Monday, October 26, 2009

First time for everything...

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?

11 comments:

Debi said...

Oh Kara, I just want to reach through this screen and give you the biggest hug!!! I do not think you're being the hypocrite at all! It is not wrong to ask your students to treat others with dignity and respect. Nor is it wrong to ask your students to have some facts to back up their opinions. They do not need to leave their faith behind to do that, for goodness sake. It's so funny, really...you and I have different opinions when it comes to politics and different beliefs when it comes to religion...sheesh, what the heck are we doing even being friends?!! ;) Which of course, is really the point I'm trying to make...we are wonderful friends, despite differing in some very fundamental and very personal beliefs. I know I've told you this before, but I'm just going to say it again anyway...there is NO ONE ON EARTH who I respect and admire more than you!!!! And this post just reaffirms a big part of the reason why. Love you, sweetie!

~**Dawn**~ said...

I think that people often forget that just because something isn't right for you, doesn't mean that everyone has to agree with you. And not everything is black-and-white when it comes to these topics. I draw the line in some places as to what I find ethical but those are often extremes (for example, I think that we shouldn't allow people the right to choose hair or eye color, because that's purely cosmetic--if that makes sense). But what really troubles me is when people pass these judgments under the guise of religion or God. I don't profess my beliefs on the street corner or cram them down anyone's throat. I simply do my best to live my life in a way that reflects my choice to be a Christian. These people who cast the first stone trouble & sadden me, not out of judgment but because their actions make their words hypocritical.

Jim said...

Hey Kara: Welcome to what I call "toxic religion." It is based on fear, ignorance and frankly, sloth. It is not dissimilar to an ancient heresy called gnosticism which held that special knowledge qualified someone for salvation. Balderdash! Faith is an active, questioning, probing, stance that is not afraid of anything. Science couples with faith so that we can appropriate the world around us. What the Toxic folks have is a fear that they may be wrong...so they project that on everyone else. My Micah Society met tonight and I announced that I would be doing a study session on Churches that Bully. I am getting tired of mainline Protestant sitting back and letting the neanderthals take over. There is a very rational and faithful position that says that scientific thought including evolution is simply a gift from God that affirms all of creation.
OK, so your father-in-law is a bit windy...but hang in. I would simply dismiss the lazy folks who can't and won't think. They don't get it and I doubt that they ever will.

Jean said...

I'm with Jim. :-)

Marathon Mom said...

I may have slightly differing opinions than you on these types of issues, but I do agree with the last part of your post. Ironically, I read that exact verse in the Bible just this morning. And I was even going to post on my facebook status something like, "I need to get this plank out of my eye." God is the ultimate judge, and Jesus also said that we will not be forgiven, if we can't forgive others. I think we too often forget this important concept as we get up on our soap boxes and "preach". There can be a respectful way to voice your opinions, and unfortunately it doesn't sound like that's been done with your students. Sad.

Marathon Mom said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Irritable Mother said...

Ahh, it is often difficult to speak kindly and with respect when you're passionate about something. But I think we could be more effective in our communication if we learned to disagree with tact. It's easier to get someone to see things from your perspective if you aren't making them want to run away from it!
Maybe you can teach these kids more than biology...As you teach them about respecting one another. Good for you!

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