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Author Topic:   Teacher Fired for Disagreeing With Literal Interpretation of Bible
anglagard
Member
Posts: 2200
From: Socorro, New Mexico USA
Joined: 03-18-2006
Member Rating: 5.2


Message 1 of 78 (423975)
09-25-2007 1:04 AM


I first learned of this due to Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, where the story received the dubious honor of being in the segment "good guys and goofballs."

According to the story, a community college teacher from Southwestern Community College in Red Oak, Iowa was fired for deviating from fundamentalist Christian orthodoxy by stating the account given in Genesis should not be taken literally. Evidentially some distance students in Osceola, Iowa objected to anyone speaking contrary to the literal interpretation and the administration caved to a minority position of Christians, which holds the book more sacred than God.

The obligatory Google News search discovered this sole account http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/09/24/literal_truth/

quote:
A teacher at a US community college in Red Oak, Iowa says he was fired after telling his students not to interpret the story of Adam and Eve as a literal account of events circa BC 4000.

According to the Des Moines Register, Bitterman said: "I'm just a little bit shocked myself that a college in good standing would back up students who insist that people who have been through college and have a master's degree, a couple actually, have to teach that there were such things as talking snakes or lose their job."


More:

quote:
After the class, he said he had a conversation with a student in which he referred to the story of Adam and Eve as a fairy tale. Then he was told that the students had threatened to take legal advice.

As a community college librarian in the US, I consider this a clear and blatant violation of the principle of separation of church and state, and hope the aggrieved teacher turns the tables and sues the crap out of this publically funded institution.

News? or is it yet another debate on separation of Church and State, a first amendment which has never been accepted by some so-called Christian patriots?


Read not to contradict and confute, not to believe and take for granted, not to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider - Francis Bacon

The more we understand particular things, the more we understand God - Spinoza


Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by macaroniandcheese, posted 09-25-2007 9:20 AM anglagard has not yet responded
 Message 5 by bob_gray, posted 09-25-2007 12:43 PM anglagard has not yet responded
 Message 7 by Chiroptera, posted 09-25-2007 1:44 PM anglagard has responded
 Message 28 by Dr Adequate, posted 10-11-2007 4:23 PM anglagard has responded

    
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Message 2 of 78 (424022)
09-25-2007 8:47 AM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
macaroniandcheese 
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Message 3 of 78 (424027)
09-25-2007 9:20 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by anglagard
09-25-2007 1:04 AM


http://www.swcciowa.edu/staff.html

here, you can find the faculty email addresses. i think we should stage an e-protest. fill their inboxes.

Good morning.

I am terribly disappointed that your institution would determine the employment of an instructor by the opinions of a group of uneducated persons informed only by their strict religious dogma. As a public institution funded by the government, you have a responsibility to resist religious pressure. By your actions, you have established religious dogma as "truth" which your institutions esteemed professors must teach, or fear the same punishment. You have done a great disservice to education, your professors, and your students.

i emailed the vp of instruction.

Edited by brennakimi, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Jon
Inactive Member


Message 4 of 78 (424041)
09-25-2007 10:14 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by macaroniandcheese
09-25-2007 9:20 AM


here, you can find the faculty email addresses. i think we should stage an e-protest. fill their inboxes.

SWEET PLAN!


This message is a reply to:
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bob_gray
Member (Idle past 3245 days)
Posts: 243
From: Virginia
Joined: 05-03-2004


Message 5 of 78 (424070)
09-25-2007 12:43 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by anglagard
09-25-2007 1:04 AM


A more local news source.
The DesMoines Register also published the story here:

Teacher: I was fired, said Bible isn't literal

I'm also going to send my e-protest. It seems unbelievable that it could happen.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by anglagard, posted 09-25-2007 1:04 AM anglagard has not yet responded

    
Percy
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Posts: 18808
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 2.2


Message 6 of 78 (424073)
09-25-2007 1:10 PM


A call for deliberation...
Isn't any reaction premature before a connection has really been established between the anti-Biblical statement and the firing?

We don't know anything about Bitterman or the truth of his claims. We have only his side of the story. He might be telling things exactly as they are, or he could be an idiot grasping for reasons that aren't his fault for why he was fired.

If you examine the school's website (http://www.swcc.cc.ia.us/) there's no hint of Christian fundamentalism, or religion of any kind. It has more vocational curriculums than anything else.

I don't think the "second college in Osceola" is actually another college. Southwestern Community College has three campuses, and one is in Osceola.

--Percy


    
Chiroptera
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Posts: 6772
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 5.6


Message 7 of 78 (424077)
09-25-2007 1:44 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by anglagard
09-25-2007 1:04 AM


Here is a link to the article in the Des Moines Register.

I do like this bit:

quote:
Hector Avalos, an atheist religion professor at Iowa State University, said Bitterman's free-speech rights were violated if he was fired simply because he took an academic approach to a Bible story.

I like the way that it was felt necessary to identify Prof. Avalos as an atheist religion professor.

The comments section is an interesting read, too.

