Joseph Knippenberg raised a serious concern at First Thoughts last week about the way University of Central Florida professor Charles Negy reacted to students arguing for the validity of Christianity. Professor Negy sent a sharply worded email to some 500 students, complaining about the “bigotry” demonstrated by Christians who had “argued the validity of Christianity” in his classroom.
Now Professor Negy has blogged on the email-gone-viral. He opens the article,
Last Spring semester at the university I teach at, an incident occurred in my cross-cultural psychology class related to my discussion of religious bigotry in society. The incident prompted me to send an email to my students later that evening that ended up “going viral” and initially was posted on Reddit and more recently (August 16) was posted on the Huffington Post. My message to students in that email addressed various issues — issues that I will be blogging on in the upcoming weeks. For now, I want to comment on the issue that was addressed pertaining to the purpose of a university because so many professors nationwide have emailed me indicating that they plan on reading my email to their students on the first day of classes in order to orient them to the role of a university and their roles as students.
“So many professors” are planning to read his email to their students. The mere fact is amazing. It’s bad enough that Professor Negy missed seeing his own multiple contradictions and ironies, but for “so many professors” also to have overlooked them speaks poorly for higher education.
Professor Negy’s blog post settles one question, though. Mr. Knippenberg had wondered what kind of behavior it was that provoked the email. One has to question whether one is getting enough of the story from a message like that. Now it appears we have an authoritative answer to that question. The professor gives every indication in this blog post that he approves of other faculty members reading it to their classes sans context. If that’s the case, that means he believes the email stands on its own. It is what it is.
And its message is clear. Professor Negy’s chief complaint seems to have been with Christians “arguing that Christianity is the most valid religion.” Though he himself seems not to consider context very important, it’s worth noting that the words “most valid” seem to fit better with (at least an attempt toward) reasoned discussion than a lecture-disrupting rant. Have you ever heard anyone ranting, ”My view is the most valid!”?
“So many professors” across the country, then, are echoing Professor Negy’s instruction these first days of school: Feel free to examine ideas and think critically, but for you who are Christians, don’t even think of arguing in favor of your beliefs.
It bodes very ill for higher education.