The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, August 08, 2002  

But Not the Type to Get Conservatives’ Knickers in Knots

By now most readers are aware of the controversy surrounding the assignment of Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations as required reading for incoming freshmen at the University of North Carolina.

Apparently operating under the belief that the book, written by Michael A. Sells, professor of comparative religion at Haverford College, is a manual for terrorism, Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly recently had an on-air coronary during which he spewed forth some invective about forcing impressionable youngsters to study “our enemy’s religion.”

Naturally, a lawsuit has ensued, filed in federal court in North Carolina by something called the Family Policy Network, “a socially conservative Christian educational organization.”

Joe Glover, president of the FPN, contends it is unconstitutional for a public university to require students to study a particular religion, ignoring the obvious facts that the students aren’t be directed to study one specific religion and that they are being asked to read not the Qu’ran but a book about the Qu’ran.

Anyway, having said all that, we have another point to make.

“In response to the uproar, the university last month amended the assignment,” according to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Instead of writing a one-page paper about the book, students who object to the reading can skip it and take to campus Aug. 19 a one-page paper explaining their objections.”

What the hell is a “one-page paper”?!

Up to this point, you have read fewer than 250 words. Had this post been printed on paper, doubled-spaced, as is normally required of college papers, you would already be on the second page.

Fourth-graders, at least back in our day, wrote longer book reports on My Friend Flicka.

Knock yourselves out, kids, give it your all. But don’t save the writing assignment for the last minute. You will want to set aside plenty of time to work on that “paper.”

Such, apparently, is the state of higher education in America today. And yet on this particular controversy we expect Second Lady Lynne Cheney and über-proctor William Bennett will speak nary a word.

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