Supreme Court sticks fork in John Freshwater dismissal case

JISHOU, HUNAN — Seven years! This case has been dragging on for seven years, and now maybe we will never need to read about John Freshwater in the news again. His last chance to have the courts reinstate him as a science teacher in Ohio ended in defeat this week. The US Supreme Court has let stand a lower court decision that Freshwater’s former employers, the Mount Vernon, Ohio, school district, had cause to fire him for insubordination for refusing to remove religious materials from his classroom. Freshwater’s lawyers argued that the district had infringed his First Amendment rights, and wanted to Court to hear their case. The Justices were apparently unimpressed with this argument, and denied his writ of certiorari — basically, a request that the Court hear his appeal.. Freshwater was a seventh-grade science teacher who had a few bad practices. Judging from the testimony of former students and co-workers during a lengthy administrative hearing, he had a long history of teaching Creationism in his class, leading his students to doubt the validity of evolution and the Big Bang theory, and pushing his conservative Christian faith in class. Unsaid and unexamined was the district’s seeming tolerance of this ...

Letter to Missouri’s ‘Christian’ parents

Letter to Missouri's 'Christian' parents
This letter is what I would write to Missouri parents who would want me as a science teacher to excuse their children from a teaching unit on evolution. For details about what that’s all about, read this article at Talking Points Memo. This is only a bill now in the Missouri legislature. For the purposes of this letter, I am assuming it’s become law. Dear parents, I understand that you would prefer your child not be required to attend class during our upcoming unit on evolution. Per the new law recently passed in the Missouri legislature, I am required to excuse your child from class. Please find enclosed the excuse slip with my signature. Your child will need to show this slip to the hall monitors during our science class period. Otherwise, his or her absence from class will be recorded as a cut, and after-school detention will be assigned. Please remind your child to carry the slip at all times. Now, I need to discuss other matters. Please pay close attention to the following remarks, as they have some bearing on your child’s success in this course. As you may be aware, evolution is one of the key foundations ...

Evolution and Bill Nye 1 – Creationism and Ken Ham 0 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — Bill Nye, the Science Guy, debated Ken Ham, the Bible Guy, Tuesday, as I am sure you’ve heard. Nye defended the theory of evolution; Ham, the Young Earth Creationist (YEC) perspective. I haven’t watched the whole thing, and I haven’t found a transcript of their remarks yet, but it seems Nye had the edge, as he should, since evolution is real and the 6-day Creation wasn’t. Whether the debate made any fence-sitters change their minds remains to be seen. Ken Ham is a leading champion of a literal interpretation of the Biblical account of Genesis. Ham insists the Earth is no more than 6,000 years old, and that God created the animals and plants in their present forms we see today. As for the dinosaurs, they perished when God sent the Flood. His Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., attempts to debunk more than 200 years of solid scientific evidence that demonstrates the Earth is more like 4.6 billion years old, that present-day plants and animals are the results of billions of years of evolution, and that the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, long before any human-like animal walked the Earth. Among the world’s scientists — ...

Ohio science/religion teacher Freshwater loses yet again

JISHOU, HUNAN — So, here’s the short version. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled, 4-3, last week that the Mount Vernon School District was well within its rights to fire teacher John Freshwater for insubordination, given that he repeatedly ignored orders to remove religious material from his classroom and from his teaching. The court’s ruling, however, sidestepped the thornier underlying question of how much discussion of creationism and Intelligent Design may be permissible in a science classroom. That question in fact was a large part of Freshwater’s appeal of a lower court’s decision. And the court’s failure to address the issue drew sharp words from the three dissenting judges. Writing for the dissent, Justice Paul E. Pfeifer writes: {¶ 105} What next? With the insubordination claim gutted, the lead opinion should have moved on to consider the constitutional issues remaining in the case. Instead, the majority walks away from the opportunity to provide helpful guidance to every school board in Ohio and to the thousands of great teachers who could benefit from knowing more about the extent of and limits on their academic freedom. Justice O’Donnell’s well-reasoned dissent addresses the issue, but goes unrebutted. In short, the majority shrinks from the ...

