well: this whole thing, when talking literature at least, is about a thought crime, being taught that certain authors should not be taken as role models. So what?
posted by scheptech at 12:25 PM on November 29, 2005


So long as the facts have been taught, what's the problem?

We don't know that they have been, nor do we do know that they actually read any of these author's works at all. What if these textbooks just excerpt a few paragraphs of each author's work? What if they don't read original or entire texts at all?

...yes, but bob jones is a private school, so they can do what they want in this arena, including discriminating on the basis of religion, if they so choose. Berkeley is a public school and therefore has to abide by the federal and state constitution. Both presumably forbid discrimination based on religion.

I thought it didn't matter if the school was public or private--if a school receives federal money, it has to follow the laws.
posted by amberglow at 12:37 PM on November 29, 2005


this whole thing, when talking literature at least, is about a thought crime, being taught that certain authors should not be taken as role models. So what?

I think the objective is more to undermine the importance of an author's body of work by attacking the author personally. Dickinson is a good example because, as felix betachat pointed out, her poetry is often reflective of her experience of a religious culture. Kids with an extensive knowledge of scripture might be well-situated to understand the poetry on that level, but it might actually cause them to question religious authority. Bob Jones types seem to frown on that.

Also, discouraging people from reading something because its author was racist or sexist is no different than this and shouldn't be tolerated in any academic institution.
posted by 912 Greens at 12:56 PM on November 29, 2005



“I am definitely pro-plague.” - posted by odinsdream

See, I favor brushing and flossing.

Oh, “plague”...yeah, I’m for that, yeah. I just like a clean mouth is all.

“Are you trying to tell me that Jesus Christ can't hit a curve ball?”
posted by caution live frogs

Not with his feet nailed in, no. He can’t be touch judge in rugby either (arms point both ways).
--
"E pur si muove!" (But it does move!) - Galileo Galilei (attributed)
--
What the hell is “secular physics”? I don’t necessarially disagree with the statement: “physics is important because through it mankind learns how creation actually works” as a sentiment.
But we can’t go taking Joshua 10:12 as an established cohort reviewed working theory ("Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, 'Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon'.")

Galileo said - contrary to this “bible physics” - that the Earth moved, and was arrested and threatened with torture by the church.
Dominican friar Caccini was one of his main enemies and said things that echoed in my mind when reading this peice:
"Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?"
"geometry is of the devil,"
"mathematicians should be banished as the authors of all heresies."

Whoops. Did I Godwin by comparing these folks to Caccini? It’s been long enough right?
posted by Smedleyman at 12:57 PM on November 29, 2005


but how is that different than saying, "you shouldn't give much credit to this author/theory because he's a racist, or a sexist"? ... it seems as though there's a lot of this kind of sloppy thinking going around and some of it can be found in our universities

For the "you shouldn't give much credit to this theory because the author is a racist", I don't think it is any different. The author's prejudices are irrelevant to judging if the theory is sound. That's sloppy thinking, as you point out. But I don't think I've ever seen an example of "don't give credit to this theory because the author is racist/sexist".

Don't get much credit to this person because this person is a racist is judging the person based on properties of the person. Don't give much credit to this idea because it's a racist idea, is ok, too. Judging an idea based on properties of the idea is ok.

On the other hand, don't give credit to this theory because the author is racist is not valid, since it's judging an idea based on properties of the person who expounds it, not the idea itself. But like I said, I can't think of any examples of that.

ME:...yes, but bob jones is a private school, so they can do what they want in this arena, including discriminating on the basis of religion, if they so choose. Berkeley is a public school and therefore has to abide by the federal and state constitution. Both presumably forbid discrimination based on religion.

Amberglow: I thought it didn't matter if the school was public or private--if a school receives federal money, it has to follow the laws.

I said they didn't have to abide by the constitution (only the government does), not that they don't have to abide by any laws.

On a related note: The requirements that schools who receive federal money must do X, don't actually require anything of schools. They require actions from the government: The government may only give money to schools that do Y. That means if a school receives federal money but doesn't do Y, it's the government that's violating the law, not the school (unless the school lied and claimed to be doing Y, in which cause it would be a violation of fraud laws, not the law about when the federal government can give money). The school is well within its legal rights to not do Y (by which it would forfeit federal money).

Further, does Bob Jones receive federal money? I imagine they don't, but I could be wrong.
posted by duck at 1:00 PM on November 29, 2005


Not only does it imply the African leaders were as bad as the whites involved in the slave trade (and certainly they weren't innocent), but by ordering it that way there's the subtle implication of their being the most responsible/culpable.

And you think they're not... why? If I bash you over the head, put you in chains, and drag you down to a port where I sell you to the overseas trade, are you going to consider me merely a link in the economic process, with all the responsibility resting with the ultimate consumer? Somehow I doubt it.

