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Author Topic: Western Civ class becomes Bible Lesson -- WWYD  (Read 4952 times)
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« Reply #13: June 13, 2008, 08:38:56 pm »

As a professor at a community college (who teaches comparative religions, among other things), I think you are radically overreacting, and I think the dean will think so as well.

First, you're not correct on the debate about whether Jesus existed; there's more evidence for Jesus than for Homer. His EXISTENCE isn't really in doubt. What he DID with it is. When a student presents "pop scholarship" to me as if HE knows better than *I* do because while I only have a doctoral degree, he's in his first semester of college and read some mass-market books on trendy alternatheories that weren't published in academic texts because they're not supportable, I take that as either hugely entertaining or wildly antagonistic (depending on my mood, the student's presentation, the level of crazy involved, and the number of times I've heard it presented). To me, your summary of what you presented sounds no different than students who get up in my face about how "it's PROVEN!" that evolution is false. It primarily signals that they're indoctrinated and uneducated. I've had this discussion:

(EDIT: Please see next post for clarification of above. Only boldface words inserted, nothing deleted or changed.)

I mentioned the fact that the very fact Jesus lived is under debate and that I knew one of the major sources of "proof" commonly cited by believers is thought to be forged.  He corrected me and mentioned Josephus, and I immediately knew that was the name I was thinking of.  I said that I was pretty sure the documents in question were the material alleged to be that of Josephus, to which he countered something to the effect of "Well, I haven't heard that.  If they're forged then I think a lot of people will have to rethink their history."  All I could manage at this point was "I'll bring it in."

probably a dozen times. If I said something like that, I would be trying to politely sidestep cutting you off at the knees in class so I could move on with the material I felt was relevant. I generally resist coming down on a student espousing a discredited theory or a popular revisionist set of ideas like the ton of academic bricks I can be, because he's my STUDENT and I'm there to teach, not crush. And honestly, beyond a certain point, not to debate. You don't get to come into my classroom and claim evolution isn't true, for example. There are some things so absurd or irrelevant I'm not debating them, because I have things I have to teach and I'm not going to be sidetracked for an entire class period by something I KNOW is a can of worms. I know this makes some of my students feel proudly superior because "Ha! She didn't answer my objections because she can't! I'm right! She's wrong!" but that's really their loss.


So we are on Rome right now and the book has a couple of paragraphs on Jesus.  It doesn't go in-depth too much, just presents a few brief notes about when he was thought to be born and crucified.  It seems my teacher decided to beef up the curriculum and today started giving out more information on Jesus.

is called good lecturing. If I just recite what's in the book, what exactly am I there for? Expanding on the text is the name of the game. And trust me, there's a lot of temptation just to recite the text in some classes where nobody's reading the book.

At points it was quite obvious he was fishing for answers of biblical origin (primarily gospels).  He even went so far to talk about the Annunciation (angels coming down to Mary and Joseph telling them that they were having the son of God), and the whole resurrecting and coming back to speak with his followers which he alluded was the catalyst for the creation of Christianity.

And you don't think the fact that these events AS BELIEVED BY CHRISTIANS were the catalyst for the creation -- or at least development -- of Christianity and underlie the dominant form of Western thought for 1500 years-ish is reason enough to go into them in depth? If I just stand there and give you the current scholarly ideas about Jesus, and don't tell you what the early Christians, medieval Christians, Enlightenment Christians THOUGHT, I've been absolutely NO use in helping you understand the intellectual climate that drives the history of the West. How does explaining modern understandings of the factual underpinnings (or lack thereof) of the Gospel stories help you understand the religious motivations for the Crusades?

However I don't think that discussion as in-depth as this belongs in a secular history class.  It's one thing to bring up Jesus as a sort of enigma that affected history be him real or figment, but to tell a bunch of impressionable college kids that this is all "generally accepted" really pisses me off.  I have no problem accepting a brief overview of Western religions as part of the history of Western Civilization.

I think you're failing to appreciate the importance of religion in most of Western history, then. "And then some guys had some wars over some stuff, which we're not going to talk about, because it's not appropriate for a secular history class." Well, we can just skip ahead to um ... never?

what would you do in this situation?

I would realize that you are in college now. The school is not there to protect your feelings or your sensitivities. How would you feel if one of your classmates insisted Darwin get skipped over because Darwin offended THEM? You are also there to LEARN, and you don't seem very open to that in this post (though I realize you're posting in anger); if you already know everything the professor has to teach, and you know everywhere he's wrong, why are you in the class?

I would follow Randall's advice that:
This is a college course, right? Being exposed to different ideas than one holds is part of the whole college experience. Unless this stuff shows up on a test and only "Biblically Correct" answers are acceptable or this guy does the Christian religion bit every day, I just ignore it.

And realize that unless he goes that far, to insist that the Bible is fact? (As distinct from insisting you understand the popular understanding of the Bible at various points in history, which is an entirely fair thing to put on a test.) It's possible it's a pedagogical strategy.

If it won't hurt your feelings, I'll tell you what typically happens with complaints like this from students, but that might fall under the category of not wanting to know how sausages are made. Smiley

« Last Edit: June 13, 2008, 08:47:15 pm by Koimichra » Logged

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