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  • College Students Refuse To Read Award-Winning Novel Because It Violates Their Christian Beliefs

    Some freshmen students at Duke University are protesting the assignment of Fun Home, claiming reading it would violate their Christian beliefs.

    Fun Home is an award-winning, New York Times best-selling graphic novel and memoir that was adapted for the theatre and recently won five Tonys, including the coveted Tony Award for Best Musical. The book and the Broadway show both deal with the very personal, challenging, and emotional issues of its author, Alison Bechdel, including growing up, discovering she is a lesbian, and learning her father, who commits suicide, was gay.

    The book was assigned to incoming Duke University freshmen as part of their summer reading list, but as Claire Ballentine at The Chronicle, Duke's student newspaper, reports, several Christian students strongly objected to the book and refused to read it, citing their deeply-held religious beliefs.

    “I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it,” Brian Grasso wrote on the Duke University Class of 2019 Facebook page, a closed group. He cited its “graphic visual depictions of sexuality,” as part of his reason. “Duke did not seem to have people like me in mind,” he added. “It was like Duke didn’t know we existed, which surprises me.”

    “There is so much pressure on Duke students, and they want so badly to fit in,” Grasso observed. “But at the end of the day, we don’t have to read the book.” 

    Grasso was not alone in his protest.

    “The nature of ‘Fun Home’ means that content that I might have consented to read in print now violates my conscience due to its pornographic nature,” Jeffrey Wubbenhorst wrote in an email to The Chronicle.

    Freshman Elizabeth Snyder-Mounts also objected, writing, “I thought to myself, ‘What kind of school am I going to?’”

    Not all the students objected to being exposed to the critically acclaimed book.

    “Reading the book will allow you to open your mind to a new perspective and examine a way of life and thinking with which you are unfamiliar,” freshman Marivi Howell-Arza wrote.

    Duke, established in 1838, is a nonsectarian, secular, private university in North Carolina that has produced eight Nobel laureates.


    Image by Marco40134 via Flickr and a CC license

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    • commented 2016-01-02 17:08:51 -0500
      Ikea Whoever, Tristan Blakeley, et al, I used a little extra space to write a thoughtful, reasoned response because mine was the sole questioning voice. The rest were just the bleats of the herd to which this site caters. Lots of illogic. Lots of Christian-bashing.

      I’ve spent my adult life teaching literature, both at universities where the reading list was compiled by faculty committees and by individual teachers. I’ve experienced foolish objections to books by parents/alums/students who had no idea what was in them, and when the policy was mine to set, I generally provided an alternative book that dealt with the same major theme, but was more time-honored. I found that simpler and more conducive to teaching. I did not want to create unreceptive students before they even entered the classroom. My desire was not to force students to adopt a specific political belief, but to open them to the wonders of literature and the great ideas that run through all good literature. So I had a different agenda than Duke, I think.

      The problem almost always occurred for me with contemporary fiction, which I always included in a summer reading list. When Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening” was reintroduced as part of the feminist movement, I had a student who objected to reading it. So I assigned “Anna Karenina” to that student. It was a far better book, and when that student had to address the politicized AP examination, she would be prepared for the feminist essay.

      My objection to the posts on this site was their intolerance and their ignorance of legitimate views other than the cant of the site-owner and, I assume, their own environments.

      I personally found Duke University’s summer reading list shallow and political. If encouraging thought and not a herd mentality were the object, the English Department would have submitted a list of more complex and thoughtful books for freshman, who need to encounter some classic texts so they will be better able to evaluate contemporary writing. I’d read the main book being protested, and it certainly did not strike me as great literature, but that book alone was not my point.

      When I submitted my response, I did not realize that this list assumes the unquestioning approval of homosexuality a standard for clear thought. I thought it dealt with the nature of reading lists. Otherwise I would not have bothered. I have blocked further email notices from the site, for it is among the most bigoted, closed-minded, and, alas, ignorant groups I’ve encountered. If its members had lions and a coliseum handy, I have no doubt those awful Christians would no longer be a thorn in the political side of Duke University.

