I had to delete a student post from one of my class discussion forums today.
And now I am going to launch into an opinion that could potentially hurt someone's feelings while ranting about students' posts that could potentially hurt someone's feelings. Hypocritical? Maybe. But this is my blog, not a college class, and any readers are not required to read it for a grade - unless there is something about Blogger I have missed!
First of all, I have to address an issue that has particularly bothered me this semester. The frequency of the mention of God and religion in the online discussion forums has been very high. In my BIOLOGY class. Additionally, the general disregard of other's opinions and the judgment passed on those who do not agree is astounding. I do have to take some of the blame since the topics are often of a controversial nature (i.e. prenatal testing for genetic abnormalities, the ethics of cloning, experimental cancer treatments) and I ask for an opinion on the subject. What I expect is a well thought out opinion supported by a list of facts that the student has spent a little bit of time researching (or at least plagiarized from the text - yes that is cynicism). What I get is a post along the lines of "it is wrong because we should all just accept what God has given us and move on" or "if you think ___________ you are obviously wrong because you don't think what I think". Here are a couple of examples of how the world works according to some of my students this semester...
No one should undergo any kind of fertility treatments. If God has made you sterile you can just adopt.
No cloning of any type should ever be allowed since that is "playing God".
No one should have any genetic prenatal testing for any reason. If you do, you are willing to risk the life of your baby from miscarriage through the testing because you are unwilling to accept what God gave you.
And don't even get me started on Intelligent Design being taught in the science classroom. Only two posts into this topic, I have sent out a cautionary email reminding everyone to be respectful of others opinions.
The post I deleted stated that people who have said that they miscarried after a genetic testing procedure have probably just said they miscarried, but actually aborted because they were unwilling to keep a baby with a genetic defect.
Who says things like this in a discussion forum full of people you don't know? What if someone in the class has miscarried after a genetic testing procedure? What if someone has struggled for years with infertility while longing for nothing more than a biological child of their own? What if someone is caring for a loved one with paralysis or a terminal illness and hopes every day for a breakthrough in stem cell or cancer research? What if someone is Buddhist or Hindu or (God forbid!) an atheist and has a different idea about God and would like to see a science text stick with scientific theory? If all of my students were fresh out of high school, I might be able to chalk it up to lack of life experience. But many of my students are parents and/or grandparents and old enough to have some empathy.
Are any of these people more "right" than the other. I don't personally think so. But the degree to which these students will dismiss any differing view leaves me dumbfounded. And the fact that it is done in the name of God makes me sadder still. I may not invite people to my church when I meet them in the grocery store and I may not profess my faith on the street corner, but I hope I do not use my religion to sit in judgment of others or tear them down or dismiss their opinions or feelings. I feel like when I sit in judgment, ignoring the log in my own eye, or am unkind or unforgiving is when I am farthest away from my God and my religion. I am constantly falling short. And will continue to do so.
So maybe I AM the hypocrite - sitting in judgment of my students. Maybe I am casting the first stone. I know I am frustrated and angry and human. And feeling like my class discussion forums are a microcosm of what is going on in the world - when respect, kindness and understanding can't happen between 20 students in one class how can it happen anywhere?