John Freshwater: the gift that keeps on giving 5

JISHOU, HUNAN — Back when I was a science teacher, I started blogged about an Ohio public school science teacher who got in hot water for (1) allegedly using a Tesla coil on his students, (2) teaching evolution was false and (3) going overboard with his religious proselytizing in the classroom. Without going into a lot of details, let’s just say that teacher, John Freshwater of Mount Vernon, was removed from classroom teaching pending an administrative hearing about insubordination. After a two-year-long administrative hearing process, Freshwater lost his job earlier this year. He and the Mount Vernon school system were also named in a federal discrimination complaint brought by a student’s family; the school district settled out of court and Freshwater, following an unsuccessful appeal, also had to pay damages to the family. Meanwhile, he filed, and later dropped, his own discrimination complaint in federal court against the school system. So, after all these proceedings which suggest that Freshwater was to some degree culpable, I learn that he has the nerve to play the victim card on David Barton and Rick Green’s WallBuilders Live radio program. Here’s a partial transcript, courtesy of Right Wing Watch. Freshwater: When the 2007/2008 school ...

Bachmann wants schools to teach religion in science class

JISHOU, HUNAN — CNN reports the not-very-surprising news that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) favors teaching Intelligent Design (religion made science-y) in schools, right alongside evolution (actual science). It’s not surprising, because Bachmann (and most of the other candidates for the GOP presidential nomination), are stubbornly in the Science (and History) Ignoramus class. Global warming? Liberal nonsense! Evolution? Atheist nonsense! Separation of Church and State? It was never there! Intelligent Design is religious belief, Creationism with a different label, and the federal courts — most recently in 2005 — have ruled it cannot be taught in public schools, especially in science class. Period. Yet, Bachmann and others stubbornly insist ID must be taught in public schools. Don’t they read the newspapers? Here’s what she told CNN. “I support intelligent design,” Bachmann told reporters in New Orleans following her speech to the Republican Leadership Conference. “What I support is putting all science on the table and then letting students decide. I don’t think it’s a good idea for government to come down on one side of scientific issue or another, when there is reasonable doubt on both sides.” WRONG!! There is no “reasonable doubt” about evolution, at least among sensible people and ...

Get Ben Stein’s movie

JISHOU, HUNAN — Want to buy a propaganda film really cheap? Now’s your chance. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is now available to the highest bidder. Expelled was the 2008 embarrassment that tried to prove once and for all there was a vast conspiracy to teach evolution while suppressing Intelligent Design and other “explanations” of life on Earth, and putting Hitler in power. Or something like that. The New York Times called it “one of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time.” Narrated and hosted by the riveting Ben Stein, it tanked at the box office, so badly it seems, that its production company, Premise Media, is in bankruptcy court. According to a document (PDF) filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court of the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, on May 31, 2011, the trustee of the bankruptcy estate is seeking to auction “[t]hat certain feature-length motion picture (‘Picture’) ‘Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed’ and all collateral, allied, ancillary, subsidiary and merchandising rights therein and thereto, and all properties and things of value pertaining thereto.” The auction is scheduled to take place on-line from June 23 to June 28, 2011. As awful as the movie was, I reckon ...

More pesky high school students

JISHOU, HUNAN — And I’m not talking about Archie and Jughead, or even Beavis and Butthead. Amy Myers the Bachmann Slayer (and Scourge of the Right Wing) is not the only high school student making national news. Damon Fowler and Zack Kopplin, both of Louisiana, have made some national waves recently, too. Fowler is a 2011 graduate of Bastrop High School in Bastrop, La. Earlier this term, he learned that there would be a school-sanctioned official prayer at his graduation ceremony. He objected, and asked that the prayer be scotched. (FYI, the Supreme Court has held that public school-sponsored prayers are verboten under the First Amendment, which Fowler knows but the school apparently didn’t.) The ACLU followed up with a letter advising the school of the legal requirements and ramifications. School officials agreed to forgo the prayer. As if. In the meantime, the community got wind of Fowler’s objections and the shit hit the fan. Fowler got threats of violence and death. His fellow students turned on him. One of his teachers publicly berated him. His parents kicked him out of the house, and put his possessions (except his PS3) out on the porch. The graduation went on without him, ...

