Monday, April 05, 2010

/Rant On

Why is it that the Christian students who most want to share their faith in essays and such are insipid and unquestioning?

I started reading a paper in which a student shared some Christian faith stuff and I just put it down. I couldn't bear for the moment to read another word of insipid, unthoughtful idiocy.

And why are these sames students so offended at the idea of reading about another cultural tradition?

I wonder when was the last time their church "taught the controversy" with an eye to deepening understanding of evolution?

Seriously, I do not want to read your "research" paper about how you learned in church that things are too complicated to have evolved.

College is about changing your mind. It's easy when that means you change your mind from not understanding integrals to understanding integrals. It's not nearly so easy when changing your mind means you question what you've been taught. But that's the point; if you question it, and what you've been taught is well supported by reason and evidence, then it's worth holding onto it. If you can't find reason or evidence, then you should drop it like a hot tooth fairy. But at least you should question it.

Or just go away and don't whine that I'm asking you to think too much, and that I'm ruining everything by asking you to think.

/rant off


  1. Oh Bardiac, since I was one of those students MANY years ago, I think I can shed a little tiny bit of light on it for you.

    I can't speak from anyone's experience but my own, so for what that's worth... I was a really nice, sweet girl who grew up in nice, kind churches full of nice, gentle people who were all about the Fruits of the Spirit and Putting on the Armor of God. If I had a day for all the times I was kindly admonished to have a "quiet time," or "get close to God," I could do another PhD.

    It would never, in a million years, have occurred to me at age 18-19, to ask if there was reason or evidence, because FAITH was what counted. Faith, peace, joy, kindness, mercy, etc... God knows the secrets of hearts, they're not for us to think about too hard.

    Other cultural traditions were simply dismissed as quaintly mistaken. Yes, everyone knew God a little bit, but only Christians really knew God for real! The only reason to learn about other people was to explain Christ so they would understand.

    This essay kind of sums it up:

    It took me until probably age 25 and some serious personal upheaval to shake some of this. At 30 I confounded my mother by converting to Eastern Orthodoxy ("ICONS?") and now I am trying not to think about any of this at all because it is very painful. I'll get back to it some time, perhaps, when it feels less like sticking my hand into a hornet's nest. I anticipate a similarly rocky journey over the years for some of these sweet, stupid students of yours.

    There's a verse in Ecclesiastes: "Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone." It doesn't occur to many people that that verse comes at the END of a very long and rigorous examination of life.

  2. Thanks, Victoria, I appreciate your helping me understand. And you give me hope, because you're thoughtful and critically think now, so maybe they will someday, too. Thanks for your generous response.

  3. Somewhat less thoughtfully than Victoria, I'm right with you, Bardiac.

    I was around far too much good ol' Southern Christianity for my liking as a child and the rampant 'holier-than-thou' condescension paired with unfathomable ignorance and bigotry left quite an impression on me.

    I'm impressed that you just put the paper down without scrawling an angry rant on the back.

  4. Matt M7:20 AM

    I hope that you will allow these callow youths to describe what they believe in the papers that they submit. The act of putting in down on paper may lead to examining it in the light of the new opinions around them, and the expanded world view that they are now exposed to. A desirable outcome would be a few years in the future, when they look back at their young selves with gentle horror.

  5. J. Harker, Sometimes, I have to step back.

    Matt M., My students have a lot of leeway in choosing certain paper topics, and I hope they learn from whatever they choose. It's not the thoughtful student papers that bother me, but the ones that aren't thinking hard. And I try to respond to the argument of the papers as an argument, rather than to what I think of the religion or whatever. (That also helps a lot when students want to write about which motorcycle to buy.)

  6. For Bardiac's own sanity, maybe the paper topics should have one constraint: You are NOT ALLOWED to write about something that you are already certain of. That kind of paper will result in immediate kickback -- and believe me, Bardiac will know! ;-)

    People grow up very, very slowly, I feel. I agree with Matt that for these students, the act of writing about what they believe may be a seed which takes years and years to germinate. But that doesn't mean I want to read the writing and grade it!