In Defense of FAU Instructor Deandre Poole, of "Stomp on Jesus" Controversy

Categories: Fire Ant
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While it may cost him his job, possibly, and his peace of mind, certainly, FAU Professor Deandre Poole's late February classroom exercise has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, indisputably.

Not since Gainesville pastor Terry Jones in 2010 got the Muslim world in an uproar by threatening to build a bonfire of Korans has the power of symbols to offend and cloud the mind been more conclusively proven, to the shame of the offended and their institutions.

That power was the point of Dr. Poole's instruction. And now he's in the crossfire for teaching it too well.

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As all the world learned this week, Poole on that fateful February night had students in his communications class write the word "Jesus" on pieces of paper, place them on the floor and step on them. The exercise was drawn from a widely-used textbook whose author is a prominent scholar at a devoutly Norbertine, highly regarded Catholic liberal arts college. (Poole is himself, according to those who know him, a devout Christian.)

Offensive? The exercise is without force if the instruction does not offend. That's the whole point -- to learn the power of symbols through the emotional impact of seeing them degraded. Experience is the best teacher.

Most of what else happened that night is unclear (despite the certitude with which Poole has been denounced). Just one participant, the only known offended student in the class, Ryan Rotela, has publicly described it -- almost one month after the fact.

According to Rotela, as broadcast on local television news on the morning of March 21, he found the exercise objectionable and refused to step on the paper. (Rotela said Poole used the word "stomp." It does not appear in the textbook.) Rotela claimed he respectfully told Poole the exercise was inappropriate, unprofessional and deeply offensive.

According to CBS12 reporter Al Pefley, Rotela said Poole "showed no remorse."

"From that point on I knew I had to do something about it," Rotela then told the camera. "Because I'm not going to be sitting in a class having my religious rights desecrated."

According to the following day's Palm Beach Post:

Rotela said Poole brushed him off when he tried to object to doing the exercise.

After the class, Rotela said, he expressed his concerns to Poole and said he would tell Poole's supervisor and the media about the incident. He said Poole told him to leave the classroom.

(The Post reported that Rotela said the class was held March 4, but that would have been during Spring Break.)

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77 comments
Henrik2000
Henrik2000

I think that, especially for someone in authority,  it's a very reckless thing to do  in asking (or in this case "instructing")your students to step on some one's name  as a class exercise .That shows  an utter disrespect for  the person  whose name is written on the paper  and also a sort of insensibility   on the part of the professor regarding the  students' faith,   code of ethics , sensibilities or emotional ties to the person represented by the written name. I have no doubt  that the professor would never ask his students to  carry out this experiment  using the name of  the   prophet of Islam . He knows that  he would most likely have to go into hiding from the general population after his actions were made known.Not only that , the university itself would  very likely reprimand him or even fire him for showing disrespect for the name of the prophet and towards the Muslim population.So instead of playing this kind of double standard, they might as well  and should have reprimanded him for reckless disrespect and lack of professionalism.

gallon1945
gallon1945

I find this an extremely sensitive subject to be discussing because people are jumping to conclusions before getting the facts and using religion and race as the issue here.
The professor was following an exercise that has been in FAU  curriculum for years. The word STOMP was not used it was STEP. The object of the exercise was for the students to realize how awful doing something like that would be. They all could have refused to do so,  which  was the intention of the exercise to see just how offensive and powerful an act it was to do that.  Professor Poole is a Pastor, a religious man, a good, kind, honest, respected member of the community.  This is NOT an issue of politics, or race. People should not jump to conclusions based on a student alone but wait until all the facts are presented. . There was no reason for this student to run directly to the TV station. Whats up with that. The Governor and TV are all involved in something that should be dealt with at FAU. SHAME on FAU for not backing their own professor.
Shame on anyone that has threatened the professor and turn his life  and his family upside down. SHAME on those who threaten the Democrats. Shame on all of you who chose to hurt others. Now I wonder what JESUS would think of this behavior?..

Toni B.

ChazStevensGenius
ChazStevensGenius topcommenter

It's the nature of believing in a mythical creature, such as a god, that prevents one from owning critical thinking skills.

david1749
david1749

Let me first note that the class was about intercultural communications. The Jesus incident seems like a strange way to promote friendly communications between cultures, it is more of an "in your face" gesture. Second, we hear that the student was "asked" to stomp on the name of Jesus. I think that is a sanitized word, and the proper word would be "told to stomp". I base that on the unfriendly communications that happened afterward that resulted in the student being told he would be suspended. There was no "please do this" about it when suspension is called for. Likewise if the student's response was expected and elicited as has been suggested by the course material, then that cannot account for the acrimonious exchange that followed. This teacher was pushing an agenda of his own, and possibly his political beliefs, nothing less, and that has no place in a institution of higher learning.