Science thoughts from underground 6

Science thoughts from underground
WULINGYUAN, HUNAN — One of my last stops before classes resume was Yellow Dragon Cave (Huang Long Cave) here, near Zhangjiajie. The cave itself is stupendous. The tour includes a short boat ride on the underground river and a lot of stair climbing. For me the highlight was this stalagmite, the “Sacred Needle for Stabilizing the Sea,” which rises 19.2 meters from the cave floor. The tour guide rattled off two impressive figures relating to this structure. One is that it is insured for several million dollars. The other is that the Sacred Needle is about two million years old. This blog has highlighted the sheer silliness of creationism over the last four years, especially the ludicrous claims of Ken Ham’s Creation Museum in northern Kentucky. Ham (among others) figures the world was created in exactly six days about 6,000 years ago. To bolster their claims that the Bible accurately describes the creation of Life, the Universe and Everything, Ham and Co. try all kinds of hand-waving arguments to counter reams of contradictory evidence from astronomy, geology, paleontology and biology, like The flood in the story of Noah created the Grand Canyon, aided in the dispersion of humans across the ...

Forget subterfuge, how about creationist chutzpah? 5

JISHOU, HUNAN — A Christian group plans to hand out 1,000 copies of “The Charles Darwin Bible” to teachers attending the National Education Association (NEA) convention in San Diego this week. The Charles Darwin Bible is a copy of the New Testament, with annotations referring to Christian and creationist beliefs. It’s the latest attempt by creationists to wiggle their religious non-science into the public schools. There is also a creationist edition of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species available. Since the original text of 150 years ago is not copyrighted, evangelist Ray Comfort slapped a 50-page “special introduction” onto the work and is selling it for a mere 99 cents. Comfort’s plan is for fellow believers to hand the bastardized copies of Origin of Species to their teacher and professor friends. The Charles Darwin Bible is another brainchild of Comfort’s. It’s being distributed by Holman Bible Outreach, which is selling the curiously named book for $3.99 (or $1.75 by the case). Someone ponied up the money to hand a thousand of them out to NEA members. The NEA is one of two professional organizations that represent public school teachers. Its annual convention began June 26 and runs through Friday. Here’s a ...

And speaking of thought control … how about creationist subterfuge? 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — It takes a certain amount of nerve, and intellectual dishonesty, to appropriate the text of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, write a creationist “special introduction” to it, then reissue the mangled tome as a legitimate copy of Darwin’s work. The creationist outfit, Bridge Logos Foundation, of Alachua, Florida, has published an abridged 150th anniversary edition of Origin of Species, complete with a 50-page introduction calling into question practically every conclusion Darwin makes in the rest of the book. Living Waters Publications, is peddling the book as a way to undermine the teaching of evolution in schools and universities. Both organizations are masterminded by Ray Comfort, a noted anti-evolution, fundamentalist writer. Here is the squib describing the book: This special 280-page edition not only contains an abridged Origin of Species but also has a 50-page Introduction that reveals the dangerous fruit of evolution, Hitler’s undeniable connections to the theory, Darwin’s racism, and his disdain for women. It counters the claim that creationists are “anti-science” by citing numerous scientists who believed that God created the universe—scientists such as Einstein, Newton, Copernicus, Bacon, Faraday, Pasteur, and Kepler. It has many original graphics and (as it says on the back cover) ...

Kentucky’s Creation Museum, a young Earth propaganda tool 5

JISHOU, HUNAN — The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, is NOT a science museum. It is a tool to publicize a narrow religious view of the world and our place in it. Thus, I found this comment by a Kentucky State Department of Education official particularly disturbing. [From the Louisville Courier-Journal] Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Lisa Gross said nothing in state law would bar public schools from visiting, if it were part of “a lesson” on “how some perceived the world’s beginnings.” Kentucky does not require the teaching of evolution or creationism (or even science at all) in private schools. And public-school science teachers aren’t prohibited from mentioning creationism, but lessons often include concepts behind evolution, Gross said. Maybe Ms. Gross was tiptoeing around the religious bias of Kentucky’s bureaucrats, legislators and population. Maybe she has never been to the Creation Museum. Maybe she is just plain stupid. Whatever the case, there should be no reason to bring any public school group to the museum, unless that purpose is to indoctrinate the students in an overtly religious world view. If a high school teacher, having done a LOT of preparation, intended to use the museum as an example of ...
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