Inside Higher Education has revealed that the Florida Atlantic University classroom exercise that generated so much controversy (in which students were asked to step on a paper with Jesus’ name on it) was featured in a teacher’s manual to a textbook by a communications and media studies professor at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin.
Jim Neuliep wrote the textbook Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach. Neuliep said that he’s been doing the exercise for 30 years without any complaints.
Neuliep describes the exercise as a way to teach about the cultural importance of symbols.
The text in the instructor's guide describes the exercise:
This exercise is a bit sensitive, but really drives home the point that even though symbols are arbitrary, they take on very strong and emotional meanings. Have the students write the name JESUS in big letters on a piece of paper. Ask the students to stand up and put the paper on the floor in front of them with the name facing up. Ask the students to think about it for a moment. After a brief period of silence, instruct them to step on the paper. Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.
In the interview, Neuliep points out that he uses the word “step,” not “stomp.” He also notes that in his own classes, hardly anyone steps on the paper, which he says is the point.
He said that discussion that follows the exercise tends to get students “talking about how important Jesus is to them, and they defend why they won’t step on it. It reaffirms their faith.”
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