Monday, November 16, 2009

Furor Over Blog criticizing homosexuality at Purdue U

No free speech for Christians

Bert Chapman knows that his reason for opposing what he calls "the homosexual lifestyle" -- that it differs from his view of Biblical norms -- won't win many arguments these days in the secular world. So Chapman, a blogger who is also a librarian at Purdue University, turned to economics. And at his Conservative Librarian blog, he argues that gay people are an economic drain.

He cites the billions spent on fighting AIDS "without recognizing the morally aberrant sexual behavior ... causing its spread" and the "sad practice" of colleges and other employers offering domestic partner benefits in a way that "prevents them from providing additional coverage to those of us adhering to traditional sexual moral standards"; he goes on to say that gay people are causing economic problems in fields such as real estate and divorce law.

"Guess who has to pay for these increased costs and potentially lower investment returns? We do, regardless of whether or not we approve of the homosexual lifestyle. The next time some one tells you how wonderful is the 'progress' gays have made in recent decades ask them if they have ever thought about the multiple economic consequences of this 'progress' as described in this posting," he wrote.

The blog runs not on a university Web site, but at, a conservative news site. On the site, Chapman's biography notes his job as the political science librarian at the university, but also says: "Views presented on this blog are the author's personal opinions and do not represent the opinions of my employer."

But as word of the blog spread at Purdue, the campus has seen petitions and protests, with many calling for Chapman (who has tenure) to be fired. His critics say that what he writes is so hateful and inaccurate that it raises questions about his ability to do his job.

One sophomore wrote to The Purdue Exponent, the student newspaper: "That’s right. I’ll call for his job. As a student, as a lesbian, as a human being, I believe with every fiber of my being that Purdue University in no way should affiliate itself with the hateful, bigoted opinions of Professor Chapman. It would serve Professor Chapman well to know that there are quite a few 'sexually deviant' students on this campus and they just happen to pay his salary.... Imagine that Professor Chapman’s blog had been titled, 'An Economic Case Against Interracial Marriage' or 'An Economic Case Against the Disabled.' How would the Purdue administration react if they knew a professor was convinced racial segregation should still be in place or that the disabled should just stay home because building a ramp to a library would cost too much money?"

Another student wrote: "Bert Chapman surrendered his position at Purdue the moment he decided to publish such intellectual diarrhea on his blog. There are those who would defend this atrocious man by claiming that political correctness has conspired to snatch away his free speech, but this is not so. Dr. Chapman has the right to believe that homosexuals are immoral, just as it would be within his rights to believe the same about any other group of people.

"The issue is not Dr. Chapman’s views of homosexuality, bigoted and wrong-headed though they may be, but that he has abused his authority as a scholar and an expert to disseminate hate-filled propaganda. Professors are expected to use their studies to search for the truth, but Dr. Chapman appears to feel more at home making up his own facts about AIDS, prison sex and other such matters he falsely connects to what he calls sodomy. He is using these lies to extinguish the essential rights of a group that accounts for an estimated 5-10 percent of our nation’s total population. It should not be merely Purdue’s LGBT students and faculty that are offended by this, but every single decent soul on this campus. Dr. Bert Chapman is not just a homophobe, I think he’s a liar, and it’s about time he start looking for a job elsewhere."

Others -- including some who would join in condemning Chapman's views -- have said that they worry about the rush to demand his dismissal. A column in the Exponent by a self-proclaimed "libertarian-minded liberal" accused liberals of refusing to recognize Chapman's right to express himself. "Students’ outrage at Chapman’s blog is understandable, and, more importantly, merited. But once Purdue liberals proposed that Chapman be removed from Purdue for voicing his opinions, a line was crossed from democracy into fascism," the column says.

Kevin Casimer, a student who has been involved in organizing the protests against Chapman, said via e-mail that he isn't calling for the librarian's dismissal, but for a more forceful response by the university. "What I am primarily calling for is for all members of the Purdue community who think that Chapman's comments are damaging to say so publicly." He said that all of the talk about free speech -- while understandable -- is diverting attention from the need to confront and condemn Chapman's views. (Casimer details his views on the debates on his blog.)

The university has rejected calls to fire Chapman. "The university asks its faculty to make it clear that the viewpoints they express do not necessarily reflect those of the university. Mr. Chapman has gone out of his way to do this with a very clear disclaimer. He also took an extra step and posted his blog on a server not owned by the university," said a spokeswoman. "The university has a policy prohibiting harassment if it unreasonably affects a person's educational or work opportunities or affects his or her ability to participate in a university activity. This does not meet that standard. The First Amendment clearly allows him to state his opinion. The best response is to speak up, which is exactly what our students and some faculty are doing."

