Religion freedom vs. academic freedom - discrimination or not?

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  • Reply 81 of 135
    groveratgroverat Posts: 10,872member
    You got me, Scott, I was just waiting to pounce on the racism part until you beat me to it and made me change what I was going to say! You're so clever!
  • Reply 82 of 135
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    [quote]Originally posted by Scott:

    <strong>





    Sigh. You're not reading either. <img src="graemlins/bugeye.gif" border="0" alt="[Skeptical]" /> In the tread I'm reading people say that a prof can deny a letter for any reason. My question to challenge that is, does that include race? I'm sure most people would say no had they not painted themselves into a corner already and were too pigheaded to admit they were wrong. </strong><hr></blockquote>



    Erg! Of COURSE the professor can refuse to write a letter for whatever assholish reasons he chooses. We may not like it. It may be politically incorrect. But in this case, it's a fairly rational position: he doesn't believe that a student who does not accept a Darwinian explanation of species variation and human evolution would be a very good student.



    Your analogy, by the way, is inappropriate and unnecessarily charged.



    Let's turn the tables:



    Say you are a professor of philosophy or religion at a major Big 12 school and you have a student who wants to go to dvinity school. Say you sometimes write letters for students who wish to pursue careers in the clergy, since, you know, you teach something that's more or less up that alley. Wouldn't it make sense that you would refuse to write letters of rec for students who desired to pursue such a career if the student was an atheist? Or if the student was hostile to Manichean philosophies? Or if the student believed in God but didn't think that Jesus was all that hot? Or that Jesus wasn't God's son?



    These are ideas that underpin protestant theology in its current iteration (sometimes it changes), and the student's not accepting them makes him a poor candidate for such study.



    But this thread isn't about this. And it's not about racism in the academy. It's about a prof at Texas Tech who refuses to write letters of recommendation for students who do not accept Darwin's explanation of the evolution of species.



    This saves him the trouble of writing a bad letter, and it saves the student the no doubt crushing blow that such a letter would result in.



    Cheers

    Scott



    PS

    It is becoming confusing to me that two people arguing in this thread are named Scott.
  • Reply 83 of 135
    scottscott Posts: 7,431member
    [quote]Originally posted by midwinter:

    <strong>PS

    It is becoming confusing to me that two people arguing in this thread are named Scott.</strong><hr></blockquote>





    One of the hazards of being born in the late 60's early 70's.
  • Reply 84 of 135
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    [quote]Originally posted by Scott:

    <strong>





    One of the hazards of being born in the late 60's early 70's.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    Indeed. Does it show?



    Cheers

    Scott



    PS

    I sometimes geta good chuckle when I consider than in about 50 years, there will be droves of women being called "Grandma Brittany" out there. And many of them will have tattoos on the small of their back.
  • Reply 85 of 135
    brbr Posts: 8,395member
    [quote]Originally posted by Scott:

    <strong>





    Sigh. You're not reading either. <img src="graemlins/bugeye.gif" border="0" alt="[Skeptical]" /> In the tread I'm reading people say that a prof can deny a letter for any reason. My question to challenge that is, does that include race? I'm sure most people would say no had they not painted themselves into a corner already and were too pigheaded to admit they were wrong. </strong><hr></blockquote>

    Yes, they can deny it based on race. They can deny it based on any idiotic criteria they choose. Race is part of the all-encompassing word any. I thought you would understand that. I thought wrong.
  • Reply 86 of 135
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,464member
    [quote]Originally posted by BR:

    <strong>

    Yes, they can deny it based on race. They can deny it based on any idiotic criteria they choose. Race is part of the all-encompassing word any. I thought you would understand that. I thought wrong.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    I respectfully disagree. In working for a university you agree to behave and perform in certain manners. To say that they have free reign is simply wrong. They cannot sexually harass a student in return for a recommendation. They cannot act in a racist, or sexist manner or even in a harassing and antagonizing manner because it goes against their code of professional conduct.



    Some samples from the TTU faculty handbook....



    [quote] Teaching

    As a teacher, the faculty member has responsibilities to students, to a discipline, to a

    profession, and to the university. These responsibilities entail facilitating the intellectual

    and emotional growth of students, encouraging free inquiry in the classroom, and

    striving to create and maintain a climate of mutual respect which will enhance the free

    interplay of ideas. A faculty member has a responsibility to recognize the varying needs

    and capabilities of students and to make every effort to assure that evaluations of

    student?s work reflects the student?s level of achievement. The faculty member as a

    teacher also has the responsibility to uphold the highest scholarly standards and

    encourage respect for such standards in the classroom, to engage in a continual and

    critical study of the subject matter of one?s discipline, to ensure that class presentations

    contain the most current and useful knowledge and that the course being taught is

    consistent with the course of study outlined by a department or college, and to recognize

    the responsibilities of a teacher as a counselor and devote a reasonable portion of

    time and aiding, guiding, and counseling students outside the classroom. Finally, the

    faculty member has a responsibility to strive to maintain those skills and values that

    ensure the continuation of free and open inquiry.



    Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action

    Personnel practices of Texas Tech are based on fairness and honesty, and they are

    designed to provide equal opportunity in employment for all employees and applicants

    for employment. Texas Tech equal employment opportunity and affirmative action

    policies prohibit discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, national

    origin, sex, age, disability, or Vietnam Era or special disabled veterans status.

    Texas Tech adheres to the principles of affirmative action. The institution has affirmative

    action plans which require that special efforts be made to recruit, hire, and promote

    qualified women and members of racial and ethnic minorities for those job categories in

    which they are underrepresented in relation to their availability in the appropriate labor

    market.

    37

    It is also a policy of the university to maintain a workplace free from sexual harassment

    and intimidation. Such conduct on the part of any employee is expressly prohibited,

    and the offenders will be subject to disciplinary action.

