An Intercultural Whatever professor at Florida Atlantic University made each of his students write JESUS on a piece of a paper and then throw it on the floor and stomp on it.

One of them refused to do it and complained to an administrator. The student was thrown out of the class.

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9 Responses to “Godstomper”

  1. Dom Says:

    According to the article, “FAU says the classroom exercise did not come from the instructor, but from the textbook Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach, 5th Edition.”

    Google Books finds no instances of “Jesus” or “stomp.” The book does contain this kind of writing: “The expression of intimacy, power, and status among communicators is typically accomplished nonverbally through paralinguistic cues, proxemics, haptics, oculesics, and olfactics*. In Korea, for example, one’s hierarchical position is displayed via vocal tone and pitch.** When a subordinate is offered an important piece of paper, such as a graded exam from a respected professor, he or she grasps it with both hands (not just one), accompanied with a slight nod of the head and indirect eye contact—all nonverbal signs of deference.”

    *Olfactics as nonverbal communication… farting?
    **That doesn’t sound very accurate. Korean has honorifics.

    There is more information about the incident on this blog.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Dom: Many thanks for those links.

  3. Contingent Cassandra Says:

    Why does it matter whether the lesson plan was in the textbook, or the teacher’s handbook, or whatever? Aren’t the teacher and/or department still responsible for (a) choosing the textbook, and (b) exercising good judgment about which parts of it to use, and how? I realize that individual teachers may not have as much authority as they once did in choosing curricular materials, but, in such cases, the somebody else within the institution has that authority, and needs to accept responsibility (either for choosing inappropriate materials, or for not exercising sufficient judgment in hiring and/or mentoring faculty members). The chair seems as good a candidate as any.

    Somehow, I think this ties into the MOOC debates, where people often confuse course/curricular materials for an actual course (that’s not a slam on your MOOC, UD, just an observation on the conversation, especially as pursued by those who aren’t actually practicing teachers).

    The instructor and/or chair also seem somewhat confused about the relative value of performing an action and thinking about the action, at least in this sort of exercise. In this case, having at least one student in the class who *didn’t* follow directions, and was willing to talk about why not, strikes me as an asset to whatever discussion or writing exercise came next, not a detriment.

  4. Alan Allport Says:

    The exercise sounds a bit dopey, but I think I get the idea it was supposed to convey – the emotional power of symbols, etc. etc.

    The bit I don’t really get is why this turned into a showdown about actually doing the stomping. Surely the whole point of the exercise is to get students to object to it: generating the uncomfortableness (and then talking about why it exists) is the purpose, and once that’s been accomplished there’s no need to literally perform the stomping. Sounds as though the instructor may not have understood his own lesson plan.

  5. david foster Says:

    Dom…the lesson plan did not come from the textbook, but it did apparently come from the accompanying workbook. However, the suggestion in the workbook carried the expectation that most students would refuse to step on the paper, or would at least be hesitant. The quoted text certainly did not suggest that refusing to step on the paper would be considered a failure to complete the assignment. (And as CC notes above, the university is obviously responsible for the textbooks it selects)

    The lesson plan seems based on the implicit assumption that the word “Jesus” represents an extraordinarily powerful symbol—perhaps THE most extraordinarily powerful symbol–to most students. This might well be true at an explicitly Christian college, but I’m not sure it’s true for the student body of a typical public or private university. (There are probably people who wouldn’t mind stepping on “Jesus” who would be very reluctant to step on “The Planet,” or “Human Rights,” or any of a number of things.

  6. Colin Says:

    I do rather wonder what would have happened if the word had been Muhammed. Or is that impossible to imagine in an American classroom?

  7. david foster Says:

    A better way to have conducted the exercise, if the intention was really to provoke thought, would have been:

    “Please write the name of something very very important to you on a piece of paper. It may be a religious figure, it may be one of your strongest beliefs, it may be the name of someone you love. You don’t need to show anyone else what you have written…

    NOW…how would you feel about throwing the paper on the floor and stomping on it? Would it bother you? (pause)

    But what was written on the paper was only marks of ink. Stomping on it would not harm the person or thing or idea that the marks represent. Yet most of you (assumption here, but probably a good one) were reluctant to stomp on the paper.

    What does this tell us about the relationship among symbols, the things they represent, and human emotions? Discuss.”

  8. Dom Says:

    You’re right, the exercise was in the workbook, sorry. This blog has identified the source.

  9. Intercultural Whatever « Log24 Says:

    […] "An Intercultural Whatever professor at Florida Atlantic University…" (FAU). […]

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