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[Phys-L] Re: FL stamps out dictator professors

Unfortunately, ridiculing religious beliefs is not
considered moral turpitude by academia. If one wants to be open, then
knowing aruments both for and against certain viewpoints is reasonable.
Requiring atudents to reproduce a certain professorially approved
viewpoint in order to pass or make an acceptable grade is not. Professors
exercise a very significant power over their students (at most
universities) and that power should be applied respectfully and not to
further some personal agenda. My wife experienced a great deal of this in
graduate school in Social Work. If you did not officially support the
teacher's viewpoint, you would not receive a high grade. Complaints to
the Dean quickly revealed that she had her own agenda and was not
interested in any complaints to the contrary. Fortunately whe was able to
transfer to another graduate school where the atmsophere was much more

I would say that this was certainly a most unfortunate situation. However,
it is very difficult to legislate this type of thing away. It also occurs
in business where you have to be very wary of expressing opinions which
might be contrary to management's. I would call teachers that grade on the
basis of supporting their viewpoint incompetent unprofessional teachers.
This is supposed to be caught before they are granted tenure. There is no
movement by the sponsors of this bill to promote the right of employees to
speak their mind freely.

Where do you draw the line? Is demanding a particular interpretation of
Shakespeare something that should be legislated away? Is it only religious
or political ideas that should be controlled? Can physics professors demand
that students believe in the Copenhagen interpretation of QM. Should they
give equal time to Bohmian mechanics? Then of course there are the flaps
when professors question whether there is the possibility of a genetic basis
for intelligence. Should they have the right to do that?

For example I know of a law firm that sends around a list of judges that
should be voted in, on the basis that they are the most qualified. It is
very curious that they are all conservatives.

Then there is the interesting case of what happens to physics teachers who
adopt teaching methods promoted by PER. I know of one physics department
that ended up in trouble because the biologists did not like that style of
teaching. The biology professors were openly calling the physics teacher
unprofessional. Now which professors were actually unprofessional???

I have another example of religious bigotry. I met a Methodist family who
lived in Utan in the 60s. They told me how the teachers openly taught the
Mormon religion in the classroom. The teachers would say that the class
would be studying different religions. The teacher would very carefully
explain Mornonism, and then put the one Catholic, Methodist, or Jew on the
spot to explain their religion. This was apparently openly sanctioned by
the state. I wonder if this has changed since then.

Then of course there is the well documented nastiness in Sante Fe, TX. When
several families sued to get the Gideons out of the HS and to stop the
"official" prayers at the football games, many of the townspeople reacted
violently. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. Meanwhile
the city manager was eventually driven out of town because he was Jewish.
The religious people dumped garbage on his lawn, and did many other
unpleasant things. Meanwhile my own brother who converted to a
fundamentalist Baptist church was railing against separation of state and
religion in public school. I sent him the TX Monthly article. From what I
can see the real nastiness has come from the religious zealots, and not from
the atheists. The suit was actually supported by a Baptist family whose
daughter refused to accept a Gideon bible saying she already had one.
Whereupon some students called her antireligious.

At this point in time I think we have much more to fear from the religious
zealots than from the atheistic zealots. Atheistic zealots may be closed
minded, but I do not think they shoot doctors, or dump garbage on people's
lawns because they disagree with them. At the present moment the majority
of religious zealots have allied themselves with the Republican right, and
by doing this are having greater success at pushing their agenda.

Now the good news. I have generally found the people in the hard sciences
to be basically decent, and I doubt that there is much political or
religious bigotry there. Certainly there are strong opinions, but I have
not seen any outrageous behavior there.

I think that it should be obvious that I support open inquiry. That means
we might have to tolerate some questionable behavior on the part of some
professors. The alternative would be far worse, namely the suppression of
free discussion.

John M. Clement
Houston, TX
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