Blair: Marriage Without Meaning

There’s a popular antipathy in the air right now toward social conservatism, among both Republicans and Democrats. The idea seems to be that, in a time of desperate fiscal problems, concentration on social issues is at best a distraction and at worst a kind of irresponsible negligence. The conservative writer Mark Steyn, for example, recently mocked the fixation of certain Republican presidential candidates on social issues in a time of ballooning debt. The latest example of this perspective in the Dartmouth community is Adam Mehring’s recent column arguing against the attempt by the New Hampshire legislature to repeal same-sex marriage (“Repeal Without Reason” Jan. 17).

Mehring, to be sure, offers several arguments for his position, but the vast majority of them are responses to the claims made by N.H. legislators in the proposed bill. He has only two positive arguments of his own. One is the statement that most New Hampshire voters oppose the move to derecognize same-sex marriages. Mehring’s concern for democracy is touching, given that proponents of same-sex marriage have repeatedly cheered on judges who have imposed same-sex marriage on their states either without or against the consent of the citizens of that state.

His second positive argument, as I said above, is that the move to repeal the legalization of same-sex marriage is an “immaterial policy matter” with respect to “the pervasive volatility that encumbers our present reality.” What Mehring fails to realize, and what the erstwhile opponents of social conservatism fail to realize, is that the decline in a healthy marriage and family culture in America is one of the principal causes of this “pervasive volatility.”

I just want to focus now on the reason legislation about marriage is appropriate to pursue even in our time of fiscal crisis. The state does not create marriage it recognizes it. It recognizes it because of the terrible importance marriage possesses for the health of a country. The decline in a healthy marriage culture, which started in the 60s and 70s in our country, has been linked again and again to higher crime rates, higher poverty rates, poorer education and lower levels of psychological health in children, among other things.

There are several articles that demonstrate the importance of marriage for the financial and social health of the nation: “Does Marriage Reduce Crime?: A Counterfactual Approach to Within-Individual Causal Effects” in Criminology; “The Funds, Friends and Faith of Happy People” in American Psychologist; and “Work and Marriage: The Way to End Poverty and Welfare,” a report by the moderate think tank the Brookings Institution. In other words, marriage never goes out of style. Encouraging a healthy culture of marriage is not a distraction from the pressing problems of our day but rather a partial solution to them. But how does this point relate to gay marriage? The answer is, in one sense, that it doesn’t. Gay marriage isn’t a proximate cause of our marriage crisis, but a consequence of that crisis.

We no longer have any coherent idea of what marriage even is as an institution. We have no notion of what is special about the state of marriage such that it needs to be distinguished from other life conditions. What is it to be married? To list the external conditions, we would say: living together, having and raising kids, having sex, receiving tax benefits. But all of these things are no longer exclusively marital in our society. A healthy marriage culture cannot flourish if there’s nothing distinctive or special about marriage besides an empty and formulaic title.

What we need to do as a society is restore to marriage some of its distinctive characteristics to restore marriage not as the only important relationship between people, or even the most important one, but as a specific kind of human relationship that is distinguished from other kinds of relationships by the role it plays in raising the next generation. What implications this will have for gay marriage is a secondary question.

The conversation about this secondary question, however, should not ignore the rather obvious fact that out of all the possible sexual behaviors of the human race, only one type can produce children. Whether this astonishing fact gives government a special interest in that relationship, I leave to you.

Verbum Ultimum: Information Infringement

Over the past week, numerous factions of American society have joined in protest of the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act, currently being debated in the House of Representatives, and its counterpart in the Senate, the Protect IP Act. A coalition of new media companies, civil liberties groups, politicians and common citizens have rapidly mobilized to pressure legislators into withdrawing their support for the two bills. In recent days, such efforts have spurred numerous prominent political figures to denounce SOPA, and it now appears Congress is unlikely to pass this legislation. For this, we breathe a sigh of relief. Although the intent of the acts is to protect copyrighted material from piracy and illegal use, the acts would restrict the free flow of information through the Internet in ways profoundly detrimental to both our campus community and society at large.