    Equal employment opportunity and affirmative action policies have legal basis in the

    following legislative and executive acts: Equal Pay Act of 1963; Civil Rights Act of

    1964, as amended; Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended;

    Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972;

    Vietnam Era Veterans? Readjustment Act of 1974; Executive Order 11246; and

    American With Disabilities Act.

    To implement the policies of equal employment opportunity and affirmative action, the

    Office of Equal Employment Opportunity provides the following services: (1) EEO/

    AA information on recruiting, screening, interviewing, selection, and termination

    procedures; (2) training workshops on EEO/AA issues; (3) employee counseling and

    reconciliation of employment grievances; (4) resource information on EEO/AA-related

    issues.

    Questions regarding equal employment opportunity and affirmative action at Texas

    Tech can be referred to the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity.<hr></blockquote>



    Heck they have laws that say they can't smoke on campus and many university's have rules saying that student/professor adult relationships are not allowed.



    There are plenty of means by which professors must act on and demonstrate their professionalism. To expect them to do so with regard to letters of recommendation is just another part of the job.



    Nick
  • Reply 87 of 135
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    [quote]Originally posted by trumptman:

    <strong>There are plenty of means by which professors must act on and demonstrate their professionalism. To expect them to do so with regard to letters of recommendation is just another part of the job.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    No. It's not. My job, as a teacher at a Big 12 university, entails little more than teaching my classes, conducting my research in my area, and not having sex with my students. Oh and not killing people.



    I am under no obligations to write letters of recommentation for ANY student. I can refuse to write them (and I've written DOZENS over the past 10 years) for WHATEVER REASON I BLOODY WELL CHOOSE.



    The examples from the handbook you have cited are all about professionalism in the classroom. Letters of rec. are not a part of my contractual agreement with the university. And regardless, as I have said at a number of points throughout this thread, I AM FREE TO WRITE THEM, OR REFUSE TO WRITE THEM, FOR WHATEVER REASON I CHOOSE.



    We need a new thread. Instead of a thread about an idiotic lawsuit by an admittedly bad student (who also happens not to believe in the BASIC UNDERLYING THEORY governing much of his studies) about how some "darwinist" scientist torpedoed his career by persecuting his religious beliefs, we need another thread about how the HIGHLY VALUED ability of university faculty to THINK AND BELIEVE WHAT THEY BLOODY WELL WANT TO THINK (this is, after all, the POINT of tenure...that you can't be fired for what you belive or think or argue) is being assaulted by the extreme right wing in this country, as well as how the staggering trend of anti-intellectualism present in modern day America (don't believe me? How was Gore characterized during the 2000 campign? A smarty-pants. He's too smart. He's not a normal guy. God forbid we should have someone SMART in charge of, you know, EVERYTHING. Look at the representation of smart people in television, for god's sake).



    Ugh.



    I give up. I say again, for the last time: I will refuse to write letters of recommendation for WHATEVER REASON I choose. If I want to refuse because I don't have time, or my wife needs me, or my foot hurts, or I don't know the student, or I think the student is an idiot, or I think the student has social problems in the classroom, or I think the student is ugly, or I think the student is a NAZI...I can do it. It's my right--not the student's.



    And I will fight tooth and nail to preserve that right.



    Cheers

    Scott
  • Reply 88 of 135
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,464member
    [quote]Originally posted by midwinter:

    <strong>



    No. It's not. My job, as a teacher at a Big 12 university, entails little more than teaching my classes, conducting my research in my area, and not having sex with my students. Oh and not killing people.



    I am under no obligations to write letters of recommentation for ANY student. I can refuse to write them (and I've written DOZENS over the past 10 years) for WHATEVER REASON I BLOODY WELL CHOOSE.



    The examples from the handbook you have cited are all about professionalism in the classroom. Letters of rec. are not a part of my contractual agreement with the university. And regardless, as I have said at a number of points throughout this thread, I AM FREE TO WRITE THEM, OR REFUSE TO WRITE THEM, FOR WHATEVER REASON I CHOOSE.



    We need a new thread. Instead of a thread about an idiotic lawsuit by an admittedly bad student (who also happens not to believe in the BASIC UNDERLYING THEORY governing much of his studies) about how some "darwinist" scientist torpedoed his career by persecuting his religious beliefs, we need another thread about how the HIGHLY VALUED ability of university faculty to THINK AND BELIEVE WHAT THEY BLOODY WELL WANT TO THINK (this is, after all, the POINT of tenure...that you can't be fired for what you belive or think or argue) is being assaulted by the extreme right wing in this country, as well as how the staggering trend of anti-intellectualism present in modern day America (don't believe me? How was Gore characterized during the 2000 campign? A smarty-pants. He's too smart. He's not a normal guy. God forbid we should have someone SMART in charge of, you know, EVERYTHING. Look at the representation of smart people in television, for god's sake).



    Ugh.



    I give up. I say again, for the last time: I will refuse to write letters of recommendation for WHATEVER REASON I choose. If I want to refuse because I don't have time, or my wife needs me, or my foot hurts, or I don't know the student, or I think the student is an idiot, or I think the student has social problems in the classroom, or I think the student is ugly, or I think the student is a NAZI...I can do it. It's my right--not the student's.



    And I will fight tooth and nail to preserve that right.



    Cheers

    Scott</strong><hr></blockquote>



    The reason I cited the book is because others here were saying that racism and sexism would be tolerated on a university campus. I quoted them to show that this is not true.



    As for your letter writing rationals, you can keep them and the elitist attitudes behind the for as long as you want. The fact that we see academic admissions offices continually attempting to throw out criteria like the S.A.T for admission and instead rely more on items like personal background information and letters of recommendation to insure proper thought control shows the true motives behind such moves.



    As for anti-intellectualism, perhaps common folk do not care to buy into what most elites call intelligence. Gore was not a smarty-pants, he was a know-it-all. It was not the fact that he is intelligent, but his continual claiming of credit for everything in creation along with his assumption that he knew more than everyone, everywhere about everything.



