The Freshwater Handouts: The Giraffe

| 67 Comments

A set of handouts used by John Freshwater in his 8th grade science class have featured in the testimony of several witnesses over the course of his termination hearing. As I reported a day ago, Dr. Patricia Princehouse critiqued those handouts on Friday, January 9. I thought it would be helpful for readers to have a clearer idea of just what kind of trash science Freshwater was purveying in them. I’ll reproduce excerpts from his “Giraffe” handout below and add some commentary of my own. Dr. Princehouse had more extensive commentary.

The Giraffe below the fold.

The “Giraffe” handout was used as a “bell ringer,” according to testimony. That is, it is a fill-in-the-blanks exercise for use in a few spare minutes just before the bell rang ending class. According to people I’ve talked with, they’re handed out just before the end of class, and the teacher reads through them giving the ‘correct’ answers to be filled in the blanks. At the end of class they’re returned to the teacher. We have copies because over the years several students hung on to them and took them home to show their parents.

The instructions on the Giraffe handout read

DIRECTIONS: Follow along and fill in the missing words.

The first three items on the handout read

-mature [ bull ] giraffe - 18 feet tall

-Long [ neck ]

- needs a good pump ([ heart ]) for blood to the [ brain ]

The fifth and sixth items are

Giraffes have a [ protective ] mechanism - [ valves ] in the [ artery ] in its neck begin to close when his head goes [ down ].

So far, so good. While the pedagogical utility of merely copying down what a teacher says is questionable, up to here the material is pretty much plain description. But here’s the lovely bit:

We all know that [ dead ] animals don’t evolve anything, even though evolution demands its creatures realize they need an improvement before that improvement begins to evolve.

Need I say anything? That’s the purest trash, taught by an 8th grade science teacher.

But it doesn’t stop. Here’s the next item:

Another problem arises - a [ lion ] creeps up and prepares to [ kill ] its spotted [ prey ]. The giraffe quickly raises its [ head ]. This causes a reduced [ blood ] flow - the giraffe passes out. The lion [ eats ] a hearty meal and the giraffe, were it alive, would realize that it had better evolve some mechanism to re-oxygenate its oxygen deprived [ brain ]. Remember that [ dead ] animals don’t evolve anything.

Yup, that dumb giraffe better figure out what to evolve and get on the stick. I’m reminded of an engineer who some years ago wrote on the Ohio Intelligent Design site about how if evolution were true, people who live in famine-ridden areas would have evolved the digestive system of cattle so they could eat grass. These people are just plain pig ignorant.

Finally, we have this:

It is a distinct species, a discrete entity. No one would say a giraffe is a “missing [ link ]” or a “transitional [ form ].” A giraffe is not some [ creature ] emerging from some other creature or changing into a “higher” or more [ complex ] form.

At a school board meeting last June I told the board that if this is the kind of thing he’s teaching in science classes, he’s incompetent to be a teacher. I now emphasise the “incompetent” and add “actively destructive.” The man has no business anywhere near a science classroom.

R. Kelly Hamilton, Freshwater’s attorney, has been hinting that Freshwater might have used these kinds of handouts merely to give students an idea of the “other side,” and that it’s an acceptable teaching practice. I can conceive of no worthwhile pedagogical purpose that’s served by blatantly lying to students about science.

67 Comments

I really appreciate these updates that you’re doing… even though they make my blood pressure go up.

The fact that this is even an issue in science classes in this day and age is infuriating. Not only is ID not science, but it’s anti-intellectual tripe. It’s sad that it hasn’t (years ago) gone the way of astrology and tea-leaf reading.

Anyway… keep up the good work. Your updates are encouraging (despite the blood pressure). ;-)

Dan Gilbert said:

I really appreciate these updates that you’re doing… even though they make my blood pressure go up.

I actually take two hypertension meds daily. Otherwise I’d have popped a blood vessel long ago. :)

Dan Gilbert said:

… gone the way of astrology and tea-leaf reading.

As Carl Sagan used to point out, how many daily newspapers have an astrology column? How many have a science column?

Now THERE’S your problem.

Just Bob said:

Dan Gilbert said:

… gone the way of astrology and tea-leaf reading.

As Carl Sagan used to point out, how many daily newspapers have an astrology column? How many have a science column?

