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Thread: Term paper about "God" earns student failing grade

  1. #61
    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: Term paper about "God" earns student failing grade

    Wow, this one's giving me flashbacks. Back when I was in grad school I taught freshman composition. The final assignment was a five-page research paper. Students had the freedom to pick their topics, though I had to approve them.

    One female student chose home schooling. Not surprisingly she had been home schooled prior to college. I approved the topic, but I warned her that I didn't want it to be a self-affirmation piece where she went on about how she personally benefitted from home schooling nor did I want it to read like a sermon on how morally corrupt the public school system is. I told her I expected detailed research about the numbers of kids being home schooled and how they perform when they enter the formal education system at the collegiate level. I practically knocked myself over stressing that this was a research paper and not a statement of her personal religious beliefs and that she was getting an F- if she handed me a statement of her personal religious beliefs.

    Quick background, I'd urged her to the drop the course earlier in the semester. She was functionally illiterate, had missed or botched every assignment I'd given and needed an A on the final paper in order to pass the course. I urged her to get remedial tutoring so that she could stay in college. Smiling, she always smiled, she ignored me.

    Also, I had students submitting their drafts, outlines and thesis statements to me during the writing process. She never once submitted these to me, even when it was a requirement listed on the syllabus. I pulled her aside after class twice and told her that it didn't bode well for her that she was missing these deadlines and that she stood a much better chance of getting the grade she needed to pass the course if I had the chance to make sure she was on the right track prior to the final submission. She smiled.

    Anyway, you can guess what I got, a rambling, often incoherent tract about her personal experiences being home schooled and about her personal views on religion. Even if I had assigned that to her, she'd have gotten an F because it was so poorly written (she didn't know basic subject-verb agreement) and lacked even so much as the germ of well-considered point of view. She did no research, though she did invent a few numbers and insist that everyone who got home schooled was a better student than those who weren't.

    She got her F on the paper and F for the course. Then she and her parents turned up in the college president's office two days later insisting I'd infringed on her religious freedoms. We set up a meeting for the next day with a bunch of high-level muckety-mucks. I came loaded for bear. I went to her other professors and discovered she was failing every course she'd taken. I also had a portfolio of her writing over the semester. The research paper had been copied and sent to everyone in the meeting. The long and short of it was that I got a big pat on the back and she got put on academic probation (one semester later she got expelled).
    Last edited by M2; 06-29-2005 at 01:46 PM.
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  3. #62
    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Re: Term paper about "God" earns student failing grade

    When I was in college I took an American history class. We had to do term papers and since this class mainly dealt with 19th century history the prof said that any topic was acceptable except about the Alamo because he was sick of reading about it. My paper was about the Republic of Texas. When I turned my topic in naturally he was concerned that it would be about the Alamo. I told him I would barely mention it and he OKed it. I wrote the paper, wrote maybe 1 or 2 paragraphs about the Alamo and I got either an A or a B on the paper.

    I wonder if anyone who wanted to write about the Alamo in that class should have investigated that prof to see if he had any Mexican heritage. Or if he was prejudiced against Texans.
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  4. #63
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    Re: Term paper about "God" earns student failing grade

    What?

    She has a husband?

    Meh, I don't care about the rest of this article. Stupid lawsuit, stupid topic.
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    Re: Term paper about "God" earns student failing grade

    Can I just applaud traderumor for looking through the fallacious and kneejerk arguments and seeing this situation for what it is, which is not an issue of abridgement of free speech or an unjust application of "secular" rules, but a criterion for a class paper.

    The man gets a from across the aisle.

  6. #65
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    Re: Term paper about "God" earns student failing grade

    Quote Originally Posted by Falls City Beer
    Can I just applaud traderumor for looking through the fallacious and kneejerk arguments and seeing this situation for what it is, which is not an issue of abridgement of free speech or an unjust application of "secular" rules, but a criterion for a class paper.

    The man gets a from across the aisle.
    Aw, shucks
    Seriously, that does mean a lot since we hardly agree on these issues.

    One thing I think we do agree on is that I do not consider this a "Chreestyun Nation" anymore than you do, nor do I think it is desirable to seek it as such.
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  7. #66
    MarsArmyGirl RosieRed's Avatar
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    Re: Term paper about "God" earns student failing grade

    Given her topic -- "Religion and its Place within the Government" -- I don't think the parameters set by the prof were hard to follow at all. There's no need, IMO, to discuss or name specific deities in such a paper. She easily could have used "religion" or "one's beliefs" or some other generic term, instead of God. Seems the prof meant for her to speak about religion in the abstract and its place in government, not God's place in government.