As to the breaking through social taboos as this article suggests, yes we learn to question everything at school, but, before you can question a physics theorem, you have to know physics - you have to have stature to seriously pose those questions. To do so without stature is childish rebellion. Mr Poole wanted to open the question of authority, so took on the current liberal whipping boy (nice combo of negative white and black symbolism, lets see if someone screams racism about the English language) - Christianity. To someone of faith showing hate toward a name that symbolizes love is wrong. Generally in situations where reeducation is the goal (USSR, Germany pre WWII, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc.) the demeaning and destruction of symbols not of the new regime are top priority. Mr. Poole's adoption of these techniques shows a total lack of knowledge of the lessons of the past and a complete insensitivity to intercultural communications - the course these students thought they were getting.

jim023
jim023

So had Mr. Poole asked his students to write the word "nigger" or "raghead" and then stomp on the word, would that have also been acceptable?

ChazStevensGenius
ChazStevensGenius topcommenter

As so eloquently stated by The Talking Heads.

This ain't no party.
This ain't no disco.
This ain't no foolin' around.

blah.effin.blah.1984
blah.effin.blah.1984

I love how when liberals write articles they STILL can't hide their agenda. It's ONLY okay to be a bigot when you are bigoted towards Christians, according to the liberals....

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

                                                     TO OUR READERS:

                                    Our policy is to not respond to hate mail.

mike
mike

"Dr. Deandre Poole" is a committed leftist/Marxist with a clear and explicit political agenda.  That's why he didn't order his students to put "Muhammad", or "Karl Marx", or "Dr. Martin Luther King" on that slip of paper and stomp on it.  Poole wanted to force his students to make an ideological statement, one that denounced their own faith and heritage.  When will we stop paying Marxist ideologues to indoctrinate our children?

Archimedes
Archimedes

The point... the only point... is that there would have been national outrage if someone had, say, used a picture of Gabby Giffords for target practice.  The famous exception to the First Amendment, yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater, can be discussed without actually performing the act.  The professor's choice of symbols was strategic.  If the professor believes in his point so strongly, and if you believe in him so strongly, I openly dare either one of you to lay down a cartoon drawing of the Prophet Mohammed, and stomp on it openly.  Don't be an apologist  - stand up and show us your convictions.

jg00
jg00

I think the comparison to Dr. Terry Jones is flawed because Jones wasn't demanding that other people burn Korans.

jg00
jg00

How would you feel if Jesus was swapped out for Martin Luther King?

geedubya
geedubya

It seems we don't really have enough information on which to properly judge this situation.  All the gag orders and privacy rules, which can be either followed for reasons of principle or opportunity.  Seems even the student is shutting down now.  

I'm surprised there hasn't been any other witness accounts, at least that I've seen.  Even those who've taken this class in the past.  I guess they're all gagged too.

I think what the author of this piece fails to recognize however is the understandable suspicion of there being hostility toward Christianity on the part of the professor.  This attitude has been proven to be reality in case after case involving predominately left-leaning faculty at all levels of education.  He brings up Terry Jones, but let's not forget his lesson in symbolism was denounced universally all across the political and ideological spectrum.  There's very few Christians (if any) that endorsed his stupid bigotry and misplaced hatred.

So instead of making assumptions in favor of the good prof and bashing those understandably skeptical of his motives, how about simply calling for all parties to be more forthcoming with information on what really happened that day?  And people attacking Poole should also refrain from armchair judgmentalism.

Poole may be a total pseudo-Christian schmuck engaging in educational malpractice using a possibly noble text as cover, or he may be being completely mischaracterized and misjudged, and is perfectly  innocent of any wrong doing or mis-intent.  Either way the public deserves to know the real truth of the matter.

More journalism and investigation, less assumptions.



fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@Henrik2000 What the exercise -- which you describe incompletely -- demonstrates is the power of symbols. No student was required to participate. 

Your comments about Islam  -- in which you construct a straw dog, then use it to denounce a "double standard" -- are highly speculative, though they do provide further material for discussion.