Now THERE’S your problem.

Ever since I was a kid and knew about horoscopes, I’ve always taken them as a form of entertainment, so I forget sometimes that there are people out there who take it seriously. ;-)

Oh yeah? So if humans evolved better and bigger brains, then why are there still creationists? :)

Dan G writes…

… even though they make my blood pressure go up.

You know, you could really take advantage of that if you wanted to and evolve a longer neck for yourself.

I was looking over the quotes from the handout and all I could think was: “I couldn’t make this stuff up. And I’m fair at making stuff up.”

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/tadarwinw.html

I have noticed that all of our creationist friends are totally absent from commenting on these threads.

Where’s the support for Freshwater? Where are the demands for academic freedom, viewpoint discrimination and all the rest?

Where are the cries of outrage that a teacher can be restrained from assaulting students?

For our creationist friends out there, suppose that I etched, burned, inscribed or inked a pentagram or 666 on your child’s arm. Would you laugh it off? Grant me academic freedom? Buy me lunch?

Seriously I hope not. Seriously I hope you would do everything in your power to run me out of the School system, and back on the other side of the fence, I would support you to that end.

Ideology aside, this case is about a sociopath in charge of children. It’s simply wrong. It doesn’t matter that the school administration was spineless or turned a blind eye for years. Freshwater needs to be fired. And the administrators need to be disciplined for their lack of action.

My opinion. Worth nothing, of course!

Doc Bill said:

I have noticed that all of our creationist friends are totally absent from commenting on these threads.

Oh please – speak of the devil and he shows up!

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/tadarwinw.html

I actually take two hypertension meds daily. Otherwise I’d have popped a blood vessel long ago. :)

And that’s without a six foot neck… :p

Henry

I have now heard the gambit employed in the latter part of the handout. The bit that goes “it has to decide to change its own body after it dies to evolve”. It was from a representative for AiG, in full on folksy fake charm mode, talking about how an alligator cannot decide to become something else.

In retrospect I deeply regret not asking him who was suggesting that an alligator is capable of consciously changing itself. Ya’know, just to bring the E word into the open since he was working with veiled references.

Despite that, the bit about evolution somehow requiring a dying animal to be able to evolve a way to survive being eaten by a lion in real time is a new low.

The other thing that strikes me is that this is a REALLY bad fill in the blanks exercise. It’s like Freshwater took standard creationist propaganda, removed some words, and turned them into a handout. Or am I stating the obvious here?

I mean COME ON… “the lion (blank) a hearty meal”… what kind of fill in the blank is that?

I agree with everything said in this article, but want to just disagree with one small part:

pedagogical utility of merely copying down what a teacher says is questionable

I think that, particularly at this age, it can actually be very helpful pedagogically. What you’re doing is helping kids learn to take notes correctly, so that they can study well, and learn the information for the future. If this were the only thing you were doing to teach, I’d say it was questionable, or if this was the approach used in college. But I think it a good helpful first step for junior high/high schoolers.

Using a ——, Freshwater marked students with a mark resembling a ——.

Freshwater teaches —— in a High School Science class.

Students in Freshwater’s class learn that —— is the one True Religion.

Freshwater —— the Ninth Commandment.

Had he the power to do so, Freshwater would —— all atheists, Catholics and homosexuals.

Freshwater deserves to ——.

Are you trying to lure me into a game of Mad-libs? Is that your devious plan?

I’m reminded of an engineer who some years ago wrote on the Ohio Intelligent Design site about how if evolution were true, people who live in famine-ridden areas would have evolved the digestive system of cattle so they could eat grass.

My gut reaction is that an engineer who would write something so [incredibly] [stupid] should have his/her licence [revoked]. On second thought, I realized that’s probably too harsh. He or she should, however, be prevented from working on any project requiring any [expertise] in [biology] or [biotechnology].

Nomad said: I mean COME ON… “the lion (blank) a hearty meal”… what kind of fill in the blank is that?

Yeah, that’s pretty laughable. This might be challenging to a 2nd grader, not an 8th grader. Then again, most creationist material is appropriate for 2nd graders.

Richard B. Hoppe Wrote:

At a school board meeting last June I told the board that if this is the kind of thing he’s teaching in science classes, he’s incompetent to be a teacher. I now emphasise the “incompetent” and add “actively destructive.” The man has no business anywhere near a science classroom.

