Pete and I are on the road this week, attending a retreat/conference in central Arizona. I’ve been out stalking the local birds, hiking in the desert, and enjoying time with friends who share our ministry calling. I have not been writing. So I thought I’d turn today’s soapbox over to my son-in-law, who has been writing about his college writing class. It’s a bit long, but I couldn’t find any content I was willing to delete. My questions are:
- How should Jeremy respond to his professor? What would God have him do and say?
- Have other people experienced this much harassment in a classroom? Is this common?
- What place should a professor’s personal beliefs and opinions take in a classroom discussion?
So I finally did it; after many months of consideration, prayer, consultation, and jumping through financial aid hoops, I’m officially a college student. Since I’m still working full time I’ve had to take it easy on the classes, starting with only two at first, then hopefully working in more as I go. I’m taking a fairly basic math class online and a lecture-style English class, which I was looking forward to because I enjoy writing and reading. Unfortunately though, my excitement and positive attitude ended up being short-lived, as I had no clue what English actually held in store.
I showed up for [the first] class full of enthusiasm about beginning my long-awaited college career. As soon as the class before mine let out, I walked into the room, grabbed a seat close to the front, and just watched in anticipation as all my classmates slowly filed in and took up the remainder of the empty chairs. So far, things were good. Then my teacher started to talk.
Within a few minutes of everyone showing up, my teacher, Mr. R—, quietly asked who in the class believed themselves to be a critical thinker. Seeing how I fancy myself a wanna-be philosopher and enjoy studying logical thinking concepts, I raised my hand.
Mr. R— looked around the class for a second, and then followed up with a second question: “Ok, now how many of you think that traditional marriage is a good thing?” Seeing how I honestly believe that marriage, although difficult at times, is a very good thing, I again raised my hand, along with a few other students.
Immediately, our teacher looked at me and asked, “How can you say you’re a critical thinker and believe marriage is a good thing? Half of all marriages end in divorce, and only about ten percent of all married couples are actually happy. To me, marriage is a failed institution.”
I replied [that] I considered myself a critical thinker because I believe I think logically and over-analyze nearly everything. I then defended marriage by suggesting that the traditional marriage is not a failed institution, but rather an institution people fail at. I advanced my argument by stating that most marriages fall victim to the selfishness of the people in them, that people are to blame for failed marriages, and not the concept of marriage itself. He didn’t really buy it.
Nevertheless, class went on. R— began to talk about how most people hate their jobs and how sad that was. He then stated that care providers for the sick and elderly statistically make up top of the list of professionals who really love what they do, and that perhaps there is something to that. I found that to be a bit ironic, as the Christian model of marriage is actually quite similar to the idea of a care giver: the husband and wife serving one another in an effort to show their love, even if it requires some sacrifice from one of them at times. The failure of most married couples to live this way really explains the failure of most marriages. Although I was going to share this viewpoint with my class, Mr. R— had already moved on to bigger and better things.
The next hour and a half was taken up by R— explaining how he is, “So left-wing that Obama seems like a Republican to him,” and how he is “for real change.” He explained how he wants to do away with traditional marriage and how open marriages would be so much better; how growing marijuana is not a big deal and shouldn’t be illegal; how pro-choice is obviously the right choice because it doesn’t force an opinion on anyone; how one day we will run out of cows to eat and will turn into cannibals to compensate; and how in 50 years there will be life-like robots which everyone will use as sexual partners, fulfilling all our desires and eliminating the need for sex with actual human beings, except in cases where procreation is necessary. Oh yeah, he also went on about a 20 minute rant about how Republicans and Christians are evil, power-hungry bigots, obsessed with weapons and apparently want to take over the world. He made it very clear that religion (Christianity, to be precise) is nothing more than a way to control the masses and force beliefs upon other people, and should be done away with. Personally, I found that view to be a little hypocritical coming from a man who believes he is open-minded and accepting, and was going to call him out on it. Unfortunately, by then the class had ended and people began to leave, so I made some mental notes to ensure I would bring up his self-refuting thinking.