    • commented 2016-01-02 10:25:07 -0500
      I hate to point out the obvious but you won’t know it violates your xian beliefs unless you actually read the book. What, you’re going to ASSUME it violates your beliefs because of the subject matter or just trust what people tell you? In that case please just leave college. You truly aren’t bright enough to be there. Also, where did you get the idea that you don’t have to interact with people or things that don’t espouse the same beliefs you do? Childish thinking that needs to be eradicated which is why I hope you stay in college even though you aren’t yet mature enough for it.

    • commented 2016-01-02 08:27:14 -0500
      There is a long history of states and churches and True Believers in demanding that others do not read heretical or treasonous works. Thinking is the enemy of True Belief.

    • commented 2016-01-02 01:47:17 -0500
      Dear Gaye,
      Why don’t you just write a book next time, it would be shorter.
      These Students should just shut up and read the damn book. You don’t always get your way in life. Let this be your first lesson. Apparently, they have lived in a bubble their entire lives and have never read a thought provoking book or met a gay person. They need to grow up, because, guess what? You will have to deal with gay people, we are not going away.

    • commented 2015-08-28 07:54:04 -0400
      Dear Gaye Ingram,
      Let me first advise you that brevity, while communicating on the internet, is the best policy.
      Nobody whose posts I’ve read has vilified religious faith. I’m a Christian and active member of both my (mainstream) church and various charitable organizations funded by church. I still find the grandstanding – and by refusing to obey court orders, criminal – positions of these bigoted and hateful people to be a slap in the face of all true Christians and people of faith.
      You seem very capable of “dishing it out” as the adage goes, but incapable of opening your mind to a broader horizon.
      So much the sadder for you.
      Best wishes from a grammatically accurate ex-English teacher.

    • commented 2015-08-28 01:20:16 -0400
      These comments are hilarious. It’s like a convention of pompous asses. Watch out everyone if you use a comma splice or have any other kind of grammatical error, grammar nazis are on the loose.

    • commented 2015-08-28 00:05:50 -0400
      Dear Mr. Brown,

      I neglected to block this site from sending email notifications to my address. I have corrected my negligence.

      Clearly, it is not a site where one might challenge the point of view or the opinion of the established PC orthodoxy. Indeed, now that I have reviewed it, I realize the contributors focus mainly on vilifying religious faith and replacing it with some current PC orthodoxy that appears to have homosexuality as a cardinal principle. Not a lot of variety of opinion and very little tolerance or thoughtfulness. Not a thinking person’s place. So I will leave it to you and your pond of frogs, though not before I address your assertions regarding my earlier post.

      First to the question of whether one can think without believing something is true. You write, "I do not presume belief and thought are incompatible, it is a fact " (There you go again with that vague pronoun reference and this time you’ve added a comma splice to boot). But let’s ignore that. This is what matters: that very statement rests on a conception of what is true (ontology) and how one knows it is true (epistemology) . That you do not perceive you are reasoning from an ontological assumption does not mean you are not reasoning from an ontological assumption. It simply means you don’t recognize it.

      To identify it, you must determine the criterion you use to determine whether something is true or false. That will be the ontological belief upon from which you reasoned. To illustrate your claim you say, “Even if I think about fairy tales or religious beliefs, I realize that they are what they are, fairy tales and religious beliefs and not reality.”

      In that contrast and in that odd little example about flying lies your belief - and I use that word correctly—about what is true, the standard you use to determine one thing is real or true and another is not. Here it is: reality/truth is that which can be empircalled observed or measured. That’s your ground for excluding “fairy tales and religious beliefs” from “reality.”

      That means you can only explore truth through one of the sciences, for sciences are the bodies of knowledge the parts of which may be subjected to physical measurement. Science is the instrument of the empirist. So anything that cannot be accounted for through physical measurement is, in your thought, not real or true. That is your a priori belief, your assumption.

      Religion and philosophy, on the other hand, are the bodies of knowledge properly used to consider First Causes, those that generate physical causes. In science, physical observation is the proper means to knowledge. In religion, faith forms the proper ground for reasoning about the nature of the transcendental. Logic provides the methods of reasoning.

      In the end, trying to to disprove a transcendental power or principle through physical means is folly. The person who claims there can be no transcendent being because the universe resulted from a physical explosion is just as foolish as the one who denies physical evolution based on allegoric parts of his religious text or traditions. Evolution is a physical process and science deals with physical processes. The presence of an unmoved mover or transcendent being is not physical and science hasn’t the means to explore it.