SOPA would empower the U.S. Attorney General to take immediate legal action against any “foreign infringing site” that has users in the United States. Furthermore, internet service providers, search engines, payment providers and advertising services would be held liable for failing to promptly cease activity with such sites or for hosting content that would allow users to circumvent restrictions. The potential negative implications of this for free expression and the exchange of information across the Internet are tremendous. Any social media website could be held legally responsible for user content and links to copyright-infringing material, and search engines such as Google could conclude that the potential costs of providing access to such forums are too high. The consequences of adopting SOPA would extend beyond illegal pirating and spread a chilling effect throughout the web on the breadth of accessible content.

Here at Dartmouth, we rely enormously on the Internet for both academic and personal use. The rise of social media has indisputably broadened the range of intellectual and social resources at the average student’s disposal. Data-sharing forums such as YouTube, Reddit, Facebook and many others have hatched unprecedented levels of cultural innovation in the form of user-generated content. It is true that the Internet often serves as an information dump, and not everything on these websites is a product of creative invention. The fact remains, however, that social media and information-sharing websites broadens the range of academic and cultural possibilities in ways that previous generations of Americans could hardly imagine. The continued operation of these dynamic modern processes is contingent upon the unrestricted flow of information.

The strongest proponents of this legislation the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America have legitimate grievances against the proliferation of illegal file sharing. Still, heavy-handed laws like SOPA will merely stifle the very sort of artistic ingenuity that the MPAA and RIAA claim to defend. We join advocates of free expression everywhere in calling for the defeat of these draconian efforts.

Daily Debriefing

Digital reforms to the Common Application, used by high school students to submit applications to 456 colleges and universities, will make the process simpler, faster and more intuitive beginning in 2013, The New York Times reported on Thursday. Improvements to the system, known to its creators as the Common App 4.0, will include the display of only a few questions at a time, and the system’s ability to tailor the application based on a student’s information. The cost of improving the system which was last updated six years ago is estimated to be between $7 million and $8 million, according to The Times. The improvements adapt to changes in technology that have taken place in recent years, as well as the sheer number of applications submitted through the Common Application system, which has increased by about 25 percent in the last year alone, The Times reported. The number of applications submitted through the Common Application system is projected to exceed 10 million by the end of this decade, according to The Times.

Apple officials announced the launch of several new educational initiatives, including 100 free college courses created in collaboration with colleges and universities, that can be viewed on the iPad, Inside Higher Education reported Thursday. The new courses, which will be available free of charge, will combine audio, video, books and documents, as well as the opportunity to interact with instructors, according to Inside Higher Ed. Phil Schiller, a senior vice president at Apple, voiced the company’s concern about the current state of American education, indicating the potential of iPad technology to motivate reforms, Inside Higher Ed reported. The project will include thousands of new educational applications for the iPad, according to Inside Higher Ed.

Mountain State University President Charles Polk, whose $1.8-million salary ranks him as one of the highest paid private college presidents, was fired by the University Board on Wednesday, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Although the decision has been attributed to Mountain State University’s accreditation troubles, the exact reason for his dismissal has not been released, The Chronicle reported. According to reports in the local media, Jerry Ice, chairman of the board, will serve as interim president, The Chronicle reported. The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools placed the university on “show cause” status in June 2011, indicating that the university might not meet criteria for accreditation and raising questions concerning the university’s governance and distribution of resources. Currently, the University has a 2.5 percent graduation rate for students seeking bachelor’s degrees, according to The Chronicle.

Alumni recount stories from Freedom Summer

Describing experiences that included arrest, physical beatings and protests, four Dartmouth alumni spoke Thursday afternoon about their roles as voting rights activists during Mississippi's "Freedom Summer" of 1964. Paul Stetzer '67, Dirk de Roos '68, Roger Daly '67 and William Burton '65 addressed attendees at a panel, titled "Dartmouth Alumni of the Civil Rights Movement," in Collis Common Ground as part of the College's annual celebration of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Stetzer said he became involved in the movement after accepting an invitation for Dartmouth students to participate in a voter registration campaign. During the movement, college students went door to door trying to convince African-Americans who were prevented from voting at the time to register for a fictitious election held by the Mississippi Summer Project to protest unfair voting laws.