    I don't see anything wrong with what he did. Just my opinion.

  8. #67
    THAT'S A FACT JACK!! GAC's Avatar
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    Re: Term paper about "God" earns student failing grade

    Quote Originally Posted by registerthis
    Well, as has been postulated by others on this thread, most likely it was because he didn't want her examination of the topic to be influenced by her belief in the Christian God, as an examination of religion and its place within government would surely extend beyond the constraints of a study of Christianity and the U.S. government.
    If the topic was in reference to human government in any shape or form, then yes, she needed to be more objective. But according to the article it appears to have been particualrly about the role of religion on America's government. And what other "God" (or religion for that matter) has had influence on the forming of this nation and it's government since it's inception? To say that one cannot make references to God with a big "G" (which I just laugh at those instructions, coming from an institution of higher learning), is simply absurd -"Lets talk about religion and it's influences on American government - oh yeah, don't mention any god with a BIG "G". Then what god can we mention them teacher?

    Besides, as has been pointed out here numerous times (by myself and others), no one was forcing her to write on this topic. If she found the instructions too constraining, she could have easily selected another topic.
    And again - I understand that no one was forcing her to write on this topic. But in an institution of higher learning, how can one write a research paper on "Religion and its Place within the Government", and then place "one limiting factor" -No mention of big 'G' gods, i.e., one, true god argumentation?

    Why would a teacher place such a ridiculous stipulation on it? You, and others, want to give them this easy-out excuse "Well, those werre the rules". Convenient.

    I'd simply like to hear from this teacher, and that English department, a greater explanation as to why this stipulation was made to begin with. But they aren't talking. So therfore, due to their silence, it leaves it open to assumption.

    There only revealed reasoning? - it might offend. If that is their sole reasoning, then that is simply ridiculous.

    After listening to arguments on here for some time, I guess she should have turned in a blank sheet then, because there is no place for religion within government with that "separation of church and state" thingy.
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  9. #68
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    Re: Term paper about "God" earns student failing grade

    I believe this violates her freedom of speech. Did the professor tell every student not to use a certain word in their paper, or was he just telling this young lady not to use a certain word? With his response about the Easter Bunny, it sounds like he simply does not believe in God so he instructed her not to write about Him.

    I'm sure he has no problem spending his money which says "In God We Trust." Maybe we should put the easter Bunny on our money too.

  10. #69
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    Re: Term paper about "God" earns student failing grade

    Quote Originally Posted by Jesus Freak
    I believe this violates her freedom of speech. Did the professor tell every student not to use a certain word in their paper, or was he just telling this young lady not to use a certain word? With his response about the Easter Bunny, it sounds like he simply does not believe in God so he instructed her not to write about Him.

    I'm sure he has no problem spending his money which says "In God We Trust." Maybe we should put the easter Bunny on our money too.
    So, did my professor violate my fellow classmates and my freedom of speech rights by telling us that we couldn't do any papers on the Alamo?

    The professor said it might be offensive to others in the class so it stands to reason others couldn't do it either.
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  11. #70
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    Re: Term paper about "God" earns student failing grade

    Quote Originally Posted by Jesus Freak
    I believe this violates her freedom of speech. Did the professor tell every student not to use a certain word in their paper, or was he just telling this young lady not to use a certain word? With his response about the Easter Bunny, it sounds like he simply does not believe in God so he instructed her not to write about Him.

    I'm sure he has no problem spending his money which says "In God We Trust." Maybe we should put the easter Bunny on our money too.
    Real easy.

    She doesn't have to take that class.

    The teacher makes the rules.

  12. #71
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    Re: Term paper about "God" earns student failing grade

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip R
    So, did my professor violate my fellow classmates and my freedom of speech rights by telling us that we couldn't do any papers on the Alamo?

    The professor said it might be offensive to others in the class so it stands to reason others couldn't do it either.
    Did this professor tell all of the students as a group that their papers could not use the word God, or just her individually? If he singled her out because of a topic he does not agree with, he violated her freedom of speech.

    I have taught and continue to teach college courses, and I have not agreed with all of the topics my students have written about. The point of a research paper if to learn how to do research, write up the research, and integrate your own thoughts with the research.