In a brief interview on Thursday, Chapman said he didn't want to talk about the situation at length because he wants the controversy to die down. He did say that the angry responses have been hurtful to him, and to his wife. He said that his supervisors at the university, consistent with the institution's statement, have not taken any action against him. But he said that he contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, just in case.

FIRE's Adam Kissel said that the organization is monitoring the situation and "has been pleased with Purdue's statements in defense of professors' freedom to publish their personal views on the Internet. This is a great learning opportunity for those students and faculty members who think wrongly that Purdue should censor or punish the professor."


Education needs a new way of thinking


I caused a near riot in an elementary school once. It happened in the late 1980s when I was a lunchtime/recess monitor. I wanted to give a present to the kids before winter break so I purchased a bunch of Hershey’s Kisses to hand out. I decided to have some fun with this, so I hid the candy behind me, stood on a cafeteria chair, got the kids’ attention and said, “I think you guys are great so I want to give a kiss to each and every one of you.” Then I puckered up.

The boys responded just as I expected and started to boo. But then the trouble started as everyone started yelling — louder and louder. I grabbed the bag of goodies to show them I was only kidding, but by that time no one was listening and I think I even got pelted with a couple of tater tots. The kids were eventually corralled outside to work off their energy and I imagine the principal and teachers are probably still talking about it.

I tell this story because I think Indiana’s teachers and the state’s education schools might have a point being concerned about the proposals made by Indiana’s Superintendent Tony Bennett. The Department of Education is considering changing requirements for teachers, one of which is to require fewer “methods” or classroom management classes and more subject matter classes.

On the other hand, Bennett has a point when he says it should be easier for noneducation majors to teach in the schools. It never made sense to me that someone who has a passion for a subject and actually worked in a career where they used it has to jump through so many hoops in order to teach.

I can see how this is controversial. What it would say about our current teachers if people who don’t have a specific teaching degree but know the subject well do just fine, or even better, in the classroom than education majors? The possibility of this happening has to scare those invested in the current education system.

I question whether any of this really makes any difference though because as long as we continue to copy the Prussian school model, we aren’t really doing much for anyone interested in learning. It does work well to grind up and mold large groups of children and force them to fit into boxes that can easily be organized, controlled, and artificially measured though.

Teachers working in such systems do need “methods” courses. It takes some time to learn how to tell a lively group of kids they need to sit down, shut up and learn about stuff they probably aren’t the least bit interested in.

Controversies between teachers and administrators presuppose that it’s all about them but it’s not. It’s about the learner. But no one ever asks students what they think, which results in a system that too quickly subtracts out natural curiosity, innovative creativity and zest for learning. So whether or not Tony Bennett gets his way and changes the rules so teachers learn more content or whether pedagogy wins, the kids lose.

It’s really not hard to help someone learn if he or she is engaged and has a real, not artificially created, reason for gaining knowledge about a topic. We need to give kids more freedom in what and how they learn without all the control freaks getting in the way. If we ever decide that it’s learning that matters and not simply controlling the masses and maintaining old institutional ways of thinking, many of our education problems will be much easier to solve.


I strongly agree that someone who has specialized in a subject is more likely to be enthusiastic about it than someone with just a teaching degree. And that enthusiasm will do more to get kids interested in the subject than any gimmick will. And getting kids interested is the real first challenge. I taught High School economics with NO teaching qualification but an enthusiasm for the subject -- and the kids I taught did very well in their exams. And my mathematician son first became interested in mathematics because the private school I sent him to had good mathematics teachers who were enthusiatic about their subject -- JR

British High School exams to cover grammar of mobile phone texting

A section on the grammar of mobile phone texting is to appear in GCSE exams. A new English exam that includes a section on the grammar of mobile-phone texting has been slammed as the ultimate dumbing down of the subject. Next year pupils will be tested on text messaging as part of their English GCSEs. They will have to write an essay on the etiquette and grammar of texting, using their own messages as examples – earning up to ten per cent of their overall English GCSE mark.

The subject is being introduced by the Assessment Qualifications Alliance (AQA), the country's largest exam board.

Last night Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said it was a 'shameful betrayal of the subject'. He said: 'Surely, with all the great literature that could be studied, it is a tragedy that pupils are being asked to do this as part of an English qualification. 'It is hardly believable and such a waste of time and effort. It is difficult to see what they will learn – it's the ultimate dumbing down.'

The subject of 'text language' will be taught from next September under the guise of 'Studying Spoken Language'. It has been introduced as part of a reform of GCSEs designed to make the qualification tougher. [TOUGHER???] Coursework has been taken off the curriculum over concerns that parents were helping their children cheat.

The new subject of study has been described by the AQA as the 'newest and potentially most exciting area of the new GCSE'. An AQA spokeswoman said: 'Texting is a prevalent form of language in the 21st Century and it is right that it is given its place alongside other forms of language.' [But do they need to go to school to learn it?]


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