De Roos and Burton also became involved in their local voter registration campaigns. Burton said the famous lynchings of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner influenced his decision to get involved in Mississippi, while de Roos said he was inspired by Freedom Summer conversations by Sioux youth living on the reservation where he worked.

Daly who was beaten and jailed multiple times during the movement said his role in the protests was to raise awareness, often by contributing to the media spectacle.

“The goal was for us to be arrested, to be beaten, to be abused, so that the media could make it possible for the country to be as outraged as many others were,” he said.

Although it may be difficult to evaluate their direct contributions to the movement, the alumni said their actions remain significant both to the larger effort and to their personal lives.

“There is an impact that you have, you just don’t see it, but you lived it, and it’s the opportunity that you have to learn something,” Burton said. “It always informs who you are.”

The speakers also described the “monster” of intolerance and brutality that they encountered in Mississippi.

“It’s the evil the system that doesn’t hear, that doesn’t process information from the inside, that doesn’t reflect,” Daly explained.

This intolerance tends to stem from fear of the “other,” or the individual perceived as different from oneself, according to Stetzer.

“There is always another other,'” he said, citing women, gay individuals, people with disabilities, Muslims and, currently, the “one percent,” as examples of groups that have been subject to intolerance.

De Roos said he felt “lucky” to be part of a great surge of momentum in the fight for equality.

Sociology professor Denise Anthony served as the panel’s moderator, introducing the alumni as “ordinary people who themselves did something extraordinary for the county.”

The concept for the panel came from an article written by George Kalbfleisch, former director of undergraduate religious life, for a 1965 issue of the Alumni Magazine. Upon discovering the article, Elise Smith ’13, an intern for the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, invited the mentioned alumni to speak on campus.

“When Dr. King was here in 1962, the topic of his speech was Towards Freedom,'” Gabrielle Lucke, the director of training and educational programs in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, said. “So we wanted to ask, How has Dartmouth helped move this nation towards freedom?'”

Lucke organized the panel with Kimberly Hanchett, student programs and administrative assistant at the Dickey Center for International Understanding.

This year’s celebration marks both the 50th anniversary of King’s visit to the College and the 20th anniversary of the Alpha Phi Alpha candlelight vigil on the evening of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The theme chosen for this year’s celebration was “The Content of Our Character,” following the committee’s hope to highlight how character influences daily interactions between individuals, Lucke said.

Katharina Daub, community director for the River Cluster, said the panel was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with Dartmouth alumni involved in the civil rights movement.

“I just imagine that 50 years down the line current Dartmouth students will be coming back to speak about the amazing things that they did, too,” she said.

Daub added that she wishes more current students would attend events like the Thursday panel.

“I want students to realize that these are amazing opportunities,” Daub said. “I think we can speak up more, be less apathetic, more active and find a way to make a difference.”

The panel was sponsored by the celebration’s planning committee and the Tuck School of Business.

MALS offers interdisciplinary focus

With its emphasis on enabling students to pursue their personal academic interests within the framework of a rigorous graduate program, the College’s Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program attracts students from a diverse range of backgrounds. The program, founded in 1970, focuses on the importance of interdisciplinary studies and flexibility within graduate education, according to English professor and MALS chair Donald Pease.

MALS is comprised of about 200 active students, including students just beginning the program and those who have completed their coursework and are currently working on theses, according to Wole Ojurongbe, director of the MALS program. Approximately 85 to 110 students are enrolled in classes each term, Ojurongbe said.

Like that of the undergraduate school, the MALS curriculum focuses on liberal arts rather than pre-professional training, which is emphasized in most graduate programs, Pease said. There are four area concentrations within the master’s program, but students are also required to complete an independent study, participate in two summer symposiums and write a culminating thesis paper, he said.

