A Texas State University professor assigns the Bible as reading material in her mythology class – and in particular asks students to read the Genesis creation story among the many tales of folklore she doles out – but at least one student says she was offended by the coursework.
The inclusion of the Bible reading assignment gave the student the impression that among modern monotheistic religions, Christianity is unfairly singled out.
“I felt like (the professor) was trying to make some sort of statement,” the student said in an interview with The College Fix. “It’s fine to criticize the Bible. I criticize the Bible. But don’t put (the Bible) in a mythology class.”
The student, an agnostic deist, asked to remain anonymous because of concerns she has over her admissions into a graduate school.
By including the Bible, the student said she concluded the professor was trying to instruct students that whatever they believed was also mythology. The student said she thinks this instruction extended to the students reviewing their own beliefs and trying to figure out how far they were from the dead religions included in the coursework.
She added that using the Bible in a mythology course is offensive because it essentially trivializes the Bible, equating it with other legends reviewed in class, such as a Native American tale about a woman who has sex with a coyote.
The student said she found it insulting that the professor would include the Bible, as relevant and consequential to people’s lives as it is, in the same coursework as the coyote story, adding she never understood the purpose of the bestiality tale, calling it “ridiculous” and noting other students were also “a little bit baffled” by it.
“I want to keep my mind open, which is what the classroom expects of me,” the student said. “But in return, I’d like her to keep her mind open.”
The mythology professor in question, Robin Cohen, defended her syllabus in an interview with The College Fix, saying she does not mean to offend students.
Nevertheless, Cohen said, she includes the creation story in Genesis – and specifically from the King James version – because it teaches students about “translation,” or how a story takes on new meaning over time. She said many students are also familiar with the Bible and the creation narrative.
As for why she doesn’t include the Torah or Koran in her class, she added: “Obviously in a mythology course, you can’t cover everything.”
Cohen also defended the use of the coyote story in her class, saying most scholars of Native American society would strongly object to the notion that an oral tradition is inferior to a written tradition, such as the Bible.
“If you think about it, it takes a lot more cultural engagement to maintain an extensive system of stories that are handed down orally because it depends on it being alive and on people telling it,” Cohen said. “They’re not written down so if people stop telling the stories then they die.”
Cohen said she has never received a complaint from a student about using the Bible in her mythology class, and said the student with concerns should have approached her.
“She had something to say, she should have spoken up,” Cohen said. “Nobody needs to be afraid to speak up in my class.”
Fix contributor Jose R. Gonzalez is a student at Texas State University.
Editor’s note: Gonzalez, a journalism major, has taken two of Cohen’s classes in the past.