A few days later our class met again, and our teacher began with another rant about something or other. Sure enough, just like the first class, his discussion eventually turned into another Christian bashing session, letting everyone know how bad all those nasty Christians are. Although I do not remember exactly what he had said, I do remember challenging him this time because of his double standards and accusing him of the same kind of closed-minded thinking he accused Christians of. Although my points were valid, it was quickly determined by the entire class that I was “that religious guy,” and probably had nothing worthwhile to say. In the meantime I was given a bunch of reasons from Mr. R— as to why the Bible was obviously not true and how my faith was just part of cultural conditioning, and other such nonsense. Seeing how R— obviously failed to see my point, and then being given enough tripe in ten minutes to write papers on for the remainder of the year, I let many of his comments slide for the time being. I’m not one to open my mouth too quickly, so I figured I’d take note of some of his comments and write about them later when I was sure I could properly support everything I wanted to respond to. Not too big a deal.
In the meantime, we had been given our first homework assignment. We were given printout of a comparison of sociocentric thinking to critical thinking, along with a list of critical thinking concepts. R— told us to pick one of the critical thinking concepts, and write one paragraph on what we thought of it. Being the analytical type, I decided to have some fun with it. After reading through the printout, I realized that critical thinking seemed to be rather self-refuting in many ways. It said things like,” critical thinking is open-minded,” yet it is obviously the only standard of thinking college students should subject themselves to. Playing off of this, I wrote a four-page, single-spaced essay on why critical thinking isn’t all that critical. I couldn’t wait to see his response.
As it turns out, my teacher is not very good at grading things quickly. Assignment after assignment was turned in, and none were returned. Meanwhile, I was subjected to class after class full of Christian bashing, hypocritical logic (if logic at all), and lessons on the blissfulness of hedonism. We learned all about how my teacher is down for total anarchy, yet he doesn’t want the government to regulate drugs because it would hurt the small time dealers. We learned more about how Christians/Republicans (after all, they’re all the same) are just interested in money, weapons, and power, and about how Galileo was basically martyred for trying to ruin the Catholic Church’s control over people by being smart. That led into a discussion on how science is obviously open-minded whereas religion is not, and how ignorant those religious people are. I heard comments from students about how religion is about social control, how the Bible has obviously been rewritten repeatedly to keep us all brainwashed. Perhaps my favorite comment though was from a girl sitting behind me, who wrote a paper on how stupid it is for anyone to believe the Bible because there is no proof that Jesus wrote any of it… that one blew me away. There is no proof of that because Jesus never wrote any of the Bible, nor does the Bible claim He did. But hey, ignorance is bliss, right? Throughout the classes I would submit rebuttals to foolish claims and call out hypocrisy when I saw it, but was never really taken very seriously by anyone. After all, I’m the religious bigot my teacher has been warning the class about all semester; I can’t possibly have anything worthwhile to say. Day in and day out, I learn more about how Christians are wrong for telling other people they’re wrong because telling people they’re wrong is wrong. Brilliant. And to think I’m paying money for this…
Anyway, I finally got my paper on critical thinking back yesterday, and was pleasantly surprised: I was given a 10/10 on it. This brought me some relief, as I was beginning to wonder if my grades would be docked for disagreeing with my teacher, which is apparently quite common. Instead, my teacher mentioned my paper in front of the whole class, and even in a relatively positive manner. I began to read some of his notes on my essay, but the class ended so I figured I’d finish reading them later. On my way out the door, Mr. R— said to me, “Jeremy, thanks for writing your ass off on that paper. Good job.” I stopped to talk to him a bit about it, letting him know I figured I’d miss at least a few points because I had never proofread it. The thing had taken me literally until the last minute to write, so I didn’t have a chance to look for errors, which it definitely did not lack. Nonetheless, R— assured me I’m a good writer with a good vocabulary. I left the room with a big smile on my face, feeling great for a change.