    No one here has said that university professors shouldn't have tenure nor have academic free speech. So your rant is completely off-base. Rather people are tiring of elites who don't teach and instead use their classrooms as political platforms while watching university costs rise at double to triple the rate of inflation for the last 30 years.



    Within my own experience I had to drop a university class because the profession, who was supposed to be teaching comtemporary American history lectured instead on post-modernism while coming to class dressed in a dress. (He was male) My papers on post-modernism all earned a grade of "A." However when he actually began teaching some American history he also began failing all of us on our papers because he couldn't even stand to read the history he despised so much even when all I did was literally intelligently repeat back most of the topics I was asked to write about.



    I had a Physics class where the student with a masters in physics couldn't understand my solution to a problem that used torsional forces and so he failed my quiz. I took it too a full professor who did understand it and showed my "teacher" that my math and solution were correct. It really didn't matter because afterwards he began picking apart my quiz each week. (Mostly claiming that I didn't show enough work on things basic enough that most people could do them in their head) and my grade dropped to a "B" thanks to his "freedom of thought."



    So the real point isn't that university teachers aren't allowed think and believe what this wish and have it protected by tenure. Rather it is that they prevent thought and debate among students who have nothiing resembling tenure, and likewise have their futures threatened by failing to conform. Likewise if you claim that these letters can come at your whim, you should press to insure objective standards of admission instead of criteria that reward nepotism.



    Nick
  • Reply 89 of 135
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    [quote]Originally posted by trumptman:

    <strong>



    The reason I cited the book is because others here were saying that racism and sexism would be tolerated on a university campus. I quoted them to show that this is not true.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    The handbook you quoted describes academic policies in the classroom, and mentions nothing about the writing of letters of recommendation. I would be surprised if you could find anything anywhere about faculty responsiblities for such things.



    [quote]<strong>As for your letter writing rationals, you can keep them and the elitist attitudes behind the for as long as you want.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    Thanks. I will. Why are we still talking, then? And by the way, it should be "rationale."





    [quote]<strong>The fact that we see academic admissions offices continually attempting to throw out criteria like the S.A.T for admission and instead rely more on items like personal background information and letters of recommendation to insure proper thought control shows the true motives behind such moves.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    I don't know where you're seeing this, since I'm certainly not. If anything, I'm seeing an increasing drive toward greater attention to standardized tests.



    What, precisely, do you mean by the "true motives behind such moves"? I'm interested. Does that mean that, heaven forfend, sometimes universites take into account factors other than tests that have been time and time again shown to discriminate against non-white, non-middle class members of society?



    [quote]<strong>As for anti-intellectualism, perhaps common folk do not care to buy into what most elites call intelligence.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    Then they're simply wrong or misguided.



    [quote]<strong>Gore was not a smarty-pants, he was a know-it-all.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    Could you please explain the difference to me between these two terms?



    [quote]<strong>It was not the fact that he is intelligent, but his continual claiming of credit for everything in creation along with his assumption that he knew more than everyone, everywhere about everything.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    Bullshit. Seriously. You're extrapolating this from a right wing attack upon his bragging that he spearheaded the legislation that essentially funded the early phase of what would become the internet. He did. I know the quote to which you're referring, and it was very obviously a misstatement. And yet the right wing has held onto it tenaciously in order to prop up Bush as the antithesis of Gore. Guess what? They're both complete corporate dogs. There is, in the end, very little difference between Republicans and Democrats at the national level. Seriously.



    [quote]<strong>No one here has said that university professors shouldn't have tenure nor have academic free speech. So your rant is completely off-base. </strong><hr></blockquote>



    I call bullshit again. As you will remark later, all professors should "teach" instead of espouse political opinions. THIS IS WHAT TENURE PROTECTS. All teaching IS POLITICAL OPINION!!! All of it. Every word. Hell, the very idea that I am typing this at 1:16 am on a Sunday morning IS A POLITICAL EXPRESSION. What I deem valuable for my students is a political expression. What I focus on in my classes is a political expression.



    If a professor wants to rant against the evils of capitalism in his lectures, or if he wants to describe how the American failure to enter WWII before we did, or if he wants to describe the Declaration of Independence as a document authorizing the theft of British property (which it was), the the professor should be able to argue such positions without fear of termination.



    My rant is not off-base in the least. You specifically, and those of you more generally who would attack this professor for refusing to write letters of recommendation for whatever reason he chooses, would limit his academic freedom. You would limit his ability to make his own choices about who and what he is going to support as a respected and acknowledged expert in his field.



    Would you have him also teach "creationism" (hardly anythign more than myth with an "ism" stuck on the end of it) in the classroom, and take valuable time away from more accepted geological, anthropological, paleontological, and psychological explanations for the origin of species? Would you have him deny those students in the class who feel they should know that?



    Regardless, the classroom is NOT A DEMOCRACY. If my classes were governed by what my students wanted to talk about, we'd be discussing Joe Millionaire, Survivor, and the latest football game.[/



    [quote]<strong>Rather people are tiring of elites who don't teach and instead use their classrooms as political platforms while watching university costs rise at double to triple the rate of inflation for the last 30 years.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    See above for a response to the first clause of the sentence. As for the second, it's irrelevant. No one makes you go to college, and I see far too many people who ought not be there at all.



    Remember. I'm an elitist snob, and I'm not ashamed of it.



    [quote]<strong>Within my own experience I had to drop a university class because the profession, who was supposed to be teaching comtemporary American history lectured instead on post-modernism while coming to class dressed in a dress. (He was male)</strong><hr></blockquote>



    I find this difficult to believe. Are you saying that the professor, for FIFTEEN WEEKS, came to class EVERY SINGLE DAY in drag? If so, do you think there might've been some point he was trying to make?



    I don't know what kind of rudimentary understanding you might have of post-modernism, but I find it difficult to imagine that a prof of an Am History class would spend 15 weeks lecturing to undergrads about MIchel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, Luce Iriguray, and Stephen Greenblatt.



    Seriously.



