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Jack in the Beanstalk is Real!

Well, not really. Nevertheless, if you ever teach at a community college in Iowa, be careful which fairy tales you talk about. Professor Steve Bitterman, a professor at Red Oak Community College received a pink slip for telling his students that he thought the story of Adam & Eve should not be “literally interpreted.”

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. (source)

For this comment, Professor Bitterman lost his taxpayer-funded job teaching a Western Civilization course. So much for academic freedom, and so much for the First Amendment.

Note, he didn’t say anything disparaging about any particular religion. He simply said that one should look to the meaning of a religious text, and not to the literal . In other words, it is more important, at least under his understanding of christianity, to obey god’s orders, not to believe in talking animals. Unfortunately, in today’s environment of rising (and dangerous) fundamentalism of all religious shades, freedom of thought is suffering the same fate as 3,000 Americans did back in 2001.

The college’s president, Barbara Crittenden was quoted as saying:

“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.”

Perhaps there is more to the story than reported, but if the Des Moines register got this story right, then Ms. Crittenden is not qualified to be president of anything – let alone an institution of higher learning. Public employees do have First Amendment rights vis-a-vis their employers that evade most of us poor schlubs.

Professor Bitterman summed it up best:

“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. (source)

And just think… we give Iowans a pretty hefty hand in choosing our future president. No wonder we wound up with a fundamentalist traitor in the White House.

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