“Students can concentrate in cultural studies, which is similar to humanities; globalization studies, which is similar to social science; and soon they’ll be able to concentrate in environmental studies, which would replicate the sciences, but in an interdisciplinary approach,” Pease said. “In addition, students can concentrate in creative writing and study all kinds of genres: film, performing arts, journalism or playwriting.”

Students can also concentrate in liberal studies and take a broad array of courses across the MALS offerings that reflect their personal interests, Pease said.

Johnathan Recor MALS ’11 said students’ ability to modify the program to meet their own needs initially attracted him to MALS.

“MALS does not follow a generic design,” Recor said. “You can create and modify the program to your own needs as an individual. Coming from an undergraduate background as a business major, it was challenging, but I did a lot of performing at the College and was able to combine that with my ability to write.”

For his senior thesis, Recor who now works in consulting performed live theater across campus as the “Sun God,” he said.

MALS was founded on the belief that interdisciplinary study in the liberal arts marks the most important way to approach higher education, Pease said.

“In MALS, the individual scholar is liberated from mono-disciplinary learning or mono-departmental understanding,” Pease said. “The courses are flexible to meet the needs of a range of students, but the rigor in concentration results in a master’s degree that the best national PhD programs recognize.”

In addition to MALS-specific course offerings as diverse as A Global History of War and Peace and The Art of Travel Writing, MALS students can take any classes offered at the College, including those offered at Dartmouth Medical School, the Thayer School of Engineering and Tuck School of Business, Pease said.

“When students take classes outside MALS, we send the professor specific requirements that MALS students must fulfill,” Pease said. “For example, a MALS student in my 19th-Century American Fiction course had to produce a 25-page research paper … in addition to the regular work expected of undergraduates.”

Students in the MALS program can elect to take classes full-time and finish the program in about a year and a half, or can take classes part-time as long as they finish the MALS requirements within six years, he said.

Devin Routh MALS ’10 said he has found this latitude invaluable. In addition to taking a course this term, he is working full-time as the supervising manager for the Collis Center.

“This is my last term taking classes in the program, and next term I’ll work on my thesis, which is a mixture of social psychology and environmental studies,” Routh said. “Completing my masters this way saves me about $20,000.”

After completing his thesis, Routh plans to pursue further graduate studies in order to eventually become an interdisciplinary professor focused on sustainability issues, he said.

Michael Hirschfeld MALS ’99 said he worked as a teacher at St. Paul’s School in Concord while he received his degree and was able to complete his studies over a number of summer terms. He is now the rector at St. Paul’s.

“MALS is an incredibly successful program,” Hirschfeld said. “From an educator’s point of view, there is really a lot that you can do in the summer. You don’t have to take a sabbatical. I was not in a rush.”

The breadth of the course offerings combined with the program’s flexibility attract a wide array of students, according to Ronald Edsforth, a history professor and chair of globalization studies in the MALS program.

“We get a lot of prep school and high school teachers working to expand their credentials as well as some employees of the College who can usually take up to one course a term while working,” Edforth said. “We are also getting more young American students that come here straight from college, some of very high caliber, magna cum laude and summa cum laude, probably as a result of the job market.”

Older students in the program have often worked for a number of years in a particular field, but now want to expand their education or use MALS as a stepping stone before further graduate and PhD programs.

Other expanding groups in the MALS program include international students and students from military backgrounds, Edsforth said.

“One of the best students that I’ve ever had in all my many years of teaching was a marine intelligence officer who was just retiring from the military,” Edsforth said. “Especially when I teach my class in global war and peace, that kind of a diversity of backgrounds is a vital part of class discussions.”

The diversity of students’ experiences is often beneficial to courses, which tend to be discussion-based, according to economics professor Evelyn Gick.

“I’ve had students interested in such a broad range of material,” she said. “Students in the same class are interested in fashion and globalization, male liberalism and human trafficking related to women in Romania.”

The exchange of valuable experiences is a two-way discourse within the program, as many MALS faculty also share their own professional experiences in discussions, according to professor and former New York Times reporter Christopher Wren.