    He may have brought up subjects which to you registered as "postmodern" (i.e. cultural relativism, etc), but I find it difficult to believe that any professor would have any undergraduates reading such things outside of an honors classroom.



    If, by chance, what he taught registered to you as "postmodern," then maybe you need to rethink what postmodernism is. Perhaps, even, you should read some Derrida, Foucault, de Man, and Greenblatt.



    Postmodernism is the recent clarion call of the right wing (again, a part of the anti-intellectualism of trhe right these days)...I hear them call into Rush Limbaugh all the time, bitching about how their kids are being taught that the refugees from Europe actually came over here not for religious freedom, but because they weren't being allowed to persecute the people they wanted to.



    Again. A resistance to new ideas. I resistance to the cultural narrative. A resistance to those who like to think about the narrative. A resistance to intellectuals. Or smarty-pantses. Or know-it-alls. Whatever you want to call them.



    Regardless, I will continue to mention in my classes that the US did not have a national anthem until the 50s. And that the Pledge of Allegiance was only adopted (around the same time) to distinguish us from the Godless commies.





    [quote]<strong>My papers on post-modernism all earned a grade of "A." However when he actually began teaching some American history he also began failing all of us on our papers because he couldn't even stand to read the history he despised so much even when all I did was literally intelligently repeat back most of the topics I was asked to write about.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    [quote]<strong>Irrelevant. Your difficulties with a class have nothing to do with whether or not a professor is required to write you a letter of recommendation.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    [quote]<strong>I had a Physics class where the student with a masters in physics couldn't understand my solution to a problem that used torsional forces and so he failed my quiz. I took it too a full professor who did understand it and showed my "teacher" that my math and solution were correct. It really didn't matter because afterwards he began picking apart my quiz each week. (Mostly claiming that I didn't show enough work on things basic enough that most people could do them in their head) and my grade dropped to a "B" thanks to his "freedom of thought."</strong><hr></blockquote>



    Maybe your grade dropped to a "B" because you didn't show your work. Assuming that it was some kind of vendetta ignores the fact that this "lowly" MA teaching assistant likely had a hundred other students and probably didn't even know your name.



    [quote]<strong>So the real point isn't that university teachers aren't allowed think and believe what this wish and have it protected by tenure. Rather it is that they prevent thought and debate among students who have nothiing resembling tenure, and likewise have their futures threatened by failing to conform. Likewise if you claim that these letters can come at your whim, you should press to insure objective standards of admission instead of criteria that reward nepotism.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    I'm a little confused here. Are you saying that students should be allowed to think and argue whatever they want and still receive passing credit for a course? Would you have me pass the student in my class who, for example, the other day argued that Langston Hughes's 1951 poem was CLEARLY influenced by ML King's 1963 speech?



    Of COURSE YOU MUST CONFORM. That's the nature of the beast. You can rebel only within limits. Your rebellion must not be idiotic. Your rebellion must be legitimate. You cannot rebel on the grounds that you don't think the American Rev didn't happen in the late c18. It's stupid.



    As for your claim about nepotism...I don't buy it. In fact, your cries for objective standards would in fact create MORE nepotism. All we have now are ACTs, SATs, and HIgh School GPAs. All of which are incredibly variable. You have no idea how many students I've failed who were valedictorians of their class of 6 people. Or who didn't realize that a 13 on the ACT wasn't a very good score. But there are inherent problems with standardized tests. That's the PURPOSE of things like considerations of background, race, class, etc. They encourage diversity.



    If you want to consider failure of a class a failure to conform, that's up to you. But I'll guarantee you that a good student will be able to disagree with a professor and still give him/her what he/she wants to hear. Or even, as some of my better students have done, disagree with me in profitable ways either in my classroom or during my office hours.



    But keep in mind that there is a difference between someone's disagreement and their disruption of my class. and I will, without hesitation, throw ANYONE I DEEM DISRUPTIVE out of my classroom.



    As I have said earlier, it is not a democracry, no matter how much you may want it to be.



    Cheers

    Scott



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    [ 02-23-2003: Message edited by: midwinter ]</p>
  • Reply 90 of 135
    brussellbrussell Posts: 9,812member
    [quote]Originally posted by midwinter:

    <strong>I give up. I say again, for the last time: I will refuse to write letters of recommendation for WHATEVER REASON I choose. If I want to refuse because I don't have time, or my wife needs me, or my foot hurts, or I don't know the student, or I think the student is an idiot, or I think the student has social problems in the classroom, or I think the student is ugly, or I think the student is a NAZI...I can do it. It's my right--not the student's.



    And I will fight tooth and nail to preserve that right.



    Cheers

    Scott</strong><hr></blockquote>I'm not sure you're right about this. It wouldn't surprise me at all if you could be successfully sued for writing an unfair letter (or not writing a letter, if you explicitly state why not as in this case).



    And I bet that's just as true for professors as any other letter writer, i.e., academic freedom does not apply to letter writing. First, as you have stated, it is not a core part of the job - teaching, research, service. So I doubt it's protected in the same way that a lecture or a scholarly work would be.



    Second, academic freedom is typically about protecting the professor from the institution and the state, not a student's private lawsuit. If the institution fired the professor because of this, then academic freedom might apply (although I still doubt you'd get past that first problem that it's not even an academic-freedom-protected part of the job).



    I doubt this specific type of (evolution-based) lawsuit against a faculty letter-writer (or non-writer) could be won, because it would be fairly easy to make the argument that 1) denying evolution is a legit basis on which to judge someone's suitability for a science-related career (while sex and race are not), and 2) it's not religious discrimination, because denying evolution is not a part of Christianity, and has in fact been explicitly accepted by most Christian denominations.



    I disagree with those who are arguing that race/sex and belief in evolution are equivalent. Like I said above, as far as I can tell it's not a part of the basic creed - it's really a fringe perspective that just seems to have caught on to the point where some religious people falsely believe it's a central part of Christianity.