People who pretend to troll in protest against a nonexistent cabal who "hate to see Christianity put in a bad light" should seriously rethink their priorities and strategies.
posted by languagehat at 1:01 PM on November 29, 2005


Bah. I so wish Twain were alive. His resulting essay would hand these addled wanna-be magisters their own pompous asses without troubling the ash of his cigar.
posted by Haruspex at 1:09 PM on November 29, 2005


Having opinions about authors of fictional works is hardly to be avoided and separating their work (what they said) from their private lives (what they actually did) may not be considered intellectually honest by some. It's all education, whether the students in question end up loving, hating, or not caring about the authors. One can hardly make a case for freedom of thought or offering a 'liberal' education while discriminating against students based on what college they came from. A public school should, if anything, be more inclusive than a private school, should represent an intellectual free-zone for students to learn and grow, and an important part of that process should come from encountering students with backgrounds unlike their own.
posted by scheptech at 1:11 PM on November 29, 2005


but literature? ... isn't that a bit subjective? ... if the students are actually reading examples of the writers in question, is it necessary to dictate what they think about them before being exposed to differing viewpoints in a university?

There is one objective aspect of literature: the text. In my classes, I tell my students that there are many right interpretations, but that doesn't mean there are no wrong ones. A wrong one, I tell them, is one that ignores or misunderstands part or all of the text. For example, one cannot make the claim that "Twain's outlook was both self-centered and ultimately hopeless" without ignoring the vast majority of his writing, since he spent the lion's share of his writing energies on using satire to mock the various ways in which the powerful exlploit the powerless. It's true he was not fond of Christianity, but by and large his critiques of it had to do with its abuse of power, its various inconsistencies, and the various hypocrisies of most of its practicioners during his time (like that virtually all Christians in the South cliamed the Bible had ordained slavery -- this is a central theme in Huckleberry Finn). Not being able to understand what Twain thought about things from Twain's point of view basically handicaps any useful literary analysis. So, for example, the sum of Twain's critique of Christianity in Huck Finn puts him on the same page as John Brown or Wiliam Wilberforce or Frederick Douglass -- all Christians who opposed slavery and recognized the hypocrisy of Southern Christians. But because Twain didn't profess Christ as his saviour, they ignore that very important aspect of his writing in favor of what amounts to an irrelevant footnote about his biography.
posted by eustacescrubb at 1:12 PM on November 29, 2005


eustacscrubb - thanks for the excellent example, great info in there
posted by scheptech at 1:58 PM on November 29, 2005


btw, anyone else connecting the dots between The South being the home of both extreme fundamentalism and biblically-ordained slavery? Is the latter in part a reaction to the former?
posted by scheptech at 2:05 PM on November 29, 2005


This seems confusing. I wish we had a better legal analysis to look at, I'll hit google in a second. What strikes me though is this: What do they mean by 'crediting the course?' Do they mean 'accept as the minimum for entry' or 'accept as college credit?' The difference is crucial. To get into uni I had to have Math 111 as a minimum for acceptance. Since I had a higher advanced placement class I actually was not only accepted, but given college credits. (To finish my BA I didn't have to take another math course at all because of my AP classes in high school.) If they are suing because these classes are being turned down as meeting certain acceptence requirements then the lawyers might find some argument to push this. How is a Christian themed lit class different from a secular one? (I know, I know, religin's dum. But, really, beyond that, isn't lit-crit one of our more subjective disciplines and wouldn't this be one more perspectives/narratives/whatever they want to call it these days?) But if what the students want is college credit, but are trying to apply a class using materials from a non-accredited institution, then I don't see how this will stand.
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:05 PM on November 29, 2005


pyramid: well, I have no direct experience of the US academic world, but for what it's worth, I've never encountered a situation where a teacher or professor said or implied anything as banal as "you shouldn't give much credit to this author/theory because he's a racist, or a sexist", not even in primary school. Either you're using a straw man or we're thinking different things here.

Any idea that comes out will be dealt with in the actual work being studied, no? Say we study the last century, we read some of the nazi propaganda, no one needs the warning that it was ugly, you know. That 18-th century scientist who came up with the theory you could tell criminal intent from conformation of the skull, again, no one needs their teachers to gently warn them that it's bollocks. You also already get to study how those theories were refuted. History is full of ugliness, you study it all the same, precisely because of that.

If you're talking something more nuanced, and especially in literature, well that's something for literary criticism to discuss and it's part of what you study, again. If the author's social views (or their character's social views?) were such an important part to focus on, they would be part of the criticism you get to read about it, the kind that focuses on social aspects rather than strictly literary ones, so... you get all sorts of points of view. The more you get, the more you learn... as a principle.

