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teaching very religious students who like acronyms

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For those of you who teach at religiously affiliated institutions or who have very religious students, have you ever encountered them writing self-identifiying religious acronyms on their work? For example, I've seen Catholic students write "+JMJ+" (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph) and heard about Muslim students writing "PBUH" (peace be upon him) when referring to Muhammad. Do you think it's best to just ignore or instead to tell students that this isn't really appropriate for academic writing? 

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It may be late to change the game for this term/semester. Before addressing it, I recommend talking to your boss and the DGS. Students may feel picked on if you offer the correction. If that happens, the push back will be an unwelcome distraction/shitshow.

Going forward, when you hand out a section syllabus make it clear that writing assignments are to be fulfilled in standard American English. Provide examples of no go words and phrases. Re-enforce the point when you're talking about a pending assignment. Make sure that you have an educationally sustainable teaching point. (Every word you write should serve the purpose of advancing your core argument. If any word doesn't serve that purpose, it must be removed.) This tactic will allow you to ask "How does '+JMJ+' support your argument? You will need to be ready to refute (gently) almost every conceivable answer and provide a better way.

HTH.

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This might be too late, but I teach religious studies courses and would like to throw my two cents in.

I have never seen "+JMJ+" from Catholic students, but I do emphasize the importance of formal English writing in the classes, which means no unnecessary abbreviations, etc. The issue with Muslim students and PBUH is a little different though; Muslims are culturally obligated to say "peace be upon him" after the Prophet Muhammad's name. They also don't normally call him by his name ("Muhammad") with out his title ("Prophet.") It's not a religious requirement, but often a cultural one done out of respect. Likewise, some Jews are more comfortable writing "God" as "G-d."

The difference between these two examples and "+JMJ+" is that the former are cultural expressions of respect or piety, and the latter is an informal abbreviation for something that can be written out in full. So I think it's ok for students to use familiar forms of respect for the figures we study as long as 1) it's not incorrect, informal English and 2) it doesn't create bias in their argument.

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This is a twist on the same theme. I grew up and live in the deep South. Many students have deep commitments of faith and want to turn every piece of literature into a liturgical device or sermon. As part of writing a paper, I have my students talk to me about their topic and argument. In the process, I discuss with them the real meanings and foundation of the prose or poem(s) they want to write upon. Hopefully, they will see that most of the time what they are doing is not an analysis. I tell them unless they provide support to their argument, their ideas are simply conjecture and their own opinion, which is what I tell any student who fails to provide support of their argument. I don't want to discourage their ideas as writers, but want them to understand what analysis is and that they must support every bit of their argument.

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Ignore it for now, but include it next time in the "writing expectations" portion of your syllabus. Not only should students apply standard American English, but as a matter of prose, +JMJ+ and PBUH are needless words that students should omit. But if +JMJ+ and PBUH somehow contribute to the argument (perhaps a paper on the evolution of religious acronyms?), then it shouldn't be a problem.

As @Sigaba mentioned, if you address it now, students will feel that you're picking on them. You'll inventively get called a bigot for discriminating against them. Then you'll get a call from HR, and you'll be suspended for two weeks without pay, and reporters will be on your front step at 6AM the next morning.

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Totally forgot I started this thread! (That seems to be a recurring theme for me...I often see a post title and think "Wow, I have that same problem," only to realize I started the thread several months back. I need to work on checking gradcafe more regularly, but I digress). 

Interesting to hear everyone's perspectives. As it turns out, I corrected the student in question, who had a really teachable attitude about the whole situation and wasn't defensive at all. She started meeting with me more frequently at the latter half of the semester to talk about her paper topic. After that, I better understood where she was coming from (SUPER Catholic family/upbringing) and really enjoyed getting to know her as a person. (Would my reaction have been different had I known her as an individual before midterm when she first wrote "JMJ" and might I have been less harsh in my reaction? Maybe. In some ways I fault myself for reacting so strongly when she was really just a nice person who was clueless on this issue). 

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18 hours ago, JKL said:

Ignore it for now, but include it next time in the "writing expectations" portion of your syllabus. Not only should students apply standard American English, but as a matter of prose, +JMJ+ and PBUH are needless words that students should omit. But if +JMJ+ and PBUH somehow contribute to the argument (perhaps a paper on the evolution of religious acronyms?), then it shouldn't be a problem.

As @Sigaba mentioned, if you address it now, students will feel that you're picking on them. You'll inventively get called a bigot for discriminating against them. Then you'll get a call from HR, and you'll be suspended for two weeks without pay, and reporters will be on your front step at 6AM the next morning.

I agree that +JMJ+ is an unnecessary abbreviation for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, but putting "PBUH" in parenthesis is less cumbersome in a paper than spelling out "Peace Be upon Him" multiple times. 

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