Yep, this should get you fired

An Ohio 8th-grade creationist science teacher with a habit of branding crosses on his students’ arms has been fired, after a long and tedious process and a lawsuit that cost the school district some big bucks.

The referee who evaluated the case for termination nicely summed up in one sentence (PDF) exactly what you can’t do when you’re a public school science teacher:

…He persisted in his attempts to make eighth grade science what he thought it should be – an examination of accepted scientific curriculum with the discerning eye of Christian Doctrine.

Freshwater demonstrated (yet again) the real motivation behind policies of “teach the evidence for and against evolution”:

In 2003, John Freshwater [the teacher] petitioned the Board asking for the implementation of a new Board policy. His proposed policy was titled “Objective Origins Science Policy”. He advised the Board (through the proposal)… “much of the evidence that supports the Darwinian Evolution Theory which is taught in our public schools is controversial”. His proposed solution was the addition of a Board policy “that allows teachers/students to critically examine the evidence both for and against evolution”. John Freshwater’s proposal was rejected and his suggested policy not adopted. Nonetheless, he undertook the instruction of these eighth graders as if the suggested policy had been implemented. Both overtly and covertly, John Freshwater began to instruct his eighth grade students in such a way that they were examining evidence both for and against evolution….

Exacerbating this situation was the fact that the evidence against evolution was based, in large part, upon the Christian religious principals [sic] of Creationism and Intelligent Design.

And here is Freshwater, teaching like it was 1906 and not 2006:

Perhaps the most egregious example of Joh Freshwater’s “failure to adhere to established curriculum” took place in the fall of 2006…

… John Freshwater told his 13 and 14 year old public school students that the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin, so anyone who chooses to be homosexual is a sinner. Mr. Stockdale [another teacher present in the classroom] described how Mr. Freshwater attempted to relate this comment to the subject of science by advising his students that science and scientists can be wrong – as when they (the scientists) declare that there is a genetic predisposition to homosexuality. Thus, in one incident, witnessed by an experienced and seasoned educator, John Freshwater not only injected his subjective, biased, Christian religious based, non-scientific opinion into the instruction of eighth grade science students, but also gave those students reason to doubt the accuracy and or veracity of scientists, science textbooks, and/or science in general.

My editorial comment: while doubt and skepticism of scientific results are good, and in fact critical, they cease to be scientifically useful when doubt and skepticism are simply used as a defense of your own unquestioned religious beliefs against perceived threats.

What’s most sad about this story is that this guy was fired only after a half-million dollar lawsuit (which the school district lost) and two years of administrative hearings. A colossal waste of time and money.

Author: Mike White

Genomes, Books, and Science Fiction

4 thoughts on “Yep, this should get you fired”

  1. I applaud the school district for keeping up the fight in this case. Often the cost of such fights is prohibitive. The estimated total cost of the Freshwater case to the school district, from his initial suspension to his recent firing, is close to one million dollars. This case has become a catalyst for the legislature to reconsider tenure laws in Ohio.

    1. This case has become a catalyst for the legislature to reconsider tenure laws in Ohio.

      Then maybe some good will come out of this. I’ve never understood the rationale for tenure outside of a university. If the point of tenure is to protect academic freedom, then it really only makes sense to apply it to people whose main job is to produce and teach original scholarship – it protects that scholarship from administrative interference. But in a public school system , or any situation where the primary job description is to teach a curriculum set by others, tenure doesn’t make sense.

  2. Sorry, did I read that right. He BRANDED his students with crosses using a high-voltage electrical device, and it STILL took two years to fire him? How is this possible?

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