This is awful!

While going through my usual morning blog read, I found this story at ‘Dispatches from the Culture Wars‘.

After a little research, I found that it isn’t *quite* a ‘loyalty oath’, perhaps more an oath of office, but… I can’t say that it should be thought at all necessary. Indeed, given the usefulness of such oaths (I assume our president took a similar oath on no fewer than four occasions: as a pilot in the Air Guard, as Governor of Texas, and twice in taking the office of President – obviously such oaths are useless in guaranteeing the behavior the person swearing the oath is supposed to do!

In a GTA, such an oath is absolutely unnecessary, and the change which Marianne Kearney-Brown added to the oath was only that she would non-violently support and defend the constitution, &c. So she was fired from the TA position partway through the quarter. As Ms. Kearney-Brown said in the comments for the article in the San Francisco Chronicle (emphasis mine):

I taught for two whole weeks before they asked me to sign the loyalty oath. I taught for 4-1/2 weeks with no oath on file because they refused to accept the ones I signed. After five weeks of teaching, I wrote them a letter asking them to refer me to someone who could answer my questions and to accept my amended oath until the matter was resolved. More than week later I was told my amendment was “inconsistent and incompatible” with the oath, which is truly what shocked me. “Inconsistent?” I thought to myself “Incompatible? What on earth am I agreeing to by signing this oath? It is a good thing I asked!!!” There are two and a half weeks in the quarter. If my signature on an unsigned loyalty oath is of such vital importance, why didn’t they demand it before I started teaching? Why now? If it is a meaningless formality, why must we sign?

Why, indeed. This is the kind of thing I can imagine happening in Stalinist Russia. Perhaps in North Korea. Maybe in some third-world dictatorship. But in the United States? Oh, I know it has happened here before, the McCarthy Era was full of that nonsense. If you take a look here, Dr. Howell has a wonderful critique of the Oath, and oaths of allegiance in general.

What does this mean to us? Presumably, at some point, we will be professional mathematicians. Looking for jobs at which we may be asked to sign a piece of paper. I, for one, will refuse. If I find a place that requires it, I won’t apply. Unfortunately, that usually isn’t included on the job listing, so what to do? Well, adding the ‘Howell addendum’ is a start. Making sure you ask during the job interview!

This has happened to me twice so far, although it wasn’t an oath of allegiance I was being asked to sign, but a ‘Statement of Faith’. The two places were George Fox University and Warner Pacific College. It turns out they are both Christian colleges, and don’t want any non-Christian instructors. I could understand that, if I were being asked to teach a course of religious instruction – but for mathematics?! Such a requirement is ridiculous because it assumes that there is somehow a different form of mathematics for those of faith than the regular kind the rest of us study. As though the statement that ‘2+2=4’ somehow rests on the divinity of Jesus. Which, according to Bartlett University, it does:

…Another way to state neutrality is to say that mathematics would be the same whether God existed or not. The claim that mathematics would be the same with or without the existence of God is an antichristian statement, because the Scriptures declare that God created and holds all things, which includes mathematics, together…

Indeed, this is probably why we won’t get a lot of great mathematicians springing from Bartlett…  If you doubt that, here’s another statement:

The Scriptures even inform us about what kind of mathematics is legitimate, the kind with the source of truth as revelation, verses any secularized version of revelation.

Ummmm- no…  If I were to hand in homework (or receive homework) claiming ‘revelation’ as the reason a mathematical statement is true, I would deservedly get an ‘F’ on that assignment (or give an ‘F’).  Mathematical truth is not about revelation, but reason!  There is no room for compromise on this issue.  Without reason, you are not actually doing mathematics, even if what you say turns out to be correct.

I have to run- so this is the end of the rant.  More later!

ex animo-


3 Responses

  1. No say it ain’t so! Christian Colleges hiring Christian employees! Wow who has heard of such a thing? Wake up people. The professor/student relationship in any subject is way more than a strict discussion of the curriculum.

    You’re post here is direct evidence to why it is important for a Christian college to require a statement of faith as you compare the process to something Stalinist. The fact that you say a Christian college should not do it is more North Korea like than giving them the freedom to do so.

    brainwashed + sillyness = posts like this

  2. I think you missed the point Silly Simon.

    the point is that loyalty oaths should be consistent from day one, and they should actually have some bearing on how a teacher/employee will perform. Anyone can take an oath. It’s easy. But, does it ACTUALLY mean something. I doubt it. And if it is largely meaningless, then why have people take them?

    As for Christian colleges and math. Get real. I know plenty of people who teach at christian schools who are athiests or agnostics on their own time (I even know a muslim who does!), but when they walk in the door, they put on their christianity face. They took the oath because they wanted the job. But, an oath doesn’t make you a christian, and any good christian knows it.
    so again … what’s the point of the oath?

    Of course a private school is allowed to have it’s employees sign oaths. They could ask them to sign an oath about how fantastic waffles are. It IS important to allow them the freedom to do that. But, the girl in question was working for a STATE school. And it IS Stalin-esque to ask a state employee to sign a loyalty oath to DEFEND her state in such ambiguous terms. Those terms could, and evidently did, imply the use of violent action to defend her State. She restricted her oath to a non-violent version and got sacked. there is something strange about that.

  3. My problem is not with Christian Colleges hiring Christian employees, but refusing to hire otherwise qualified applicants based *entirely* on ideological grounds.

    Is it their ‘right’ to do so? Sure.

    Does it create a better educational environment for the students?


    More than just that, this post was also about the ridiculous idea that there is somehow a ‘Christian mathematics’ which is separate from ‘secular mathematics’. There is not, no more than there is ‘Christian science’ or ‘Christian medicine’.

    > The professor/student relationship in any subject is
    > way more than a strict discussion of the curriculum.

    Perhaps, although that relationship should retain (in my opinion) a certain formality and professionalism. In the case of mathematics, where then do my (or anyone’s) religious beliefs begin to interfere with their coverage of the subject? Or to flip it to what your point seems to be; at what point should I believe in a certain way to better teach ‘Christian mathematics students’ as opposed to everyone else?

    So – why should a Christian college require their instuctors to sign a statement of faith? Because I think that such a statement is either (in the case of one teaching mathematics) unnecessary or (in the case of, for example, someone teaching a course in Christian apologetics) redundant?

    Yes, I compare the requirement to sign a ‘loyalty oath’ or ‘oath of allegiance’ with the type of ideological purity required in a dictatorship (such as Stalinist Russia), and indeed – isn’t that what ‘Christian colleges’ are requiring? Ideological purity? But signing that statement is not truly a guarantee that the signor holds such faith, merely that they are willing to sign a piece of paper saying they do. Nor does a refusal to sign such a piece of paper indicate the lack of such faith. So what good is it?

    I am not advocating a law preventing such colleges from selecting their employees in any manner they choose (so long as they are not getting any state or federal funding – in which case, I would expect them to adhere to the laws requiring equal opportunity hiring practices – as I would expect from *any* organization receiving state funds. So how is my stance “more North Korea like [sic]” than theirs? I am saying that ideology should play no role in hiring – such a limitation on your hiring practices will limit your pool of available candidates (making finding the best candidates more difficult) and change the focus from competence to some idea of ‘purity’, which makes finding even *competent* candidates more difficult. Such a requirement anywhere tends to end up doing more harm than good.

    Finally, ‘brainwashed’? How? ‘silliness’? What was silly? I find this a very serious subject, and am treating it (and your comments) with their due gravity.


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