      Your example of “If I could fly…..” is simply silly, unworthy of an adult.

      As for your remarks regarding the so-called “plural they” you claim is used in “MODERN English” (Mr. Brown, what did your wise old Wikipedia say about capitalizing words for emphasis? that it was middle-schoolgirlish?), Of course, I know some approve this usage and seek to get the rest of the literate world to approve it, though mainly only in informal speech. But the world has not joined the movement yet. The usage is not the norm, even in journalism. For instance, the Duke University style guide for press releases refers the reader to OWL for guidance in this subject. English Departments in most universities do the same for student writing. And guess what OWL has to say about pronoun-antedent agreement with “everybody, anyone, everyone, etc” ! Of course, one may easily avoid most of this misuse by simply using a plural antecedent such as “all.”

      But pronoun usage is not really your issue with me. You are just annoyed somebody from beyond your self-congratulating clique waltzed into its terrain and questioned your authority or the orthodoxy you support. Your response suggests you are not accustomed to being questioned on this site and perhaps elsewhere. You see this as a safe place for the current orthodoxy and “amens” are the only acceptable responses.

      So you need to discredit what I say, and yet you are unable to do that successfully. So you resort to the puerile argumentum ad hominem: “Clearly you are incapable of rational thought.” Attack the writer, not her ideas. Trying to understand those ideas seems not to have been among the options you considered.

      Unlike you, I am accustomed to having my ideas challenged. I challenge my own ideas. I question myself and others, and I question the orthodoxies of my time. That is my habit of mind, and it has educated me. That habit of mind and the knowledge it has brought give me an independence you lack. I can think for myself. I don’t have to grab the hot new idea that passes down the street. I don’t need my ideas to synchronize with those of any clique. I don’t ask how I might justify my choices, but whether my choices are right. That way of thinking humbles a person, teaches him how little he knows, how fallible he is. And it precludes his treating fairy tales and religion as equalities and otherwise making a fool of himself. Until you, I thought only teenagers went about saying things like "I do not presume belief and thought are incompatible, it is a fact " (Ouch! I do hate comma splices and pronouns without antecedents and assinine arrogance. )

      Now you may have the bog to yourself.

      Gaye Ingram


    • commented 2015-08-27 14:09:41 -0400
      Dear Gaye,
      Clearly you are incapable of rational thought so I will make this simple for you.
      I do not presume belief and thought are incompatible, it is a fact that I have come to accept. (You should too)
      They are in fact the opposite of one another, and in no way encourage the other or inform each other. I can belief ANY THING to be true, I can only think about things that are true. (Even if I think about fairy tales or religious beliefs, I realize that they are what they are, fairy tales and religious beliefs and not reality. However, I can not believe I can fly and then force myself to launch myself off of a building- UNLESS I am insane… and I think that proves my point.
      as for my pronoun-antecedent agreement, I suppose you are referring to “student” and “they”. I think you will find if you look at MODERN English usage “They” is the proper antecedent for “a student”. (The alternative being First person, singular or plural, 2nd person singular or plural, or third person singular- HE SHE OR IT. In the past, HE would have been the correct antecedent. However, what leads you to presume that student is male?
      Since the “a student” is actually ANY ONE of millions of students, it is what is called a “singular they”.
      This is easy enough from Wikipedia, but you can find ore authoritative sources, if you desire to not be an asshole.
      Singular they is the use in English of the pronoun they, or its inflected or derivative forms, such as them, their, or themselves, as a “pronoun that is neutral between masculine and feminine”,1 to refer to a single person or an antecedent that is grammatically singular. It typically occurs with an antecedent of indeterminate gender, as in sentences such as:
      “Everyone returned to their seats.”2
      “Somebody left their umbrella in the office. Would they please collect it?”3
      “The patient should be told at the outset how much they will be required to pay.”4
      “But a journalist should not be forced to reveal their sources.”4

    • commented 2015-08-26 12:29:45 -0400
      I just love how christians act so persecuted in the morning. Makes my fukking day! O noes! she swears and doesn’t believe in god, she is so unintelligent…

      Poor idiots. Anyhow, I did say i was out of here… Bye, Felicia.

