Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Valuable Lesson

A lesson at Florida Atlantic University intended to demonstrate the power of symbols (one might say the irrational power of symbols) has created a controversy.

The best summary of the whole rigmarole is given by commenter Sandra Kessler on the Huffington Post article:

This article leaves out some critical information about the classroom exercise. It was a lesson in the power of symbols. The whole point of the exercise is to demonstrate how powerfully symbolic the word Jesus is in that few students, even not particularly religious ones, would feel comfortable stomping on it even though it was only a word written on a piece of paper. Students refusing to stomp on it was the whole point of the exercise. The student was not suspended for not stomping on it, but apparently for posting threats to the instructor and other students. This article is an example of bad reportage.

Note that (a) students were expected to be unwilling to stand in the paper, so there would never have been any question of punishing someone for not doing so; (b) Rotela was actually suspended for threateneing behaviour towards his instructor.

No doubt if the lesson were repeated with the word "Evolution" or "Allah" or a flag of the USA it would evoke similar reactions, which simply prove the point the lesson was designed to make. I think the truly shocking thing is that FAU has caved in to bigotry and ignorance and promised never to use this valuable lesson again.

Actually, even worse than its caving in to the forces of ignorance is that the university has apologised, not to Dr Poole for its religiously-inspired interference in his classes and for its failure to defend him against bigotry and lies, but to Ryan Rotela, for employing a member of staff who did not feel inclined to cave in to threats. Florida Atlantic University - training students to be obedient sheep and rewarding them for inattentiveness in class and threatening behaviour. I bet it's really popular.

Meanwhile, here is the sort of everyday demonstration I think would be useful:



Of course, given my political beliefs, a Saltire would make the point even better:



Oh all right, let's go for the full set....