Jesus-Stomping College Class

Posted: March 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

Recently a controversy erupted around a Florida Atlantic University course on cross-cultural communication in which students were asked to write the name Jesus on a piece of paper and then consider stomping on it. It ended up getting a reaction from the Governor of Florida as well as national news headlines. Here is an Orlando Sentinel opinion piece by Beth Kassab in which she quotes my reaction to the incident. It is a great perspective by her and I highly recommend it, even without my quote.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/education/os-beth-kassab-jesus-stomping-lesson-20130327,0,5900525.column

 

OrlandoSentinel.com

Point missed on Jesus-stomping lesson at FAU

Beth Kassab

Local News Columnist

7:10 PM EDT, March 27, 2013

If the Florida Atlantic University Jesus-“stomping” instructor was trying to make a point about religious tolerance, then point taken.

Too bad so many people, including our governor, are missing the point.

You and I may not like the classroom exercise that was intended to create discomfort — asking students to write “Jesus” on a piece of paper and then step on it. But you can’t say it didn’t make you think.

On any other day, the instructor, Deandre Poole, would probably chalk that up as a success. What college teacher doesn’t want to push students to think about things in new ways?

Instead he is being vilified as insensitive and crass for, ironically, trying to teach a lesson about sensitivity and civilized behavior.

At least one student was so offended by the classroom exercise that he complained to Poole’s supervisor and got a lawyer to represent him, prompting Boca Raton-based FAU to apologize. Gov. Rick Scott called the student personally to apologize and has demanded a report on what happened.

I won’t argue that this lesson lacked elegance. And taste.

And I don’t know why Poole, who is also vice chairman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party, chose to follow the suggestion in the instructor’s manual that Jesus be the focal point, when the same exercise could have been done with any number of other nonreligious symbols we hold dear, such as, say, the Declaration of Independence.

The incident has, naturally, generated an incalculable amount of misinformation and outright lies, like the student being suspended because he wouldn’t step on the paper. Not true.

Here’s what is true about what took place in Poole’s Intercultural Communication class on March 4:

The instructor’s manual for the textbook, “Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach,” advises teachers to have students write “Jesus” on a piece of paper and think about it.

“After a brief period of silence, instruct them to step on the paper,” the manual says. “Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.”

The instructor’s manual even includes this warning, though woefully understated in retrospect: “This exercise is a bit sensitive, but really drives home the point that even though symbols are arbitrary, they take on very strong and emotional meanings.”

In other words, the point of this lesson was not to insult Christianity — the manual even anticipates most students won’t step on the paper — but to compel students to understand the power of certain words and symbols.

Taking that a step further, because this is a course on intercultural communication, it’s likely meant to provoke empathy from students when people of other cultures or faiths are offended.

It was a provocative exercise, yes, but that’s what the First Amendment and academic freedom permit in this country.

When a Gainesville pastor wanted to burn a copy of the Quran, there weren’t any gubernatorial demands for an inquiry.

Local pastors I talked with endorsed the FAU instructor’s point, if not the method.

“Should we try to understand what it’s like to be a minority? Should we try to understand what it’s like to live in a culture unlike our own? That’s a very valuable lesson,” said the Rev. David Swanson, senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Orlando. “Picking a religious symbol was just an unwise choice.” Especially when it involves the central figure in the Christian faith.

The Rev. Dan Lacich, a pastor at Northland, A Church Distributed, said he never would have stepped on the paper if he had been in that class.

“There’s no need,” he said. “There’s a great opportunity to then say, here’s how I believe Jesus would respond to that offense … he doesn’t freak out and get mad and angry; he shows a better way.”

Point taken.

bkassab@tribune.com or 407-420-5448

 

 

Comments
  1. Bruce says:

    I must respectfully disagree and also agree. I agree that it was a poor example to use in order to make a point. I disagree that is is acceptable. Why for instance didn’t the instructor use the Quran instead. Clearly because she knew the outrage would put her life at risk. Christians are far more tolerable and forgiving but I for one am tired of having my belief thrown in my face time and time again and each time more insulting and demeaning.
    We don’t have to defend our Lord but as his followers we should not be subjected to indignity after indignity either. As we keep turning the other cheek the indignities get more bizzare and ridiculous. We are not meek little sheep that take no offense when our Lord is depicted in disgusting ways. Christians have every right in my estimation to stand firm in our faith and when instructors like this go out of their way to offend we need not tuck our tails and run the other way. We too have a right to be insulted and to speak out.
    The instructor needs to be accountable and who ever wrote the lesson plan and recognized that it would be offensive also needs to be accountable. There are numerous other examples that could have been used without putting students in that position. I believe an apology is called for and should be tendered. A sincere apology. If we as Christians don’t stand for something we will stand for nothing. We are already seeing our faith challenged in churches, media, and institutions of learning. We are having things that are sinful thrust upon us because of who we are. The bible is being rationalized, changed to support diverse opinions. We Christians need to stand together for what we believe in and we should get an apology. the instructor needs to find another less offensive approach. Christianity is not a social trend – it is a way of life. The bible is not a book of suggestions but one that directs one’s life choices.

