Bible Extra Credit Professor Gets Admonished April 30, 2009

Bible Extra Credit Professor Gets Admonished

The other day, I posted about Professor Sophia Wilberscheid of Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, Florida who put an extra credit question dealing with Bible knowledge on a final exam for Introduction to Computer Applications for Business.

There’s been a resolution to the story, courtesy of James Kirley of the TCPalm newspaper.

An Indian River State College teacher’s extra credit question on a final exam wound up as discussion on a Web site devoted to atheism, prompting school authorities to require the teacher to take extra training on how to administer tests.

“Our policy requires teachers to adhere to the course content for testing,” said Michelle Abaldo, IRSC director of institutional advancement. “The instructor acknowledged that she did not adhere to that policy.”

The student who called out the professor actually spoke very highly of her.

So the professor was properly admonished. No further punishments needed — as long as she doesn’t do it again.

If only all cases of Christians injecting religion into places it doesn’t belong were handled this smoothly.

(via Atheism Examiner)

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  • Matto the Hun

    There is such a thing as extra credit training?

    Oh well, apparently there’s a need.

  • SarahH

    Sounds good. Hopefully the professor isn’t too upset and will realize that it was inappropriate.

  • Kiera

    You know, my friends and I had a conversation about this yesterday and I’m now of two minds about it.

    The Bible is a (the most) popular book that (at least in this nation), a lot of people know about even if they aren’t christian now or never were. If one thinks about it in a Jeopardy kind of way– what makes this different than asking a question about any other subject? The people who have had experience in that subject will have an advantage over those who have not.

    Would we be having such a fuss if this was about some less intrusive or smaller religion?

    Also, as my friends pointed out, it wasn’t like it would DROP the students scores if they got the questions wrong.

    That being said, I don’t necessarily agree that the extra credit questions should be so far off topic of the course. But where do we draw the line? If it’s a comp sci class and you ask a question about another programming language or some up and coming tech, is it “unfair advantage” if some of the students read tech blogs and others don’t?

    I dunno. My once clear opinion on this has been turned over and over. If anyone has any rebuts against my friends arguments, feel free to post. 🙂

  • «bønez_brigade»

    Fox News picks up the story and flexes their Xian persecution complex in 3…2…1…

  • numsix

    Having spent many years in school – some may say too many; others, not enough* – I feel extra credit should be course oriented.

    To Kiera: If it is about pertinent information but not covered, or only briefly mentioned, it should be fair game.

    To ask social questions on a science exam – unless it is related, IE ethics, does not promote the material of the class and should not be asked.
    To ask about new developments in the field of study as a bonus question is a good practice.
    This would encourage students to learn on their own, the most important skill that can be learned in school.

    The above is my opinion, I speak as a former student that was asked relevant bonus questions and, if I remember correctly, got about 60% of them.

    * note over use of ‘-‘ in run on sentences.

  • Erik

    Kiera, if the extra credit question had been about another programming language or technology, it would be rewarding students for taking an interest in material and subjects that could have a direct effect on their success in the field of computer science. That would be an acceptable way of rewarding students for knowledge gained outside the classroom. The bible extra credit only rewards people for belonging to the same club as the professor.

    You asked where we draw the line. The line is drawn at content related to the field of the class.

  • Erp

    It would also help if the question hadn’t misspelled the answer.

    Admittedly even related questions might cause problems when students don’t have basic knowledge. I know one university professor who had an extra credit question on the orientation of the moon as seen in Australia (is the man in the moon upside down or not [assuming right side up in California]); one student asked him where Australia was.

    So what basic knowledge should a student in an American college know about religions or about the Bible in particular?

  • Eliza

    It would also help if the question hadn’t misspelled the answer.

    Do you s’poz her church might also require the teacher to take extra training?

  • «bønez_brigade»

    FWIW, one of my college teachers [either calculus or Java; I’ve forgotten] once gave a bonus question about the Simpsons TV show; it was strictly character-related and not course-material-related. Even though I like the show, I wasn’t familiar with such arcane Simpsons info, and thus got it wrong. While certainly not upset about it, it just seemed out of place for that particular class, that’s all.