    But I'm not sure midwinter you're correct and that you can do absolutely anything you want in your letter writing. I've had some experience in this area, and professors often overestimate their legal protections in issues such as tenure and academic freedom. I think you're doing the same.



    [ 02-23-2003: Message edited by: BRussell ]</p>
  • Reply 91 of 135
    i got kicked out of physics class in high school....thinking back on it, perhaps i should sue now....our teacher use to teach from a physic text book, but threw in parts of the bible in almost every class...so, after a couple of months of this, i raised my hand and asked why didn't we just use the bible intead of our textbook....boom, thrown right out of class....had to sit in the hall for a couple of days before he "let" me back to class...ahhh, the good old days, goodtimes, goodtimes....



    tired of elist colleges?? there is always Bob Jones and many other fundamental universities out there that could better suit your viewpoint...i mean, why go to college to hear any view other than the one you already support and except??





    g
  • Reply 92 of 135
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,464member
    [quote] The handbook you quoted describes academic policies in the classroom, and mentions nothing about the writing of letters of recommendation. I would be surprised if you could find anything anywhere about faculty responsiblities for such things. <hr></blockquote>



    I didn't claim that it specifically addressed letters of recommendation. I used it to show that academic freedom of speech does not equal freedom from professional obligations.



    You catagorize letters of recommendation as a personal obligation and you are free to write them for whatever reasons you want. I simply said that since they are required for admission into certain programs and schools they are at least partially professional.



    The professor in the article, and likely you use academic criteria to determine whether you would write such a letter. No one objected to this. Rather it was when he specifically left academia to start probing into the students background that was cited as being discriminatory.



    [quote]Thanks. I will. Why are we still talking, then? And by the way, it should be "rationale." <hr></blockquote>



    You can pick apart my typos if you want. I mostly type late at night on a laptop in bed. There were more than that one. Go back and find them all if it makes you feel better.



    [quote]I don't know where you're seeing this, since I'm certainly not. If anything, I'm seeing an increasing drive toward greater attention to standardized tests.



    What, precisely, do you mean by the "true motives behind such moves"? I'm interested. Does that mean that, heaven forfend, sometimes universites take into account factors other than tests that have been time and time again shown to discriminate against non-white, non-middle class members of society? <hr></blockquote>



    I'm seeing this in California where the U.C. system has been trying to throw out the SAT for years.



    As for discriminating, it doesn't seem to be discriminating against non-white, non-middle class asians. I have seen children come over from Korea at 13 years old, learn the language and score higher on these tests than someone who is native born. We hosted a Japanese exchange student who was able to earn a place on the honor roll in her first year while still learning English.



    As for the true motives behind these moves. You mention yourself that they try to represent all objective criteria as racist so that it can be replaced with a racial spoils system where you are admitted according to percentages. (Admitted, they could care less whether the kid graduates with a degree it seems)



    [quote]Then they're simply wrong or misguided. <hr></blockquote>



    I suppose Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Sam Walton, are all misguided. This list until recently would have included Steven Spielberg. (who just finished up at my alma mater) A degree doesn't insure competence or intelligence. I have met people with college degrees I wouldn't trust to balance my checkbook. I suppose I could get my doctorate in music and go around telling B.B. King that he doesn't know how to play guitar.



    Perhaps I should go tell Steve how to make movies, I mean he still only has a B.A. He shouldn't challege the viewpoints of anyone with an advanced degree in his field. He would simply be wrong and misguided.



    [quote]Bullshit. Seriously. You're extrapolating this from a right wing attack upon his bragging that he spearheaded the legislation that essentially funded the early phase of what would become the internet. He did. I know the quote to which you're referring, and it was very obviously a misstatement. And yet the right wing has held onto it tenaciously in order to prop up Bush as the antithesis of Gore. Guess what? They're both complete corporate dogs. There is, in the end, very little difference between Republicans and Democrats at the national level. Seriously. <hr></blockquote>



    I'm not going to further derail this thread with a political discussion, I'll just leave this by saying I leave my judgement to those who know him best. I don't recall Gore winning Tennessee during the last presidential election cycle.





    [quote] I call bullshit again. As you will remark later, all professors should "teach" instead of espouse political opinions. THIS IS WHAT TENURE PROTECTS. All teaching IS POLITICAL OPINION!!! All of it. Every word. Hell, the very idea that I am typing this at 1:16 am on a Sunday morning IS A POLITICAL EXPRESSION. What I deem valuable for my students is a political expression. What I focus on in my classes is a political expression.



    If a professor wants to rant against the evils of capitalism in his lectures, or if he wants to describe how the American failure to enter WWII before we did, or if he wants to describe the Declaration of Independence as a document authorizing the theft of British property (which it was), the the professor should be able to argue such positions without fear of termination.



    My rant is not off-base in the least. You specifically, and those of you more generally who would attack this professor for refusing to write letters of recommendation for whatever reason he chooses, would limit his academic freedom. You would limit his ability to make his own choices about who and what he is going to support as a respected and acknowledged expert in his field.



    Would you have him also teach "creationism" (hardly anythign more than myth with an "ism" stuck on the end of it) in the classroom, and take valuable time away from more accepted geological, anthropological, paleontological, and psychological explanations for the origin of species? Would you have him deny those students in the class who feel they should know that?



    Regardless, the classroom is NOT A DEMOCRACY. If my classes were governed by what my students wanted to talk about, we'd be discussing Joe Millionaire, Survivor, and the latest football game. <hr></blockquote>



    Your thoughtful refutations of all my points with the word bullshit does so inspire me in my own graduate academic efforts.



    It was not the contention of the professor in the article that all teaching is political. Perhaps it is in history but most in the hard sciences treat their information as factual and irrefutable.



    No one mentioned anything about teaching creationism. In fact if you look more carefully at what I have posted (thanks for lowering my opinion of graduate level reading comprehension) I said he could even demand that everyone he give a letter of recommendation to take and pass an exam about evolution with a score of 100%. I even added that he could knowingly antagonize the students he felt were religious by asking them to explain their understanding of evolution in excrutiating detail and that I felt it was fine and fair.