In a recent class session for his course, The Craft and Culture of Journalism, for example, Wren related the importance of fact-checking and editing in his experience with The Times, where he worked for 28 years.

“I would put a check on all the numbers, and check them again before I handed the article to the copy desk,” he said. “It’s embarrassing when you mess up and your editor has to issue a correction for a front-page article.”

Following their completion of MALS, alumni pursue a variety of paths, Pease said. MALS alumni go on to write novels, receive research grants, seek careers in medicine or return to their previous careers, Pease said.

“I think it’s a real jewel of the College and I’m grateful for what it gave me,” Hirschfeld said. “I have a lot of young faculty who come and see me, asking how they can grow up professionally, and I steer all of them to Hanover. It’s funny, I actually just sent off a colleague’s recommendation to MALS today.”

MALS accepts applications in two admissions cycles each year, receiving about 60 to 100 applications during each cycle, according to Ojurongbe. MALS admissions officers do not seek to fill a specific number of openings, but instead seek self-motivated applicants who will take advantage of the opportunities offered by the program, he said.

The staff then relays recommendations to Pease and Brian Pogue, dean of graduate studies, who extend acceptances.

Slam poet stresses power of words

Former teacher Taylor Mali conducted a writing workshop and performed slam poetry Thursday while emphasizing the power of careers in education.

Taylor Mali, slam poet and former teacher known for his commitment to encouraging people to pursue careers in education, performed in Collis Common Ground Thursday night as part of the ongoing Dartmouth Centers Forum program “Words and Their Consequences.” Before the performance, Mali led a workshop for those interested in extemporaneous public speaking.

Christianne Wohlforth, acting director of the Dickey Center for International Understanding, introduced Mali and said few individuals are more aptly suited to explore the role of words.

Reciting his poem, “Totally Like Whatever,” Mali argued that today’s youth belong to one of the most inarticulate generations of all time.

“What has happened to our conviction?” Mali said. “It is not simply enough to question authority. You have to speak with it too.”

Mali incorporated autobiographical details into his routine, charting his journey from teacher to slam poet.

He recounted a defining moment with one of his students who had lost her pen and did not realize that Mali had already offered her a replacement.

“All I do is give you what you need before you know you needed it,” Mali said. “I’m a teacher, and that’s what we do.”

Emphasizing the potentially positive effects of words, Mali highlighted the motivating power of teaching and encouraged students to consider pursuing a career in education.

He founded the New Teacher Project, asking individuals inspired by his work to sign a pledge promising to become teachers. Mali said he hopes to acquire 1,000 signatures by the end of this year. The 900th person signed the online pledge after Mali performed in Iowa two nights ago, he said.

“Teachers make a goddamn difference!” Mali said, performing his iconic poem, “What Teachers Make.” “Now what about you?”

As a teacher and poet, Mali underscored the importance of expression and carefully choosing one’s words.

“My job is to remind people that language, when wielded well, can do wonders,” Mali said in an interview with The Dartmouth.

Before the show, Mali led a workshop with a small group of students and professors in One Wheelock, where he stressed that speaking loudly, slowly, clearly and with passion are key to presenting aloud.

“When you are speaking extemporaneously, you speak from the heart,” he said. “Something interesting will happen if you stop saying um,’ ah’ or er.’ Your regular conversation suddenly goes up a level.”

Mali put this suggestion into practice by snapping his fingers at attendees whose names he memorized at the beginning of the workshop each time they used a filler word.

“It’s like being an alcoholic,” he said. “You need to recognize you have a problem first.”

Mali played “Drunk Boyfriend at the Poetry Reading,” performed by poets Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz and Shappy Seasholtz, for the group.

The poem referenced a poet who compared parts of her body to abstract and concrete objects. Group members then wrote poetry with similar comparisons, likening ears to great caverns and chests to the cool side of a pillow.

“There’s not anyone who wrote something, and I was like, abandon that,'” he said. “Be as ridiculous as you want to. You can be obnoxious if you want. I often am.”

His encouraging critiques stood out to writing professor Jonna Mackin, who attended the workshop.

