It has become known as Florida Atlantic University’s “stomp-on-Jesus” exercise, cited by critics from Gov. Rick Scott to TV commentators to blog posters as an example of a secular university belittling traditional faith.
But the textbook author who came up with the idea of asking students to write “Jesus” on a piece of paper and then step on it says the activity was never intended to denigrate Christianity and usually bolsters the faith of his own students.
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How it started
Florida Atlantic University student Ryan Rotela complained about an intercultural communications class exercise in which students were asked to write “Jesus” on a piece of paper and step on it. Rotela was accused of threatening the instructor, but FAU later recanted and said it will not use the activity again.
From the instructor’s manual for Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach:
“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.”