    The professor didn't seek out competence regarding information academic ability and information regarding the course. Rather he asked a question to get to the core of philosophical beliefs and sought to prosecute certain people for their beliefs.



    Again no one said anything about students determining course content or even having input. However please feel free to keep throwing dust in the air.



    [quote] As for the second, it's irrelevant. No one makes you go to college, and I see far too many people who ought not be there at all.



    Remember. I'm an elitist snob, and I'm not ashamed of it. <hr></blockquote>



    To be an elitist is fine, however don't be hypocritical. Don't sit there and complain that exams like the S.A.T. are elitist and racist and then claim entitlement to a solution that simply perpetuates the problem along different lines. Elitism perpetuated by a test or a professor is still elitism. The fact that you see nothing wrong with YOU having and enforcing it is why I claimed nepotism.



    [quote]I find this difficult to believe. Are you saying that the professor, for FIFTEEN WEEKS, came to class EVERY SINGLE DAY in drag? If so, do you think there might've been some point he was trying to make?



    I don't know what kind of rudimentary understanding you might have of post-modernism, but I find it difficult to imagine that a prof of an Am History class would spend 15 weeks lecturing to undergrads about MIchel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, Luce Iriguray, and Stephen Greenblatt.



    Seriously.



    He may have brought up subjects which to you registered as "postmodern" (i.e. cultural relativism, etc), but I find it difficult to believe that any professor would have any undergraduates reading such things outside of an honors classroom.



    If, by chance, what he taught registered to you as "postmodern," then maybe you need to rethink what postmodernism is. Perhaps, even, you should read some Derrida, Foucault, de Man, and Greenblatt.



    Postmodernism is the recent clarion call of the right wing (again, a part of the anti-intellectualism of trhe right these days)...I hear them call into Rush Limbaugh all the time, bitching about how their kids are being taught that the refugees from Europe actually came over here not for religious freedom, but because they weren't being allowed to persecute the people they wanted to.



    Again. A resistance to new ideas. I resistance to the cultural narrative. A resistance to those who like to think about the narrative. A resistance to intellectuals. Or smarty-pantses. Or know-it-alls. Whatever you want to call them.



    Regardless, I will continue to mention in my classes that the US did not have a national anthem until the 50s. And that the Pledge of Allegiance was only adopted (around the same time) to distinguish us from the Godless commies.

    <hr></blockquote>



    I wouldn't know about all 15 weeks because I dropped the class after nine weeks. However knowing what you know about dropping classes in most universities, let me ask you this, how many students do you think the department chair would sign a drop form after midterms?



    At my university (as I am sure is true at yours) it is next to impossible to drop a class after the middle of the semester. I had to sit in a meeting both with the professor of the class and the head of the department and essentually have the head of the department sign my drop slip over the objection of the teacher. Think about what sort of compelling argument and evidence it would take to make that sort of thing happen.



    Now again I didn't complain about any of the subject material the professor was teaching. In fact I stated that I showed complete mastery of it and received "A" grades on assignments related to his lecturing on postmodernism. (By his definition of postmodernism)



    About two weeks before the midterm, the professor realized that he hadn't actually taught any of the class material. He began lecturing on it. He then assigned us a another paper and changed the requirements for the midterm. Why was he able to do this? Because he hadn't given us a syllabus.



    Remember what I said about the departmenet chair signing the drop form? Try walking in with three "A" assignments and then two solid "F" assignments because the professor is all over the place and you have become less than successful at guessing his intents. You have to guess because, well you have no syllabus. The head of the department saw that there was no dramatic change in the quality of my writing. He saw that writing addressed the material taught but that the professor simply hated the material.



    As for the professor and his dress. It was 13 years ago so my brain may be getting foggy about it, but he claimed that dressing as he did allowed him to show that he was not tied down to paradigm with regard to his reality. He claimed he could view the world from any paradigm be it a white, black, male, or female, gay or straight.



    As for what you state in class about the pledge. You are welcome to state it. However I would question the value of your teaching if you lowered the grade of a student for knowing this information and the pro and con arguments relating to it but not for agreeing with your perspective as to whether it was a good or bad thing.



    [quote] Maybe your grade dropped to a "B" because you didn't show your work. Assuming that it was some kind of vendetta ignores the fact that this "lowly" MA teaching assistant likely had a hundred other students and probably didn't even know your name. <hr></blockquote>



    You are correct that he probably did have a hundred other students. However what percentage of them do you think forced a grade change by demonstrating more knowledge than him? I assure you that he knew my name and after the quiz I was definately unforgettable because each week I had to go to his office to appeal some aspect of my quiz that he had needlessly marked down. I even had friends in the class that had not had their quizzes marked down for the same reason.



    Degrees do not put us above human nature. I had damaged his pride and made him look foolish. Perhaps there was a less confrontational manner by which to have dealt with the quiz but I was 19 then and my people skills were probably not as refined as declaring his points to be bullshit.



    [quote]Originally posted by midwinter:

    <strong>



    I'm a little confused here. Are you saying that students should be allowed to think and argue whatever they want and still receive passing credit for a course? Would you have me pass the student in my class who, for example, the other day argued that Langston Hughes's 1951 poem was CLEARLY influenced by ML King's 1963 speech?



    Of COURSE YOU MUST CONFORM. That's the nature of the beast. You can rebel only within limits. Your rebellion must not be idiotic. Your rebellion must be legitimate. You cannot rebel on the grounds that you don't think the American Rev didn't happen in the late c18. It's stupid.



    As for your claim about nepotism...I don't buy it. In fact, your cries for objective standards would in fact create MORE nepotism. All we have now are ACTs, SATs, and HIgh School GPAs. All of which are incredibly variable. You have no idea how many students I've failed who were valedictorians of their class of 6 people. Or who didn't realize that a 13 on the ACT wasn't a very good score. But there are inherent problems with standardized tests. That's the PURPOSE of things like considerations of background, race, class, etc. They encourage diversity.



