Yet another tempest in a teapot, another made-up controversy, another completely taken out of context news story blew up recently stemming from standard course material in a Florida college classroom. A textbook entitled “Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach” by James W. Neuliep was totally misconstrued and used by the Tea Party and many “conservative” (a racket) Web sites to drum up some news coverage.
I first heard about it on Thom Hartman today. He had a person from something called the Tea Party National News on the show for a short segment and she was using the story to insist there was some sort of educational conspiracy of a war on Jesus when there was and is no such thing. Even Thom was momentarily taken aback and the news copy he got handed to him by one of his producers was of no real help, he sort of floundered with it. ‘Not his fault, he can’t know every single little thing no matter how much of a wealth of information that he is.
So I went and did a little checking and I quickly found out that there is indeed a text book that has an exercise in it that uses an object lesson demonstration of cultural/religious symbolism that involved writing the word “JESUS” on a piece of paper and then being asked by the instructor to step on it.
The news site Inside Higher Ed excerpts the lesson outline from the instructor portion of the textbook:
“This exercise is a bit sensitive, but really drives home the point that even though symbols are arbitrary, they take on very strong and emotional meanings. Have the students write the name JESUS in big letters on a piece of paper. Ask the students to stand up and put the paper on the floor in front of them with the name facing up. Ask the students to think about it for a moment. After a brief period of silence, instruct them to step on the paper. Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.”
That’s the extent of it. A perfectly innocuous exercise that demonstrates the importance of cultural symbols in an object lesson.
But then enters the Tea Party (and of course Faux News) into the fray to completely take this easy to understand exercise completely out of context and in true knee-jerk emotional fashion they immediately start yelling all sorts of made up insinuations and of course, one of the first things they want to know is why “Mohammed” (PBUH) was not written on the paper? Of course, each and every one of them miss the irony in the question.
Neulip addressed that issue in the Inside Higher Ed article saying:
“Neuliep said that the exercise was designed for us in the United States, where a majority of students wouldn’t have the reaction to ‘Mohammed’ that they do to ‘Jesus.’ If teaching the course in another country, he said, he might make the point with a different word, but for the exercise to work, the word needs to have real meaning to most students.”
So once again, the ‘baggers have made up a bunch of nonsense, and their high-strung nonsense has resulted in the Florida professor being threatened with his life, and the man who wrote the textbook being a professor of communication and media studies at St. Norbert College, in Wisconsin.
The very sort of man that they claim to want teaching students everywhere! He’s been teaching at St. Norbert College for twenty-eight years, he has written six books including the textbook (a best seller and used all over the country) above, he’s well awarded and apparently a stellar educator and his work is being trashed by people who simply have a political axe to grind in an effort to drum up controversy.
The Florida professor who used this textbook has been suspended, the Florida state governor has intoned that this shall never happen again, and the Florida professor is receiving death threats – all because even a governor of a US state is not smart enough to look before he leaps, and realize that it is the Tea Party and the racket made up of fake “conservatives” that are driving the fake controversy where none exists except in very very tiny minds…
They should be ashamed at defaming these two men’s careers, but they won’t be. Nothing can shame them. I have seen no evidence whatsoever that a member of the so-called and ever-diminishing Tea Party or their Useful Idiot supporters are capable of shame.