  2. Michelle Collins says:

    While I agree that this exercise strikes me as distasteful, it doesn’t offend me as much as many others. Jesus is my life and my connection to my Father. We tend to look at things such as this from a unique perspective. In the US we are afforded freedoms that having grown up in, allow us to formulate what a “right” looks like. In many other places in the world, they are not afforded those same rights and as such tend to look at things differently. My christianity is not built on my rights but on the relationship that I have with my God. No piece of paper changes that. I think that I would not have participated and probably if asked would have used the opportunity to discuss why.

    We are so worried here about our rights being taken away but in many places that don’t have the same rights, the Spirit is evident and working in the miraculous. Maybe a little bit of a reminder of what kind of life we are called to is a good thing. If they beat and persecuted Jesus and then the disicples and believers down through the ages, why are we different? We have the same thing they did, a relationship and a responsibility to show the world what that looks like. This should be done in love, grace and prayer, not with a stick and a call to arms.

  3. […] Jesus-Stomping College Class | Provocative <b>Christian Living</b> Go to this article […]

  4. Alex Verburg says:

    This is a great article. Thanks for writing!

  5. Mrs. Debra Magrann says:

    I am from that area of Florida. (Deandre is male.) Hewas placed on Administrative leave after the event. I decided to find out what students think of him as an instructor (he is not a professor, but has his Doctorate degree).

    The ratings are all over the place:

    “Prof Poole is a bit arrogant. Most of what is taught here is opinion yet Prof Poole is intolerant of opinions that conflict with his own. I don’t recommend this class nor Pro Poole.” (Rated: poor quality, 3/21/13)

    “Disrespectful and dismissive of ideas that he does not agree with. I do not recommend his class.” (Rated: poor quality, 3/21/13)

    ”He is one of the best instructors you’ll ever have. Apart from teaching, He is also a great mentor to his students, especially for those interested in furthering their education. His teaching style is very easy and fun. (Never a dull moment in his classroom). Taking him and you will never regret it. Overall, one of FAU’s best teacher.” (Rated: good quality, 5/7/12)

    ”Took him for Organizational Communication but he was disorganized. Make sure you buy the textbook and keep up with the readings. Very by-the-book.” (Rated: poor quality, 7/3/11)

    ”Awsome guy! I recommend him to anyone. The course was interesting and I enjoyed his personal examples..He was real and down to earth. The tests were not easy, but if you read, you could handle them with ease. Alot of what he said were examples that the could relate too. I think he made up examples though.” (Rated: good quality, 5/1/06)

    ”Nice guy but he has no clue what he’s doing. His class is soooo boring. I think I would rather be covered in honey sitting on a fire ant hill than sit through another class. He talks alot about his personal life. Bring him a pillow so you can analyze all his realtionship failures. Completely by the book but tests have nothing to do w/ material. BAD” (Rated: average quality)

    My guess is, Dr. Poole needs redemption like the rest of us.

    *Taken from the FAU rating website -4/19/13
    http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=795201

  6. Phil Alexander says:

    Loved the lesson myself. That’s one of the things I enjoyed about college, they encourage us to think. Engaging our thoughts during deep a emotional moment is healthy and I believe builds wisdom. However wether it was appropriate or not as Christians we have become too quick to anger and call a lawyer when someone offends us or the gospel. Thanks again Dan for your clear and wise thoughts on this subject.

  7. CRYSTAL says:

    This “lesson” is a wolf in sheeps clothing. Please… Don’t insult my intelligence by telling me that this is gonna make me think. Of course it will make me think. It makes me think it is another excuse for insulting Christians and the new way of thinking which is very fuzzy now a days. There is no longer clarity of right and wrong everyone is confused now by the subjective rationale and emotional based reasoning instead of the logical objective reasoning. Please don’t be “open minded” to stupidity! Yes I like being “narrow minded” and objective.

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