    If you want to consider failure of a class a failure to conform, that's up to you. But I'll guarantee you that a good student will be able to disagree with a professor and still give him/her what he/she wants to hear. Or even, as some of my better students have done, disagree with me in profitable ways either in my classroom or during my office hours.



    But keep in mind that there is a difference between someone's disagreement and their disruption of my class. and I will, without hesitation, throw ANYONE I DEEM DISRUPTIVE out of my classroom.



    As I have said earlier, it is not a democracry, no matter how much you may want it to be.



    Cheers

    Scott

    </strong><hr></blockquote>



    I don't think you are confused. I think you are intentionally misleading and you do harm to your argumentitive skills when you stake out strawmen and knock them down.



    No one in this thread has argued that students should determine course content, that they should put meritless work forward, or that their rebellions should be anarchistic and disregard concepts like time, history or prevailing theories.



    Likewise no one has claimed that thoughtful discussion and disagreement should be cast aside for disruption.



    As for the dismissal of nepotism, no one has said that standardized tests are perfect, just that they are more a more objective measure than a letter of recommendation that can be written on the whim of a teacher or professor. Likewise no one has said that other factors shouldn't be considered to offset the problems with standardized test. Rather the only thing that has been said is that if these factors are working to overcome flaws and prejudice, we should insure that they are not creating new flaws and more prejudice.



    The only matter on which I commented was that the professor of biology when stating his criteria for letters should insure that there is no prejudice within the criteria. Since the letter is part of a process to overcome prejudice within objective criteria, it should work to be even more objective. It should allow human thought to help discern what numbers and figures cannot. It should improve the process.



    That is not what has happened in this case. You have a closed-minded professor who is claiming to check for academic understanding but is actually probing for beliefs and seeking to cause harm because of them.



    Nick
  • Reply 93 of 135
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,464member
    [quote]Originally posted by thegelding:

    <strong>i got kicked out of physics class in high school....thinking back on it, perhaps i should sue now....our teacher use to teach from a physic text book, but threw in parts of the bible in almost every class...so, after a couple of months of this, i raised my hand and asked why didn't we just use the bible intead of our textbook....boom, thrown right out of class....had to sit in the hall for a couple of days before he "let" me back to class...ahhh, the good old days, goodtimes, goodtimes....



    tired of elist colleges?? there is always Bob Jones and many other fundamental universities out there that could better suit your viewpoint...i mean, why go to college to hear any view other than the one you already support and except??





    g</strong><hr></blockquote>



    Actually according to what you have asserted here you have two choices. One, sit down and shut up, or two go find another professor.



    However if even while disagreeing with this professor you earned an "A" and knew the professor on a personal level, I would argue that it wouldn't be fair for him to use his platform to keep you out of your chosen school or profession.



    Nick
  • Reply 94 of 135
    thttht Posts: 5,354member
    <strong>Originally posted by trumptman:

    No one in this thread has argued that students should determine course content, that they should put meritless work forward, or that their rebellions should be anarchistic and disregard concepts like time, history or prevailing theories.

    ...

    That is not what has happened in this case. You have a closed-minded professor who is claiming to check for academic understanding but is actually probing for beliefs and seeking to cause harm because of them.</strong>



    What is a professor to do here in this case? Why would a professor give letter of recommendation to someone who doesn't believe in evolution yet displays an academic understanding of evolution? The only way a letter of recommendation can be given in this guess is that a student has an alternative theory with appropriate model and data.



    <strong>The only matter on which I commented was that the professor of biology when stating his criteria for letters should insure that there is no prejudice within the criteria. Since the letter is part of a process to overcome prejudice within objective criteria, it should work to be even more objective. It should allow human thought to help discern what numbers and figures cannot. It should improve the process.</strong>



    I put the text I want to comment on in italics. A [letter of recommendation] is part of a process to overcome prejudice within objective criteria? What does that mean? How is that so? Letters of recommendation are really like that? I wouldn't really know, since I never had one.



    But my understanding of a letter of recommendation is an affirmation from a professor that a prospective student or employee has certain qualities benificial to an institution or business. What objectivity lies within that? The only way a professor would and should give if they knew a student personally.
  • Reply 95 of 135
    brbr Posts: 8,395member
    [quote]Originally posted by trumptman:

    <strong>Actually according to what you have asserted here you have two choices. One, sit down and shut up, or two go find another professor.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    Wrong. According to what he has asserted he shouldn't expect to get a letter of recommendation. Being thrown out of class in a public school for disagreeing with the teaching methods is a whole other issue.
  • Reply 96 of 135
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,464member
    [quote]Originally posted by BR:

    <strong>



    Wrong. According to what he has asserted he shouldn't expect to get a letter of recommendation. Being thrown out of class in a public school for disagreeing with the teaching methods is a whole other issue.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    Wrong yourself. Legitimate debate and inquiry are to be tolerated within the classroom. What he was doing was making a sarcastic comment to disrupt the classroom. I know I personally wouldn't have tossed him for the comment but this professor did. According to both his comments and others here, professors can insert this sort of underlying commentary within their teaching and you just have to live with it. I know I had to in several cases. That is within their academic free speech that I wouldn't take away.



    And again I am consistant because I said as long as he can fully explain and understand the academic material and viewpoint at a level proficient to what the professor demands for a letter of recommendation, then he should get the letter as well. Saying well you learned everything I taught and why I believe it but you don't so take that is just sour grapes.



    Nick
  • Reply 97 of 135
    brbr Posts: 8,395member
    [quote]Originally posted by trumptman:

    <strong>



    Wrong yourself. Legitimate debate and inquiry are to be tolerated within the classroom. What he was doing was making a sarcastic comment to disrupt the classroom. I know I personally wouldn't have tossed him for the comment but this professor did. According to both his comments and others here, professors can insert this sort of underlying commentary within their teaching and you just have to live with it. I know I had to in several cases. That is within their academic free speech that I wouldn't take away.



