So, after all the kvetching the Discovery Institute did over the Guillermo Gonzalez tenure denial case, why aren’t they rushing to the defense of one Steve Bitterman, a community college professor at Southwest Community College here in Iowa. The case is still developing, but what is known is that Bitterman was fired last week–apparently for teaching that Genesis isn’t literal:
A community college instructor in Red Oak claims he was fired after he told his students that the biblical story of Adam and Eve should not be literally interpreted.
Steve Bitterman, 60, said officials at Southwestern Community College sided with a handful of students who threatened legal action over his remarks in a western civilization class Tuesday. He said he was fired Thursday.
“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 and have a master’s degree, a couple actually, have to teach that there were such things as talking snakes or lose their job,” Bitterman said.
A student of Mr. Bitterman’s was on a conservative radio show earlier today, and said that Bitterman took a “mocking” tone with the class, which ticked her and some of her fellow students off–a few of whom threatened lawsuits. If this is what happened, I can understand perhaps taking Mr. Bitterman aside to caution him to increase his sensitivities to student’s religious beliefs and teach without belittling–but firing him 48 hours later without an attempt at discussion? For teaching something that even many Christians accept?
Iowa State religion professor Hector Avalos notes:
“I don’t know the circumstances, but if he’s teaching something about the Bible and says it is a myth, he shouldn’t be fired for that because most academic scholars do believe this is a myth, the story of Adam and Eve,” Avalos said. “So it’d be no different than saying the world was not created in six days in science class.
“You don’t fire professors for giving you a scientific answer.”
Well, apparently they do at SCC. As far as I know, administrators haven’t responded and are probably trying to brush this under the rug. Of course, I expect the DI will pick up the cause any day now…
[Edited to add: the Register has an additional piece on the evolving (heh) story:
Students of a fired Iowa community college instructor say they were offended more by his brash teaching style than the remarks about the Bible that he claims led to his dismissal last week.
But students in the class, which was transmitted to a classroom in Osceola over the state fiber-optic network, say Bitterman also told them to question their religious beliefs and at one point in the heated debate told one of the Osceola students, Kristen Fry, to “pop a Prozac.”
Fry said she left class in tears.
I really wish this was recorded somewhere. The story mentions the class was broadcast over ICON (the Iowa communications network), but one can use that without necessarily taping the class. Was the remark in jest? Truly nasty? Either way, certainly not a bright thing to say, but worth losing a job over? I’m sure this isn’t the last of this yet….