Reasoning behind teacher’s exercise misunderstood
Published: Sunday, April 7, 2013
Updated: Sunday, April 7, 2013 23:04
The East Tennessean published a story that found a bit more criticism than might have been anticipated.
In this story, the recent uproar over a professor and student at Florida Atlantic University was presented in such a way that the entire point of the exercise was missed.
For those of you who are unaware, a professor at FAU instructed students to write “JESUS” in large and bold letters on a blank sheet of paper. The paper was then to be placed on the ground and stomped on. The purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate the power of symbols in our culture.
In the details that have since emerged, it seems to have been the case that students were not required to stomp on the piece of paper.
However, the first bits of information released told a story of a belligerent professor who ejected a student from his class for not participating. This student was held as a defender of his faith as people rallied around him.
There is a good reason why this is the story that was circulated. FAU instructed the professor not to talk to the media about this event, while the student was free to rally the banner-men to his defense.
This is fairly common practice with large institutions and other organizations; you don’t want your possible defendant in a lawsuit taking their case to the court of public opinion.
However, this is not sufficient justification for members of the media, ourselves included, to run with the first story that hits the wire.
Upon further inquiry, it was discovered that the student was not ejected for his refusal to participate in the stomping exercise. He was asked to leave after he threatened the professor with violence.
Furthermore, it has been asserted that this exercise was insensitive. I would challenge such a claim on the grounds that the point was to demonstrate a lesson, this method was the best way to make sure the message was received and retained, and the professor defiled something far less sacred than many other options that are easily available. He had students write a name on a slip of paper.
Is it a name held in very high regard to a majority of people in this country? Yes. Is stomping on a piece of paper with “Jesus” written on it better than breaking a crucifix or burning a Bible? Almost certainly, so pick your battles.
In an effort to rally support against these actions along an alternate route of reasoning, it has also been said that Christians were targeted in this example.
Many have asked: “Why Jesus? Why not any of the other figures that many cultures hold in such reverence?” The answer is really quite simple and is purely a matter of demographics. Christianity is the majority religion in the United States. Had this taken place in an area where some other culture/religion held the majority, the corresponding symbol would have been chosen.
This entire fiasco has nothing to do with religious tolerance or a lack thereof. It is entirely an overreaction on the part of a student that has garnered so much media attention that people cannot help but turn it into something more than is.
It doesn’t show that secular citizens are oppressed, and it doesn’t show that all theists are extremists who are waiting to take up arms for their beliefs.
It shows one student wasn’t mature enough to handle university and nothing more.