    And again I am consistant because I said as long as he can fully explain and understand the academic material and viewpoint at a level proficient to what the professor demands for a letter of recommendation, then he should get the letter as well. Saying well you learned everything I taught and why I believe it but you don't so take that is just sour grapes.



    Nick</strong><hr></blockquote>

    Again, the whole situation has nothing to do with letters of recommendation. You are straying from the issue at hand. It all boils down to the fact that no one has a right to a letter of recommendation and the distribution of such letters are wholly at the professor's discretion. Period. End of story.
  • Reply 98 of 135
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,464member
    [quote]Originally posted by THT:

    <strong>What is a professor to do here in this case? Why would a professor give letter of recommendation to someone who doesn't believe in evolution yet displays an academic understanding of evolution? The only way a letter of recommendation can be given in this guess is that a student has an alternative theory with appropriate model and data.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    I could understand the problems with this if the student were attempting to major in Biology or get an advanced degree in Biology. To say you don't believe the unifying theory of your intended field of study would be a problem, especially as an undergrad.



    However he was taking the class to graduate and go to medical school. It was an undergraduate class which means it just gives a general overview of biology. It is not the type of class where much debate goes on and indeed the student didn't attempt to argue evolution vs. creationism with the professor. He simply saw the professor's criteria and knew regardless of his performance, which required an "A" to get the letter, that he would not be able to get the letter.



    Again I could make up a half a dozen examples where this would seem just as absurd. You could be taking a class in recent American history and need a letter to go to law school. You could earn an "A" in the class, and get to know the professor during office hours. However to have that professor turn around and deny you a letter because say, you disagree about aspects of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam is silly and irresponsible.



    Disagreeing about that particular topic would not stop you from being a good lawyer. Disagreeing about macro-evolution would not stop this student from being a good doctor.



    [quote]I put the text I want to comment on in italics. A [letter of recommendation] is part of a process to overcome prejudice within objective criteria? What does that mean? How is that so? Letters of recommendation are really like that? I wouldn't really know, since I never had one.



    But my understanding of a letter of recommendation is an affirmation from a professor that a prospective student or employee has certain qualities benificial to an institution or business. What objectivity lies within that? The only way a professor would and should give if they knew a student personally. <hr></blockquote>



    The process we were discussing involves admissions to various colleges and schools. Grade inflation is a huge problem and some people explain away differences in performance on tests like the SAT, ACT and GRE as being caused by racial and cultural differences.



    So say you have two students, John and Juan. John has a 4.3 GPA and Juan has a 4.0 GPA. John took the SAT and scored 1250. Juan took it and scored 1150. Just by the numbers it would appear that John should be admitted first and Juan second.



    However the school allows them to submit letters about their personal backgrounds and also letters of recommendation.



    In John's letter we learn that his prep school is top notch and offers tons of AP classes. Juan's school has a 45% dropout rate and his AP options were limited because of a state budget crunch and there were also just times when they just couldn't get together enough students to be allowed to offer an AP class.



    John's letters of recommendation sound obligatory. His prep school is very expensive and the letters are pretty much a foregone conclusion as is getting enough help to insure good grades. We read them and get the sense that John is a good student, but nothing special. You input good background, money and plenty of mentoring and help and he is about the expected result.



    Juan's letters of recommendation are glowing. They speak of how he still managed to get all his grades while working 24-32 hours a week to help support his family. They talk about how he avoided the various bad elements of the neighborhood and even mentored other students to follow in his path. They mention how Juan sought out relationships with his teachers in order to help overcome the limited understanding, English, and education of his parents. The letters give you the sense that Juan achieved a lot with very little.



    So who would you admit? That is a debate for another thread, but we can see here how important letters of recommendation have become to the admissions process. They use to simply be the icing on the cake. Now they help determine what numbers alone cannot convey.



    Nick
  • Reply 99 of 135
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,464member
    [quote]Originally posted by BR:

    <strong>

    Again, the whole situation has nothing to do with letters of recommendation. You are straying from the issue at hand. It all boils down to the fact that no one has a right to a letter of recommendation and the distribution of such letters are wholly at the professor's discretion. Period. End of story.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    Well I just commented on it, I don't honestly care about his relationships with his physics teacher.



    I think the disagreement here is about how we see the letters of recommendation. How can something be discretionary and yet mandatory at the same time? If the student is required to get a letter of recommendation, isn't that tacitly saying that a letter of recommendation is more than just a personal obligation?



    Someone here characterized it as moving from letter of recommendation to "that crap I have to do" or something of that nature. That may sadly be the case but if the university requires it, then in my view the professor is required to provide something.



    This likely boils down to an argument much like affirmative action where we say we are at "A" and we need to get to "C" and everyone argues and complains about what "B" should entail.



    I wouldn't require the letter of recommendation from the professor, but I wouldn't require it for admission either. It could be something that you simply decide to put in, but then we get the same problem of advantaged kids knowing and getting more than disadvantaged kids. It also starts to become a pure numbers game again too.



    Likewise to require it likely means a lot of bland, Johnny demonstrated .... and earned a grade of.... letters. I would bet with how many students most professors have we already have plenty of those happening right now which means we are on the way to mandatory letters clarifying letter grade performance instead of just pure recommendation. I don't like it, but I don't require it either.



    Nick
  • Reply 100 of 135
    brbr Posts: 8,395member
    [quote]Originally posted by trumptman:

    <strong>I think the disagreement here is about how we see the letters of recommendation. How can something be discretionary and yet mandatory at the same time? If the student is required to get a letter of recommendation, isn't that tacitly saying that a letter of recommendation is more than just a personal obligation?</strong><hr></blockquote>



    If a student is required to get a letter of recommendation, it is the fault of the institution requiring it, not that of the person withholding it. Nobody has a right to a letter of recommendation, period.
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