Added by edit:

Oops. I see that bob gray has already linked to this article. I didn't reread the thread after I read it this morning, so missed it.

Edited by Chiroptera, : No reason given.


In many respects, the Bible was the world's first Wikipedia article. -- Doug Brown (quoted by Carlin Romano in The Chronicle Review)
This message is a reply to:
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Taz
Member (Idle past 1523 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 8 of 78 (424089)
09-25-2007 2:39 PM


The story is too one sided for now. I'm going to wait until I see something from the other side of the battlefield.


Disclaimer:

Occasionally, owing to the deficiency of the English language, I have used he/him/his meaning he or she/him or her/his or her in order to avoid awkwardness of style.

He, him, and his are not intended as exclusively masculine pronouns. They may refer to either sex or to both sexes!


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macaroniandcheese 
Suspended Member (Idle past 2160 days)
Posts: 4258
Joined: 05-24-2004


Message 9 of 78 (424092)
09-25-2007 2:45 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Taz
09-25-2007 2:39 PM


i don't tend to believe stuff that comes out of junior college public relations offices.
This message is a reply to:
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anglagard
Member
Posts: 2200
From: Socorro, New Mexico USA
Joined: 03-18-2006
Member Rating: 5.2


Message 10 of 78 (424097)
09-25-2007 3:13 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Chiroptera
09-25-2007 1:44 PM


The Plot Thickens A Bit
Actually meant as a general reply.

Here is another article from The Des Moines Register from the point of view of some of the complaining students.

Apparently, the instructor had hurt a few student's feelings with his methods. The college administration is staying silent on the episode, as expected concerning personnel matters.

While no one should be abused or humiliated for their beliefs, it is a goal of higher education to get students to think critically and question their assumptions. From what little information I have, I think the complaining students are in for quite a shock should they wind up in some of the universities I am familiar with.

At universities in the US, full professors have tenure. And if the students think they are merciless, they haven't met some of the grad students.


Read not to contradict and confute, not to believe and take for granted, not to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider - Francis Bacon

The more we understand particular things, the more we understand God - Spinoza


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anglagard
Member
Posts: 2200
From: Socorro, New Mexico USA
Joined: 03-18-2006
Member Rating: 5.2


Message 11 of 78 (424131)
09-25-2007 6:41 PM


Piss Poor Journalism
So far we have two root stories from the Des Moines Register and a lot of action on the blogs. One point my wife bought up. Why haven't any so called 'professional journalists' interviewed any members of the class other than the few presumably aggrieved individuals?


Read not to contradict and confute, not to believe and take for granted, not to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider - Francis Bacon

The more we understand particular things, the more we understand God - Spinoza


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arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 210 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004


Message 12 of 78 (424145)
09-25-2007 9:28 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by anglagard
09-25-2007 6:41 PM


Re: Piss Poor Journalism
quote:
Our class didn’t ask for him to be fired. That wasn’t our goal. Someone complained about him, I dont know why, but the next day in class, while taking attendence, he called her out on it. In front of everyone. He had no right to do that. The issue was between the two of them. Then, as the rest of us were trying to defend her, and tell him what we thought of the situation, he was laughing at us, and at her for walking out. Then proceed to say something VERY wrong to another student. She also walked out. If the comment he made to her, was made to me, i too would walk out. He had absolutely no right to say that. Not to her, not to anyone. Then, as she walked out of class, he sat there and laughed at her too.

The bible has nothing to do with this. If the 1st person who had an issue with him b/c of what he said about the bible, then fine. Leave it at that. He has his opinions and thats fine, he can state them, but when we can’t state our own without him laughing at us for beliving in it, then he has gone too far. And it’s obvious that a couple people reading this have had Bitterman in the past, and know what I’m talking about. So its not just the few of us that were in his class this semester…hes done this before, we’re just the first ones with the balls to do something about it.

http://friendlyatheist.com/2007/09/24/fired-for-telling-the-truth


looks like we need more information.


אָרַח

This message is a reply to:
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Omnivorous
Member (Idle past 1199 days)
Posts: 3808
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005


Message 13 of 78 (424148)
09-25-2007 9:52 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by arachnophilia
09-25-2007 9:28 PM


Re: Piss Poor Journalism
It's always good to have more information.

On the other hand, apparently there was no faculty peer review or administrative hearing of the sorts normally associated with a legitimate concern for or protection of academic freedom.

If he has been accused of misbehavior by a student, then he should have the right to confront that accuser in the appropriate setting.

If he was informed that a student complained about his treatment of Christianity, I see no reason why he should not discuss that in the classroom. As for laughing at them, I wonder: Guffaws? Chuckles? Smiles? Strange as it may seem, students cannot always be depended on to tell the unvarnished truth.

My wife is a professor--a popular one who receives overwhelmingly positive student reviews. She teaches literature and presents many theoretical perspectives: feminist, traditional close reading, deconstructionist, Marxist, you name it. She also welcomes student perspectives.

