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    The life of the mind

    I don’t know whether this woman has a legal case–is freedom of religious expression usually interpreted to mean that an instructor can be punished for assigning an individual paper with some weird criterion, even at a community college?

    I do know that the instructor in question is a ninny:

    Hauf’s teacher approved her term paper topic — Religion and its Place within the Government — on one condition: Don’t use the word God. Instead of complying with VVCC adjunct instructor Michael Shefchik’s condition Hauf wrote a 10-page report for her English 101 class entitled “In God We Trust.”

    “He said it would offend others in class,” Hauf, a 34-year-old mother of four, said. “I didn’t realize God was taboo.”

    I’m an atheist, and I’m offended at the idea that a college instructor would seek to limit rather than expand his student’s inquiry into a topic he approved. Well, okay, sometimes a student tries to bite off more than she can chew and has to be encouraged to focus, but that’s a way different issue. One of Joanne Jacobs’s commenters suggested another possibility: the teacher was trying to force each student to delve more deeply into his chosen topic by leaving out a word or two that he might be inclined to overuse. The part about “offend[ing] others in class,” assuming Ms. Hauf is recalling correctly, makes that seem unlikely.

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