    • commented 2015-08-26 12:25:19 -0400
      Gaye, I was right, you really do enjoy hearing yourself speak., peace out fukk faces. don’t bother replying if you want me to go away. i will continue to offend as that was my only goal here.

    • commented 2015-08-26 12:22:36 -0400
      Suck A dick Teddy, no one was talking to you. And I never spelled Gaye’s name. Now kindly fukk off over there -->

    • commented 2015-08-26 10:47:35 -0400
      What?!? So now simply reading a book will “compromise” his “personal Christian moral beliefs”? What kind of ignorance is this? Maybe a tech school would better serve this fool, where he won’t be exposed to real world issues in the classroom.

    • commented 2015-08-26 09:30:10 -0400
      So obviously they wouldn’t read any book that had someone breaking one of the 10 commandments – such as “Thou shalt not kill”. Those are actually important in the Bible!

    • commented 2015-08-26 06:36:52 -0400
      Raven Kaos first off try spelling the word Gay(Gaye) right! Your bigotry and lack of intelligence is showing. Get an education and please get over yourself!

    • commented 2015-08-26 06:36:50 -0400
      Raven Kaos first off try spelling the word Gay(Gaye) right! Your bigotry and lack of intelligence is showing. Get an education and please get over yourself!

    • commented 2015-08-26 05:06:03 -0400
      To declare that “I will not consider this thing (book, idea, art, policy) because it offends my beliefs” is the death of education and politics. No rational political or economic decision can be taken without considering the facts and to refuse to consider a fact or opinion because you are offended by it is puerile beyond measure. A child stamping its foot and screaming.

    • commented 2015-08-26 03:53:46 -0400
      NOTE TO SELF: any mystical, mythological belief that begins to affect your actual life and the potential of others: IS CALLED A MENTAL ILLNESS

    • commented 2015-08-26 02:34:41 -0400
      Raven, please read what I suggested to you. in rational discourse one addresses the ideas a person articulates, not the person. You have yet to do that, You responded to my statement about the purpose of a university with a wild personal threat “to mock me ruthlessly” (Have you ever seen the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail?”). When I did not quail at that threat, you sunk to vulgarity unbecoming the topic being addressed and the audience you were addressing. You lost all credibility. While I don’t know what you mean by “lend to the idea,” I know that your choice of language and your odd rant did betray you as one who hasn’t the means to think clearly and communicate effectively. I told you how you might remedy that. And now, having threatened me and called me vulgar names, you again resort to the personal and tell me if I were a “real Christian,” I would take no offense at. those behaviors. You expect to disregard the feelings of others, but be spared their responses.. That is the reasoning of a bully. Your anger and lashing out at people you don’t even know reminds me of the way Annie Sullivan described Helen Keller. Unable to communicate her feelings and lacking ideas for lack of words, Keller thrashed chaotically in life. But Sullivan gave this wild child the means to know and communicate with others; thereby she civilized that little girl who otherwise was doomed to anger and silence.. I don’t know your circumstances, but I know you have at your disposal the sources for education. that will change the way you think and permit you to communicate with civilized, intelligent, educated people. I hope you will have the humility and courage, the true marks of a learner, to gain a good, solid education. To say more is pointless.

    • commented 2015-08-26 00:06:20 -0400
      Don’t assume Caleb, it just makes an ass out of u and me. You don’t know me so don’t you dare presume to know what kind of education I have. I know how to do many things, a lot of which I taught myself. So, screwed, I think not. Education isn’t all about regurgitating to a test and to even believe that is an old fashioned backwards way of thinking.

    • commented 2015-08-25 23:18:06 -0400
      So. Reading the damn book is entirely voluntary. Which makes refusing to read it less noble than some people would like.
      “The summer reading is entirely voluntary – it is not a requirement, nor is there a grade or record of any student’s participation. With a class of 1,750 new students from around the world, it would be impossible to find a single book that that did not challenge someone’s way of thinking. We understand and respect that, but also hope that students will begin their time at Duke with open minds and a willingness to explore new ideas, whether they agree with them or not.”