“Here I am in a room full of students, and I usually get a little embarrassed when asked to participate, but he made it so manageable and tangible,” she said.

Later in the workshop, Mali asked group members to write a poem about specific objects.

“I like things that are broken, things that are scratched,” he said. “Mention things that make the audience go, I can see that, it reminds me of something else.'”

Throughout the workshop, Mali, who taught high school and middle school students for nine years, stressed the importance of good teaching.

“When I left the regular classroom I’m still teaching, that’s what I’m doing right now I used to have people come up to me and say, The way you talk about teaching has made me decide I want to be a teacher,'” he said.

The Dartmouth Centers Forum, which sponsored the workshop and performance, is a collaboration of 13 College centers and organizations, according to Amy Newcomb, student programs officer at the Dickey Center.

“So much of his work is related to how one speaks, how one writes,” she said. “The idea was to make him accessible beyond the performance. I was struck today by that push to write on the spot, to dig deeper and to immediately follow up on some of the things he mentioned.”

Admissions officers receive 23,052 apps.

Although some institutions, including Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania, have reported a decrease in applications for the Class of 2016, Dartmouth admissions officers estimate a 3 to 3.5 percent increase this year, with a record 23,052 applications processed for early and regular decision applicants combined, according to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Maria Laskaris.

The College intends to accept roughly 2,100 students approximately 9 percent of applicants making this “the most selective year we’ve had in terms of the admissions process,” Laskaris said.

The applicant pool has grown by approximately 25 percent in the past two years, according to Laskaris.

The College has already offered admission to 465 students in the early decision process. Laskaris said admissions officers were impressed by the “unusual strength” of the early decision pool this year, which led them to accept more students than they have in previous years, she said.

“By taking a few more in early, we recognized we would put pressure on the regular decision process,” Laskaris said.

Admissions officers have already started to consider methods, including alumni-sponsored events and Dimensions of Dartmouth, to compel regular decision students to accept Dartmouth’s offer of admission, she said.

The recent return to early action programs by both Harvard University and Princeton University eliminated a portion of Dartmouth’s regular applicant pool, as more students “have already made up their minds” and chosen other institutions, Laskaris said. The “modest growth” in applications was expected, she said.

Several peer institutions experienced dramatic changes in the number of applications they received this year.

The total number of applications to Columbia University decreased by 8.9 percent, following a record-breaking 33.4-percent increase in applications last year, Jessica Marinaccio, dean of undergraduate admissions at Columbia University, said in an email to The Dartmouth.

The University of Pennsylvania saw a 1.7-percent drop in overall applications, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian, while the number of applications to Yale University rose by 5.8 percent, according to the Yale Daily News.

Other Ivy League institutions have not yet published application numbers.

Stanford University application rates experienced a 7-percent increase, according to The Stanford Daily. Duke University saw a 6-percent increase in applicants, while Northwestern University saw a 3.5-percent increase, according to the institutions’ student newspapers.

The demographics of Dartmouth’s Class of 2016 will likely be “comparable” to the Class of 2015, Laskaris said.

“It won’t be significantly different from what we saw last year,” she said.

The average composite SAT score of the Class of 2016 is 2080, reflecting a slight increase over last year’s composite of 2068, Laskaris said in an email to The Dartmouth.

Trends among applicants for the Class of 2016 include attendance at virtual schools and participation in online courses, according to Laskaris. Students’ tendency to take classes supplementing their high school curricula may present a new challenge for admissions officers, especially “when it comes to evaluating letters of recommendations from teachers that students haven’t physically met in a classroom,” she said.

The number of students applying for financial aid which has amounted to approximately two-thirds of applicants in the past is expected to remain consistent or grow slightly this year, according to Laskaris. The deadline to apply for financial aid is Feb. 1.

To reduce the stress students may be experiencing, the Admissions Office plans to continue its tradition of sending likely letters to “stand-out students,” Laskaris said.

The first batch of “likely letters” will be sent in early February and will give applicants a clear indication that they will likely be admitted if they continue performing at the same level, she said.