    The standards I set for my classes research papers apply to everyone. For example, I tell all of my students if the paper does not meet the minimum page requirement, they automatically get a zero. I do not regulate specific variable in the topic. One student of mine wrote a paper and gave a presentation against affirmative action, a topic I'm sure offended some in the class.

    The issue to me isn't the criteria itself. if he told all of the students, that's one thing. If I was doing a research paper on the Holcaust, it might offend people as well.

  13. #72
    Please come again pedro's Avatar
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    Re: Term paper about "God" earns student failing grade

    Quote Originally Posted by Jesus Freak
    Did this professor tell all of the students as a group that their papers could not use the word God, or just her individually? If he singled her out because of a topic he does not agree with, he violated her freedom of speech.

    I have taught and continue to teach college courses, and I have not agreed with all of the topics my students have written about. The point of a research paper if to learn how to do research, write up the research, and integrate your own thoughts with the research.

    The standards I set for my classes research papers apply to everyone. For example, I tell all of my students if the paper does not meet the minimum page requirement, they automatically get a zero. I do not regulate specific variable in the topic. One student of mine wrote a paper and gave a presentation against affirmative action, a topic I'm sure offended some in the class.

    The issue to me isn't the criteria itself. if he told all of the students, that's one thing. If I was doing a research paper on the Holcaust, it might offend people as well.
    I don't agree that he had to tell everyone they couldn't use the word "God".

    The students picked their own topics and the teacher had the authority to approve or disapprove of the topic.

    The first amendment doesn't cover homework assignments.
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  14. #73
    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Re: Term paper about "God" earns student failing grade

    Quote Originally Posted by Jesus Freak
    Did this professor tell all of the students as a group that their papers could not use the word God, or just her individually? If he singled her out because of a topic he does not agree with, he violated her freedom of speech.
    Why don't you read the article? The student said in there as plain as day that the instructor felt the word would be offensive to others in the class. That isn't singling anyone out.

    I have taught and continue to teach college courses, and I have not agreed with all of the topics my students have written about. The point of a research paper if to learn how to do research, write up the research, and integrate your own thoughts with the research.

    The standards I set for my classes research papers apply to everyone. For example, I tell all of my students if the paper does not meet the minimum page requirement, they automatically get a zero. I do not regulate specific variable in the topic. One student of mine wrote a paper and gave a presentation against affirmative action, a topic I'm sure offended some in the class.

    The issue to me isn't the criteria itself. if he told all of the students, that's one thing. If I was doing a research paper on the Holcaust, it might offend people as well.
    So aren't you violating their freedom of speech rights by having such rules? Using your criteria you are doing just that.

    If a student was doing a presentation on the Holocaust and you asked the student to not show any photos of the concentration camp victims because it might upset some of the students in the class and they did it anyway what grade would you give them?
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  15. #74
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    Re: Term paper about "God" earns student failing grade

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip R

    If a student was doing a presentation on the Holocaust and you asked the student to not show any photos of the concentration camp victims because it might upset some of the students in the class and they did it anyway what grade would you give them?
    I wouldn't tell them that they could not use any pictures. They could use as many pictures as they would like. It would not effect their grade in a negative way at all.

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    Re: Term paper about "God" earns student failing grade

    Quote Originally Posted by GAC
    If the topic was in reference to human government in any shape or form, then yes, she needed to be more objective. But according to the article it appears to have been particualrly about the role of religion on America's government. And what other "God" (or religion for that matter) has had influence on the forming of this nation and it's government since it's inception? To say that one cannot make references to God with a big "G" (which I just laugh at those instructions, coming from an institution of higher learning), is simply absurd -"Lets talk about religion and it's influences on American government - oh yeah, don't mention any god with a BIG "G". Then what god can we mention them teacher?
    Couldn't she have written a paper talking about the influence of religion without broaching the subject of monotheism?

    Yes. Yes, she could have.

    The professor set down a reasonable expectation that she could not do what she did, but she did it anyway.

    What's amazing to me about this topic is that the professor is being positioned by some as intolerent and inappropriate when he was acting in a manner consistent with tolerance and appropriately defined the assignment for the student in advance.

    He didn't fail to give his student direction and then simply slap an "F" on the paper because he didn't like the word. The student failed her assignment because she didn't complete the assignment within the clearly outlined parameters. She was even given a very clear "out" and could have chosen to revise her paper to avoid receiving a failing grade.

    This 34-year-old adult was specifically instructed to avoid the topic of monotheism. She failed to do so. She flunked the assignment because of it. Such is life.
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