Educational Folly in Red Oak, Iowa

October 23, 2007 · Print This Article · Email This Post

Garden of EdenWhile we’re on the subject of educational folly, there was a recent noteworthy example in Red Oak, IA. Steve Bitterman, 60, told students in his Western Civilization class at Southwestern Community College that the biblical story of the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve shouldn’t be taken literally. Students complained that he was denigrating their Christian faith; one of them threatened to sue and, two days later, he was fired in a telephone conversation with Linda Wild, vice president of academic affairs at Southwestern, allegedly for teaching religion instead of history.


That religious faith must be pretty flimsy if it can’t stand up to the scrutiny of one professor. Isn’t college supposed to be a place where one has an open mind and is willing to learn and explore novel new ideas? What’s the point in going to college if one isn’t willing to learn? Sure, generally speaking, college can turn into a good meal ticket. But it can be a lot more than that. The administrators did their students a disservice, by sending students a message that they can intimidate teachers for teaching unorthodox or unpopular ideas.

Fired Professor, Steve BittermanInterviewed by the Des Moines Register, Bitterman said: “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…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. . .I just thought there was such a thing as academic freedom here. From my point of view, what they’re doing is essentially teaching their students very well to function in the eighth century.” Bitterman added: “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. . .If it has, then the taxpaying public of Iowa has a right to know.”

Read a more inspiring post about faith.

Photo credits: Andrea Melendez / The Des Moines Register

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