Unfortunately, that didn’t last. After I got home I took the time to decipher my teacher’s notes. Although a few of them were valid and even positive, many of them were not. I was annoyed by the fact that in my paragraph about critical thinking being an absolute, he wrote in that critical thinking is not an absolute, but open-ended. I’m not sure if he didn’t read the rest of the paragraph, which explained my thesis, or if he just didn’t understand my point. Either way, I supported my statement. In a sentence where I stated that critical thinking should be discarded if it isn’t logically sound, he wrote in, “Like religion?” underneath. This was obviously another personal jab, accusing me of believing in Christ without sufficient cause. Oddly enough, he hasn’t allowed me a chance to support my beliefs rationally, not that he’d likely listen anyway. He underlined the world “foreign” I had used in one spot, which was not intended to carry any kind of negative connotation, and apparently had no clue what I meant by stating that all logic is built upon some form of intuition.
That was annoying, but not too big a deal. Then I got to his note at the end of my paper. He told me that critical thinking is obviously not for me because it doesn’t sustain absolutes, even though I called it one (which, coincidentally, was my point). He then said that I apply my “particularized thinking” to define and explain critical thinking, and that no one said it is perfect. Never mind then that my printout on it states, “Education in the critical faculty is the only education of which it can be truly said that it makes good citizens” (William Graham Sumner [emphasis mine]). Let’s also ignore the fact that it is his particularized thinking which deems critical thinking valid, which makes his point benign at best. Furthermore, the printout also says that critical thinking is viewed as essential to living a reasonable and fair-minded life. Obviously though, it was I who missed the point by accusing it of claiming absolutism. Stupid me.
Still, R—‘s list goes on: I’m at war with secular thought (fair enough; a Christian should be) that empowers muti-cultural attitudes and “foreign” ideas. I didn’t realize saying critical thinking is self-refuting was tantamount to saying I dislike other cultures, or that using a legitimate word such as “foreign” was so taboo. Apparently the bigoted Christian strikes again. I’m then told that colleges are highly liberal and secular and will run against my beliefs, so why fight it? (I’m not kidding; he actually said that. He also ended his question with a period, but what do I know?)
R— goes on to explain to me that, “Like with your marriage, you already know what is best for you,” which he underlined. He was referring to my statement that I can say with 100% certainty that I love my wife, which was an example of instinctual intuition. Apparently making such an absurd statement, no matter how true, is arrogant. Stupid me again.
Following that, he tells me that the fact that marriage isn’t good for everyone is an attitude I could let go of. I found that odd, as I didn’t imply that marriage was good for everyone. In fact, I’d say there are a lot of people who probably shouldn’t be married, or at least not until they can let go of some selfishness. But again, R— seems to know me better than me, so I should take his advice.
By the time I was done reading his notes, I was pissed.
It seems R— will give me an “A” for effort, but defecate on my beliefs and tell me I’m wrong for disagreeing with him. I couldn’t believe this kind of crap was coming from a guy who talks about how important open-mindedness is, how Christians are bad for being closed-minded, how we should embrace other people’s beliefs, and how marginalizing and ostracizing people is a bad thing. Hypocrite! Here I am, trying to present a unique perspective, and I’m told I’m wrong for not going with the popular mentality. What garbage. All semester long I’m played out to be some prejudiced jerk while all the poor liberals are just trying to be loving and accepting, while being picked on by the majority. I cannot believe the lies that are told in that classroom; it makes my blood boil. I deliberately chose to attend a secular school because I wanted to be confronted with opposing opinions. Without people disagreeing with you, it is hard to build any kind of real knowledge. However, this goes far beyond that. This is nothing more than a hypocritical, self-righteous, bigoted crusade against people with different beliefs: the very thing I’m accused of supporting. In light of this, it seems that college is nothing more than a breeding ground for self-refuting, liberal propaganda. Although I will likely stay enrolled because I hope to teach myself some day (someone needs to stand up to this trash), I cannot say that I’m impressed with college at this time. In fact, I’m very disappointed.