    • commented 2015-08-25 22:42:59 -0400
      I dont know how to tell you guys this, but a good education teaches you how to teach yourself. All of you who think this young man is wrong because he wont set aside his beliefs have never had an education. Sure you may be able to regurgitate whatever answer you need to put on the test but you do not know how to teach yourself anything so when you go into the real world you will be screwed.

    • commented 2015-08-25 21:47:08 -0400
      Catherine, I like you your words very much.

    • commented 2015-08-25 21:43:53 -0400
      You really love to hear yourself speak, don’t you? Did you know, and this is rhetorical, because I am sure you do not, that my vulgarity does not lend to the idea that I am less educated than yourself. I am just not afraid to use vulgarity when I speak because it might hurt your delicate sensitivities.

      If you were a real christian, people’s actions and words would not affect you the way they do. You would have a sense of ‘I am doing right by my beliefs and therefore this does not affect me.’

      Truth is, it really does not affect you any more than I intended it. An insult to one whom I feel deserves an insult. Jump off your pedestal before someone pushes you off.

    • commented 2015-08-25 19:22:58 -0400
      This is college. You can no longer get away with getting an alternative assignment because of something you believe, like you did in high school, and nor should you. If you’re going to close your mind to every new experience, class, or text because of your deep rooted beliefs, then your college career is going to be the hardest career you ever take on.

      My school has a Bible as Literature class, that is taught by an athiest. If you’re not willing to set your feelings and beliefs aside, then you deserve to fail. Period. Suck it up!

    • commented 2015-08-25 17:51:16 -0400
      Raven, what a vocabulary and logical storehouse you reveal. And there is a lot of that faulty pronoun agreement running around on this list, isn’t there? Once you put your thoughts into words and record those words in print, Raven, the printed version is all others have for discerning your meaning. You just need to get some words that pass muster in civilized society, confront some ideas that run counter to your own ideas, learn some basic reasoning patterns, and learn to distinguish between the writer and the writer’s ideas. It’s the ideas that are up for comment. Until you do these things, you will be condemned to go with the crowd wherever you are, while claiming going with the crowd is an independent act. You will be doomed to such incoherent, personal attacks on those who differ from you. And that would be pure hell, for nobody pays attention to persons so limited. Everyone deserves better.

    • commented 2015-08-25 17:29:53 -0400
      Charles Brown, I stand corrected and apologize for my error. You did not merely “presume” that belief and thinking are incompatible: you stated it specifically. I quote your post: "The purpose of education is to expose students to new ideas and new ways to view old ideas. If a student refuses to participate in this process, OBVIOUSLY they fail.
      “Believing” and “Thinking” are incompatible. They have made their choice to believe instead of think. "

      So you should have read what I had to say, lengthy and fraught with logic though it was. But then you did read it.

      I don’t know if you teach or write, but if you do, you really need to work out your problems with pronoun-antecedent agreement. After that, faulty parallelism.

    • commented 2015-08-25 13:26:27 -0400
      No, just ignorant cunts Like you who try to say that because i think you are an ignorant cunt, that i feel the same about those born with a chromosomal difference. You who pretend someone means something else when they say something. You and you alone.

    • commented 2015-08-25 13:26:27 -0400
      No, just ignorant cunts Like you who try to say that because i think you are an ignorant cunt, that i feel the same about those born with a chromosomal difference. You who pretend someone means something else when they say something. You and you alone.

    • commented 2015-08-25 13:15:00 -0400
      Gaye Ingram, you persevere in casting pearls before swine with good will and fortitude. You have my admiration!

    • commented 2015-08-25 13:04:46 -0400
      Raven Kaos, what an informed, thoughtful response. Encounter a reasoned position that runs counter (you think) to your own and all you have the means to do is “[mock] mercilessly” and threaten. Now that’s open-minded, Raven! And “mocked mercilessly for being BORN too stupid to learn and use logic.” I assume you also “mock mercilessly” people with Down Syndrome, for instance, people who are congenitally unlike you or those to whom you will mock A person whose view differs from yours. Sad, sad.

      A good education would have made it possible for you to respond intelligently and rationally, to address issues instead of raving and threatening the writer. It would have replaced the chaotic darkness with light and empathy.

      Do you understand the criticism of casting “pearls before swine”? No?

      BTW, check these out: argumentum ad hominem; argumentum ad populem.

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