Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rejecting dogmatism?

Those of us who are Christians of an orthodox bent and who have similarly convicted friends in secular colleges have heard stories like this before. The orthodoxy of most college campuses is quite different and very pervasive, resulting in genuine intolerance on the part of the stupid and/or unreflective. Those students who wish to survive academically often respond with self-censorship. From Timothy Larsen, "No Christianity Please, We’re Academics":
John had been a straight-A student until he enrolled in English writing. The assignment was an “opinion” piece and the required theme was “traditional marriage.” John is a Southern Baptist and he felt it was his duty to give his honest opinion and explain how it was grounded in his faith. The professor was annoyed that John claimed the support of the Bible for his views, scribbling in the margin, “Which Bible would that be?” On the very same page, John’s phrase, “Christians who read the Bible,” provoked the same retort, “Would that be the Aramaic Bible, the Greek Bible, or the Hebrew Bible?” (What could the point of this be? Did the professor want John to imagine that while the Greek text might support his view of traditional marriage, the Aramaic version did not?) The paper was rejected as a “sermon,” and given an F, with the words, “I reject your dogmatism,” written at the bottom by way of explanation.

Thereafter, John could never get better than a C for papers without any marked errors or corrections. When he asked for a reason why yet another grade was so poor he was told that it was inappropriate to quote C.S. Lewis in work for an English class because he was “a pastor.” (Lewis, of course, was actually an English professor at Cambridge University. Perhaps it was wrong to quote Lewis simply because he had said something recognizably Christian.) Eventually John complained to the department chair, who said curtly that he could do nothing until the course was over. John took this to mean that the chair would do nothing and just accepted the bad grade.

I suspect that many readers are already generating “maybe .... ” scenarios that fill out this story so that John was actually treated fairly. Blaming the victim is a familiar response to reports of discrimination. Maybe John is just one of those uppity believers who don’t know their place. .... [more, including how T.S. Eliot has fallen out of favor in some exalted academic precincts]
Views: No Christianity Please, We’re Academics - Inside Higher Ed