Wednesday, April 16, 2008

College Student Gets Low Grades for Religious Beliefs

Some time back, I quite my casual relationship with the American Center for Law and Justice, mainly because Chief Council Jay Sekulow has made some bad statements about Just War Theory and has come out in support of waterboarding, following the scary habit American Evangelicals have of saying the ends justify the means as long as it's a Republican doing it. Nonetheless, when I got a notice that the ACLJ is defending a college student who's getting low grades because she's Christian, I read the demand letter outlining the case, and it got my dander up.

Student in question is Gina DeLuca, who attends Suffolk County Community College. Her professor, whose poor critical thinking skills should exclude him from teaching Philosophy (and whose writing should exclude him from teaching Composition), has belittled and berated her in the class's online discussion forums. For example, check out this doozy:

You are a level one thinker and appear to be content but you will not be the one to
solve the problems the 7 billion people in the world are facing. You[r] level one
thinking allows you to be comfortable thinking that you have the answers when in
fact you do not even know the questions.

Yeah, and "you" typos and lack of commas allow you to be comfortable thinking you're making sense to your students when in fact they probably can't follow your train of thought. Here's another damning quote that gets to the heart of the matter:

[I]t is clear that knowledge is linked to belief and that KNOWLEDGE is a
justified true belief. If you do not believe that X is true then you can not claim to
know that X is true. What you do is to deceive yourself and others by claiming
that “I can KNOW the material, without having to BELIEVE it.”
What you do is MEMORIZE and REPEAT without understanding. You have no
understanding of what it means to know something.

So you can't know information without believing it to be factual? To what philosophy, exactly, does this Philosophy professor adhere? Seems to me he has attacked her statement by changing the definition of know from "be aware of, understand, and be able to process and describe" to "know experientially" or "believe." In other words, he views his role as that of indoctrinator rather than teacher.

You can read the entire demand letter here, and I suggest you do, as it contains more outrageous quotes suggesting not only that DeLuca should win her case, but that this professor should be fired. (Apparently, Christians are opposed to finding cures for cancer. Who knew?) You can sign the ACLJ's petition of protest here.

Update: See comments for the discussion of one of my royally blatant misunderstandings here; I guess that's what I get for posting on controversial issues while in a tizzy. Also, I should add that I heard Sekulow support waterboarding--somewhat obliquely--on his radio program and have been singularly unable to get a definite confirmation of it. I feel compelled to add this note to avoid being outright libelous. At any rate, my major blunders here will teach me to double-check things better in the future.
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