“There are some students whose files immediately rise to the top in terms of academic and personal achievements and who strike us as exactly the kind of students we’d like to see at Dartmouth,” she said.

Applicants will receive official notification of their admissions decisions online at around 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on March 29, according to Laskaris.

Hollisto’s World

Tim Tebow is the most polarizing figure in sports since Barry Bonds, Tiger Woods and Hulk Hogan. You either love or hate the man, but it’s rare to find someone who’s never heard his name. Surprisingly, even people who don’t even like football have some sort of opinion about Tebow. He’s one of the few athletes who has developed a fan (and enemy) base with no logical territorial boundaries. Though he played college football for the University of Florida Gators and currently plays in the NFL for the Denver Broncos, millions from around the nation are glued to the TV whenever he takes the field.

Simply put, the 24-year-old Tebow has turned into a sports legend. Regardless of whether you love or hate him, you can’t deny the fact that he was the most captivating sports figure of 2011. Every time he steps on the field, there’s an undeniable buzz that surrounds him.

Part of Tebow’s notoriety stems from his religious beliefs. Dating back to his days at the University of Florida, Tebow has been a vocal advocate of Christianity. In college, Tebow turned many media opportunities into ways to tell the world about his faith. Because of his constant references to God in press conferences and his pro-life Superbowl ad, Tebow was a well-known Christian advocate before he took his first NFL snap.

Many use Tebow’s Christian beliefs to mount a campaign of criticism that has nothing to do with his talents on the football field. Although everyone is entitled to their own opinion, hating Tebow because of his religious background is both ignorant and backwards.

Although I don’t consider myself part of “Tebow Nation,” I feel compelled to defend the athlete. Instead of supporting Tebow with my own religious preferences, I choose to defend Tebow because of this country’s founding principles. This country was founded on the principles of free speech and freedom of religion, and our forefathers intended that the every citizen could practice their own religion in whatever manner they please. Tebow is a modest and caring individual who plays a game he loves and uses his celebrity status to help people around the world. Do your research before you criticize Tebow’s not a bad guy.

I think it’s out of bounds to criticize Tebow for his religious beliefs, but it’s completely fair to criticize him for his unorthodox quarterback abilities. His passer rating of 72.9 in the 2011 regular season was 28th among NFL QBs and he ranked 27th with 12 touchdown passes. His abysmal 124 passing yards per game ranked last among all QBs who attempted at least 200 passes. If you’re not an NFL stat geek, I’ll summarize these findings for you. Tebow was one of the worst passing quarterbacks in the NFL.

If passing stats alone determined the legitimacy of an NFL quarterback, Tebow would have been cut faster than Shaquille O’Neal at a national gymnastics team tryout. The ability to win games the most important stat is what keeps Tebow in the league. In high school, Tebow catapulted into the national spotlight when he single-handedly won a game despite suffering a broken fibula in the first half. The following year, Tebow won the Florida Class 4A State High School Championship. In college, Tebow won two national championships and a Heisman trophy. This man has a history of winning games.

Despite being a horrible passer, Tebow continued to win games in the NFL. He lost his starting position during training camp but ended up regaining the spot in the middle of the season and finished an impressive 8-5 as a starting QB. Tebow is a great runner, is tougher than the main character of any Sylvester Stallone movie and has the composure of a veteran quarterback in intense situations. He manages to take over games in the fourth quarter, aka “Tebow Time,” and lead his team to victory in close games.

Although Tebow wins football games, he owes much of his success to the strength of the Bronco’s defense. In Tebow’s 13 starts, the Broncos were only able to score more than 20 points in four games. Of those four games, half were against two of the worst defenses in the NFL.

As much as I love to root for Tebow, his current tenure as an NFL quarterback is unsustainable unless he can lead his team to at least three TDs every game. His recent loss to the New England Patriots proves that you can’t beat a great team with a faltering offense. Tebow is a great athlete with great character, but character alone won’t keep your job. Unless Tebow improves his game over the offseason, don’t expect to see him as a starter for too much longer.