Occasionally, inevitably, someone will write in their course review that she "tried to force [x] theory on us" and "ridiculed my beliefs"--because she insisted they master the tenets of multiple perspectives and challenged them to account for their own. To demand that a student achieve proficiency of a literary reading of the Bible, for example, is not to demand that they relinguish their religion: but some will insist that it is just that.

I find it especially interesting to hear the student you quote say "what we wanted" (emphasis mine). If the administration discharged this instructor because a group of students brought complaints to which he was not allowed to respond, the administration has a great deal of explaining to do. If that is the case, I'd imagine any competent attorney could overturn his dismissal and win damages.

I agree that more information is necessary for a fully formed judgement. But if the administration had attended to the normal process of faculty peer review and administrative hearings before discharging the instructor, I don't think they'd be saying, "No comment, it's a personnel issue."

Edited by Omnivorous, : spelling and U.S. collective noun treatment

Edited by Omnivorous, : No reason given.

Edited by Omnivorous, : Jesus wept! No more typo corrections!


Real things always push back.
-William James

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 Message 12 by arachnophilia, posted 09-25-2007 9:28 PM arachnophilia has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 14 by arachnophilia, posted 09-25-2007 10:09 PM Omnivorous has responded

    
arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 210 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004


Message 14 of 78 (424150)
09-25-2007 10:09 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Omnivorous
09-25-2007 9:52 PM


Re: Piss Poor Journalism
If he was informed that a student complained about his treatment of Christianity, I see no reason why he should not discuss that in the classroom. As for laughing at them, I wonder: Guffaws? Chuckles? Smiles? Strange as it may seem, students cannot always be depended on to tell the unvarnished truth.

no, nor can part-time community college professors. i'm quite familiar with the belief-challenging charge -- some beliefs are so shaky, and some believers so sensitive that the socratic method seems like an avenue of attack.

and sometimes, it's just a misunderstanding. my father is a professor, and was recently working to help solve a dispute between a student and another professor, that had come before the chair of the department. the student was upset that a professor had "ridiculed" and yelled at them in front of the class (plural used for gender obfuscation). this is a professor that i've known my entire life, and i can't imagine him yelling even for a second. he's about the quietest, most soft-spoken person i've ever known. apparently, all he did was insist the class move on when the student failed to understand prerequisite material.

My wife is a professor--a popular one who receives overwhelmingly positive student reviews. She teaches literature and presents many theoretical perspectives: feminist, traditional close reading, deconstructionist, Marxist, you name it. She also welcomes student perspectives.

Occasionally, inevitably, someone will write in their course review that she "tried to force [x] theory on us" and "ridiculed my beliefs"--because she insisted they master the tenets of multiple perspectives and challenged them to account for their own. To demand that a student achieve proficiency of a literary reading of the Bible, for example, is not to demand that they relinguish their religion: but some will insist that it is just that.

well, that's the thing, and something i demonstrate here on a daily basis. fundamentalism does not stand up to a proficient reading of the bible. it's the same reason that the church was so upset when martin luther translated the bible into the vernacular -- now people will know what it says, and they won't believe what we tell them anymore.

I find it especially interesting to hear the student you quote say "what we wanted" (emphasis mine). If the administration discharged this instructor because a group of students brought complaints to which he was not allowed to respond, the administration has a great deal of explaining to do. If that is the case, I'd imagine any competent attorney could overturn his dismissal and win damages.

well, like i said, we need more information. i don't know if that was the case. it's also possible that they've been hearing complaints about the professor for a long time. and it depends highly on what, exactly, he said to the student in front of the class -- something the student's comment dances around. it might have been highly inappropriate. i'm sure there are certain things a professor could say to a student that would get him fired pretty quickly.

I agree that more information is necessary for a fully formed judgement. But if the administration had attended to the normal process of faculty peer review and administrative hearings before discharging the instructor, I don't think they'd be saying, "No comment, it's a personnel issue."

what would they say? i'm not sure they'd say anything else, actually.

Edited by arachnophilia, : No reason given.


אָרַח

This message is a reply to:
 Message 13 by Omnivorous, posted 09-25-2007 9:52 PM Omnivorous has responded

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Omnivorous
Member (Idle past 1199 days)
Posts: 3808
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005


Message 15 of 78 (424151)
09-25-2007 10:19 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by arachnophilia
09-25-2007 10:09 PM


Re: Piss Poor Journalism
arach writes:

what would they say? i'm not sure they'd say anything else, actually.

Typically, an administration that has followed a well-defined policy which respects both student rights and an instructor's academic freedom will say so: "After careful review and following the procedures of hearings and appeals that we have in place to protect the interests of all blah blah blah."

I suspect (and this is just a hunch) that the "No comment" means what it usually means when academic bureaucrats clam up: 1) Oops, we didn't follow our own contractually mandated (or defined) procedures, and 2) Who knew this would atract national attention?

We'll see.


Real things always push back.
-William James

Save lives! Click here!
Join the World Community Grid with Team EvC!
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