A physics professor at the College of Coastal Georgia has banned students from saying “bless you” in his classroom when other people sneeze.
Dr. Leon Gardner has six rules of classroom behavior in the syllabus for his introductory physics class.
According to CBS, No. 6 states that a student’s grade will be lowered for “Saying ‘bless you.’ We are taught that it is polite to say ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes. However, if you say this while I am talking, it is NOT polite, it is very rude!”
Gardner states that saying “bless you” will earn a student a 1 percent reduction on his final grade for each occurrence, up to 15 percent total.
The syllabus goes on to state that “especially egregious behavior could result in expulsion from the class, withdrawal from the course, and disciplinary action from the college.”
This is all reminiscent of the recent story from Tennessee in which a high school student was suspended for saying “bless you” to a classmate who sneezed.
In that case, Dyer County High School senior Kendra Turner reported that when she told a classmate “bless you,” the teacher said that the term was for church and was not allowed in class.
“She said that we’re not going to have godly speaking in her class, and that’s when I said we have a constitutional right,” Kendra told WMC-TV.
The teacher later denied that “bless you” was on a list of banned language on a whiteboard at the front of the classroom, but students posted pictures they took with their cell phones showing the board and the phrase “bless you” on a list of banned expressions.
Administrators at the high school claimed Kendra said “bless you” across the room and that it was a disruption of class.
I’m all in favor of teachers exercising discipline in class, and avoiding disruptions during lecture is important to the learning process. But the phrase “bless you” takes all of about one second to say, maybe two if you say “God bless you.” That’s not disruptive, and it’s also considered common courtesy, something else teachers should be encouraging their students to engage in.
In both of these cases at public schools, the inclusion of “bless you” on a list of banned behaviors seems completely random and clearly has no relation to actual concerns about classroom discipline. The only logical conclusion is that the teachers involved actually have a religious objection to the phrase.
But then, teachers are not supposed to be allowed to force their personal religious views on other people. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the teachers involved are some sort of atheists or agnostics and they actually feel “offended” by the term “bless you,” but they’re unwilling to admit such is the case.
Whatever the real reasoning, students have a right to express their religious beliefs, and common courtesy, so long as they don’t really disrupt class. These teachers need to get the sticks out of their you-know-whats and stick to teaching the subject matter at hand.