Iowa is No Garden of Eden for Higher Education

The following story by the Associated Press (via the First Amendment Center) provides further evidence that conservatives, particularly those of the religious fundamentalist persuasion, “tend to be more rigid and closed-minded [and] less tolerant of ambiguity,” not to mention metaphorically challenged:

Iowa instructor claims he was fired for Adam and Eve comments

DES MOINES, Iowa — A college instructor in Red Oak claims he was fired after he told his students that the biblical story of Adam and Eve is a fairy tale and should not be interpreted literally.

Steve Bitterman, 60, said officials at Southwestern Community College sided with a handful of students who threatened legal action over his Sept. 18 remarks in a western civilization class. He said he was fired on Sept. 20.

”I’m just a little bit shocked myself that a college in good standing would back up students who insist that people who have been through college … have to teach that there were such things as talking snakes or lose their job,” Bitterman said.

”As a taxpayer, I’d like to know if a tax-supported public institution of higher learning has given veto power over what can and cannot be said in its classrooms to a fundamentalist religious group.”

School President Barbara Crittenden would not comment on whether Bitterman was fired over the Bible reference, saying it was a personnel issue.

“I can assure you that the college understands our employees’ free-speech rights,” she said. ”There was no action taken that violated the First Amendment.”

Bitterman, who taught part time at Southwestern and Omaha’s Metropolitan Community College, says he uses the Old Testament in his western civilization course and teaches it from an academic standpoint.

He said some students thought the Sept. 18 lesson belittled their religion.

”I put the Hebrew religion on the same plane as any other religion. Their god wasn’t given any more credibility than any other god,” Bitterman said. ”I told them it was an extremely meaningful story, but you had to see it in a poetic, metaphoric or symbolic sense, that if you took it literally, that you were going to miss a whole lot of meaning there.”

Bitterman said he called the story of Adam and Eve a fairy tale in a conversation with a student after the class and was told the students had threatened to see an attorney.

He said the college, by firing him, ”is essentially teaching their students very well to function in the 8th century.” [full text]


One thought on “Iowa is No Garden of Eden for Higher Education

  1. Unfortunately the heroic lines from the magnificent production, “Field of Dreams” ring hollow. It is not heaven (in an intellectual sense, because it is Iowa, and intellectual freedom has been dealt a serious blow.

    The world is a strange and interesting place. The more some of us know about the world, the less many of us know or care to know. The “why” of this is at the heart of this unfotunate story of ignorance and bad administration. I do believe that the issues confronted in this incident not only reflect complete disregard of knowledge on the part of “believing” studnets, and one would suppose the community that they represent, but alos highlight the miserable stae of educational administrations, afraid to confront substance and cowering under pressure.

    In the end, the administrators value their jobs mnore than the truth that they are ethically bound to uphold. This is really not a debate about biblical references, but rather is a representation of the failure of our educational system to understand the world science has given us. The failure is also the failure of the schools and colleges to educate and their vulnerability to special interest pressure or political correctness. In thius instance, Iowa is better than this example of ignorance and is the home of very fine research institutions. One can only hope that the students at this miserable institution will make the effort to transfer to any of the fine universities in Iowa.

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