That is the exact opposite of filtering every subject through - and only through - the "standard" of conformity to a specific set and interpretation of specific religious beliefs, which are not what the subject being studied is about at all. It'd kind of make more sense only if it was applied to a course in theology, maybe. Actually not even there, as any serious study in the area of religion and theology, even if only restricted to Christianity, would need to present different points of view too.
posted by funambulist at 2:06 PM on November 29, 2005


University/college education is over-rated. Young adults should settle down in a heterosexual marriage and just give birth to kids. Dick can get a job at Bob's Hardware just down the street and Mary can stay home to raise the children.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 2:10 PM on November 29, 2005


photoslob: Why would good xtians want to go to one [of] UC's heathenous campuses when they could just attend BJ U?!

Isn't BJU unaccredited?
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:26 PM on November 29, 2005


btw, anyone else connecting the dots between The South being the home of both extreme fundamentalism and biblically-ordained slavery? Is the latter in part a reaction to the former?

Wendell Berry makes that connection in, of all things, the book weston cites above. In that book, he discusses how the practice of slavery necessitated an extreme form of the "saved by grace not by works" theology so that slaveowners could continue to practice slavery, and later, segregation, without fearing the loss of their salvation.
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:30 PM on November 29, 2005


Thanks for sharing your personality conflicts with us all, assholes. You really helped make this a good discussion.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:31 PM on November 29, 2005


80% of Emily Dickinson's poetry can be sung to the tune of Yellow Rose of Texas.

You mean, 80% of Emily Dickinson's poetry can be sung to the theme music from "Gilligan's Island".
posted by gimonca at 2:31 PM on November 29, 2005


"80% of Emily Dickinson's poetry can be sung to"
I just tried that. It’s damn funny!
posted by Smedleyman at 2:42 PM on November 29, 2005


eustacescrubb - thanks again, a most interesting point. I was simplistically thinking since the earlier dominant interpretation of Genesis 9:25-27 in the South is now thought to be in error by them [one certainly hopes so, i.e. the notion that a) the decendents of the Caananites are meant to be slaves in perpetuity, and b) Caanan = black people] and maybe now they are over-reacting by going hyper-literal for fear of conveniently over-interpreting. Hmm.
posted by scheptech at 3:19 PM on November 29, 2005


btw, anyone else connecting the dots between The South being the home of both extreme fundamentalism and biblically-ordained slavery? Is the latter in part a reaction to the former?

I believe there is such a link. You can even see a link between the red states in 2004 and pro-slavery states prior to The Civil War:

http://electropopmedia.com/papa-m/index.php?m=200411
(scroll down to the map entry on 11/22/2004)
posted by Devils Slide at 6:07 PM on November 29, 2005


gimonca - words cannot express my loathing of you right now ... yellow rose of texas was bad enough ... but this ...

the horror ... the horror
posted by pyramid termite at 8:29 PM on November 29, 2005


E=mc2

Where:

E is energy
m is mass
c is Christ

Heresy! Everyone knows you can't square Christ.


Ya, but you can fuck Christ in the ass ;)
posted by lacus at 1:09 AM on November 30, 2005


What a remarkably unwitty thing to post. I'm embarassed for you, lacus.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:03 AM on November 30, 2005


And you think they're not... why? (languagehat)

Why do I think African tribal leaders who captured their neighbouring rivals and sold them to white traders to be transported across an ocean aren't worse than the white traders who bought and sold human beings for profit, or white slave owners who used humans as they used their animals? Or put another way, why do I think reprehensible act A (treating humans as chattel) is no different than reprehensible act B (treating humans as chattel) or reprehensible act C (treating humans as chattel)? Is that really the question you're asking?

The problem I have with that specific order (putting the slave "harvesters" first) is the all-too-human tendency, when blame is divided, to assign all the responsibility to the most guilty, thereby absolving the others involved. You know, like suggesting that "all the responsibility" rests with "the ultimate consumer" (who most certainly is culpable), while the person who bashed you over the head, put you in chains, and dragged you down to a port where you could be sold to the overseas trade is "merely a link in the economic process" (when they are equally culpable as the consumer, and everyone else who enables the action to continue).

I'm surprised at you, languagehat, reacting that way. You know there's a distinction between "not worse" and "not as bad". So to answer your question directly, they're not worse because they're equal in my eyes. Do you think they're worse?

Now if you don't mind, I'll go back to parsing through your last line...
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:49 PM on November 30, 2005


Fair enough. I was treating you as if you were making the original slavers less culpable because they were, you know, oppressed Africans and all that, but obviously you're not, so I withdraw my carping.
posted by languagehat at 3:37 PM on November 30, 2005


Try singing "Because I would not stop for death" to the tune of "I'd like to buy the world a Coke." It's the real thing!
posted by goofyfoot at 1:12 AM on December 2, 2005


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