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@Archimedes The Giffords exercise you propose is very different from the exercise in Poole's class. The "crowded theater" exercise you propose would endanger the lives of unwilling participants. The professor's choice of symbols was based on the exercise in the text. The Mohammed example you propose has already been enacted in various ways. 

One point that bears repeating: There is no evidence Dr. Poole ever used the word "stomp." That word was introduced by Mr. Rotela, seized upon by Poole's critics and amplified, recklessly.

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@jg00 It wasn't a comparison. It was another example of the power of images.

ChazStevensGenius
ChazStevensGenius topcommenter

@jg00 I'd rather see Jesus wife swapping with Marilyn Manson.

Or Charles Manson, for that matter.

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@jg00 Fine. The principle remains the same.


david1749
david1749

@fire.ant @david1749 There is nothing highly speculative about it. Live a little longer and learn how the news is sanitized to keep donations coming into the university. One day, when your boss tells you that you cannot write the truth you will understand.

david1749
david1749

@ChazStevensGenius @david1749  

Then perhaps the "Genius" in your handle is simply misspelled and applies to a subspecies? Those who brag, generally don't have it. Those who have it don't brag. Sorry, I wrote it on a college level, possibly a post graduate level.

jim023
jim023

@fire.ant @jim023 To demonstrate that mere words written on paper have no power unless we give it to them.


wheatthlns
wheatthlns

@fire.ant Exercise notwithstanding, it's ok to suspend a student who has (if the student is religious) a legitimate objection to the project?  Arguing about the content of the project obfuscates the true concern here - the action taken by the department against the student.

geedubya
geedubya

@fire.ant @geedubya

If that's the case then I sure wish Rotela would do so.  However it's not clear to me from that article that even his saying OK would allow them to release the record:

~~ In response to questions from Inside Higher Ed, Florida Atlantic released a statement that said that federal privacy laws prevented it from answering any questions about "a specific student." ~~ 

What we really need is some testimony from others in the class that day.  Right now it's Rotela's word against Poole's and they cancel each other out.

What did Rotela actually say to him?  Was it really 'verbal abuse', or a 'threat'?  Pretty subjective terms.  I'd guess not considering FAU's final actions.


fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

There is no record of what transpired in the class. All we have is the word of one student.

david1749
david1749

@ChazStevensGenius @david1749 Sorry, didn't know you owned the place. Why would anyone boast he was a genius? True genius is to see two seemingly unrelated facts and see the hidden connection. Those people contribute to the species. Those who wear a pin saying "I am smart" so that others will know, are missing something.

david1749
david1749

@ChazStevensGenius @david1749 I didn't claim to be an English major (they don't make much money). Your assumptions are wrong. Try science and math. But if it is indeed 11th grade level, then you must read lower than that... I tend to write long complex sentences, but that is not a sign of 11th grade skills, and I am post grad. So take your imperfect test and rewrite the code if you can. Otherwise you are just a user, a peon.

ChazStevensGenius
ChazStevensGenius topcommenter

@david1749Actually, Mr. Post Grad work.  I ran your crap thru a Readability indexer.

So much for Master's level effort.

Flesch Reading Ease score: 52.8 (text scale)
Flesch Reading Ease scored your text: fairly difficult to read.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 10.8
Grade level: Eleventh Grade.

The Coleman-Liau Index: 11
Grade level: Eleventh Grade

The SMOG Index: 9.7
Grade level: Tenth Grade

Automated Readability Index: 11.4
Grade level: 15-17 yrs. old (Tenth to Eleventh graders)

david1749
david1749

@jim023 @fire.ant The point was to attack the accepted establishment not to name call. Fire.ant has a valid point. The teacher, who's PhD credentials I question, was going after accepted authority. His method was childish, and his goal had nothing to do with a course in intercultural communications. Such actions on an international stage cause wars not peace. The kids are the customers and they paid for a course on how to understand and communicate with other cultures. Poole is a fraud and has no business teaching such a course.

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@jim023 @fire.ant How would stepping on those words do that? Are they words commonly viewed with respect or veneration? Typically, one hopes, those are words viewed with distaste. An appropriate, parallel exercise would be to ask the class to somehow honor those words.

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@wheatthlns @fire.ant There is no evidence the student was suspended because he objected to the project. The university denies anyone was suspended but has refused to release campus police records related to the incident.

Archimedes
Archimedes

@fire.ant @geedubya - just out of curiosity... who is standing in the way of releasing Barack and Michelle's college records?  What's good for the goose....

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