    As for religious-related bonus questions… Christians who may not understand why non-Christians would be annoyed by the “Revelation(s)” question that started all of this should imagine encountering a bonus question that asks about some detail specific to Islam (or any other religion they reject). I’d put cash-money on a nationwide Xian uproar (fueled by certain news outlets) occurring over a bonus question that inquired about the happenings in some part of the Qur’an, especially if the teacher were a Muslim (in a class unrelated to religions, of course).

  • Siamang

    So what basic knowledge should a student in an American college know about religions or about the Bible in particular?

    I think that’s up to the General Education requirements of the college. Requiring GE courses is the method by which a school provides a broader basic education. Random questions in the final exam of unrelated classes don’t inform or instruct.

    I had professors in college who put “joke questions” in their exams. I think teachers shouldn’t have to give that up and stick strictly to the curriculum. But at the same time, they need to use good judgment about it.

  • Gordon

    Kiera – my friends pointed out, it wasn’t like it would DROP the students scores if they got the questions wrong.

    True enough, but it might matter a lot if the student that got the extra credit question wrong was dropped one grade level as a result of being pushed down by those getting the question right.

  • Kiera

    True enough, but it might matter a lot if the student that got the extra credit question wrong was dropped one grade level as a result of being pushed down by those getting the question right.

    Yeah I was thinking about that and brought that up last night, too. That all depends on how the teachers grades.

    Thanks to others for the responses– I do agree that it should be pertinent to the class in some way. My friends apparently don’t feel that way– the “the teacher can do whatever s/he wants” defense. Heh.

  • If only all cases of Christians injecting religion into places it doesn’t belong were handled this smoothly.

    If only educational institutions with incompetent faculty were not allowed to sweep it under the rug so easily.

    The students of the university are owed an explanation on why their expensive education dollars are given to an someone so confused on their area of expertise they cannot tell the difference between religion and computer applications.

  • JSug

    True enough, but it might matter a lot if the student that got the extra credit question wrong was dropped one grade level as a result of being pushed down by those getting the question right.

    It’s irrelevant if the grading is on a curve or not. Here’s a scenario:

    Student A: Gets an 85% score on the normal test questions, and is fluent enough in theology to get the extra credit question, bumping her score up to an 88% (or whatever).

    Student B: Also gets an 85% score on the normal questions, but is a foreign student from a primarily Muslim country, and has no clue what’s in the bible. He guesses and gets it wrong, so there’s no effect on his score.

    Congratulations, you’ve just given an unfair advantage to any student who has extra knowledge that has nothing to do with the subject matter. It doesn’t matter if the question was about religious material or about the mating habits of African elephants. If it allows some students to inflate their grade, and it’s unrelated to the subject the students were studying, or anything that was presented during class time, it isn’t fair to put it on a test.

  • “Congratulations, you’ve just given an unfair advantage to any student who has extra knowledge that has nothing to do with the subject matter. ”

    True, and specifically in this case, the instructors personal bigotries gave better grades to Christians.

    Does anyone think that if the instructor had asked as an extra credit question “Are you Caucasian? +5 points if YES” they would be receiving a simple “admonishment” ?

    I guess “handled smoothly” is a euphemism for “Christian bigotry is once again exempt”

  • Thilina

    Teachers are allowed to give extra credit questions, especially when they relate to a slightly more advanced form of what’s being taught. (Asking more advanced questions about the programming language rather than asking about a completely different language – for comp sci courses).

    And I’ve had many teachers ask a random completely irrelevant questions for the last question (pretty much every exam in high school and even a few in university), just because the teachers were curious about the people they were teaching or were joking around. But every one of them had the good sense to say the questions weren’t worth any marks in the context of the test.

    Also if this was a question on any other religion the fallout would have definitely been much much worse, and would have involved an entire days worth of “News” programming at FOX.

  • zoo

    If we could work things out like this all the time the world would be a whole lot more peaceful — until we found something else to fight over anyway.

    I had professors in college who put “joke questions” in their exams. I think teachers shouldn’t have to give that up and stick strictly to the curriculum. But at the same time, they need to use good judgment about it.

    Well, one way around that is joke answers. I had a few that would sprinkle answers in so ridiculous (well, ridiculous to a biology nerd, in most cases) that it would be difficult not to laugh out loud. Actually, I think I remember some rather funny questions from comparative anatomy tests that were still on topic.

  • I’m actually very surprised that it ended as well as it did. Good for them.