If anyone says that he should teach that in Sunday School, I’ll pop a blood vessel.

Just Bob Wrote:

As Carl Sagan used to point out, how many daily newspapers have an astrology column? How many have a science column?

Now THERE’S your problem.

Thank you!

(sarcasm) Darn those fundamentalist right-wing newspapers. (end sarcasm)

Apologies folks for being slightly OFF-topic, but it came to my attention, that the Intelligent Design section of http://debategraph.org/ needs some serious editing. In case you have too much free time at your hands… ;-))

p/s: The site was just mentioned at BBCNews (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7827293.stm), so increased traffic is likely.

H.H. said:

Nomad said: I mean COME ON… “the lion (blank) a hearty meal”… what kind of fill in the blank is that?

Yeah, that’s pretty laughable. This might be challenging to a 2nd grader, not an 8th grader. Then again, most creationist material is appropriate for 2nd graders.

[regurgitated] [regretted eating] [fixed, by candlelight,] [danced for] [had sex after] [had sex on] [dreamed of] [couldn’t decide who to invite to] [refused to share] [had a heart attack after] [forgot to say a prayer before] [started a food fight over] [thought about those starving children in China, and couldn’t enjoy] [thanked DocBill for preparing]

Most 8th graders could be more creative than Freshwater feared.

Mr Hoppe,

Thank you so much for all your hard work and efforts in covering this debacle. I know this is just a example of what is taking place in many science classrooms around the country.Such a shame for our students and our education system.

Jonathan Smith Florida Citizens for Science

Using a ——, Freshwater marked students with a mark resembling a ——.

Freshwater teaches —— in a High School Science class.

Students in Freshwater’s class learn that —— is the one True Religion.

Freshwater —— the Ninth Commandment.

Had he the power to do so, Freshwater would —— all atheists, Catholics and homosexuals.

Freshwater deserves to ——.

My gut reaction is that an engineer who would write something so [incredibly] [stupid] should have his/her licence [revoked]. On second thought, I realized that’s probably too harsh. He or she should, however, be prevented from working on any project requiring any [expertise] in [biology] or [biotechnology].

I sense a new form of internet humor emerging from it’s chrysalis.

… “the lion (blank) a hearty meal”…

Lions can cook?

I always find it interesting to see how Creationists think Evolution ACTUALLY works.

Makes it argue against them.

… “the lion (blank) a HEARTY meal”…

Hmm…could be a teachable moment there (and a pun). Lions generally start with the organs. I saw a lion in Kruger NP a few months ago, guarding his kill, a Cape buffalo. The carcass was hollow, but otherwise intact. He had eaten the heart, liver, intestines and other goodies first, for a good reason–they spoil first. The buffalo steaks and roasts will keep for a few days.

Class discussion: How would a behavioral trait like that evolve? (Note “would,” not “could.” Could it be a learned behavior rather than “instinct”? How could we test that?

Using a ——, Freshwater marked students with a mark resembling a ——. Freshwater teaches —— in a High School Science class. Students in Freshwater’s class learn that —— is the one True Religion. Freshwater —— the Ninth Commandment. Had he the power to do so, Freshwater would —— all atheists, Catholics and homosexuals. Freshwater deserves to ——.

distinct lack of judgement swastika that one should not trust science his demonstrated how to break brand be fired for breaking the law and recklessly endangering his students

Oh well, I guess at least we now know who intelligently designed the giraffe. Supposedly it was the giraffe, after it died. Go figure.

the giraffe, were it alive, would realize that it had better evolve some mechanism to re-oxygenate its oxygen deprived [ brain ].

In some early Star Trek movie, there’s an organism behaving strangly and Dr. McCoy tells somebody “It wants to evolve!!!” Maybe Freshwater got his idea from this movie.

Doc Bill said: Where’s the support for Freshwater?

http://supportfreshwater.com/

http://www.bibleonthedesk.com/index.php

(Comments on the above at http://theoconia.blogspot.com/2008/[…]support.html and http://theoconia.blogspot.com/2008/[…]quently.html

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions[…]shwater.html

…but nothing (yet) from those fervent supporters of Academic Freedom, Casey Luskin or the Dishonesty Institute. Odd…

I always find it interesting to see how Creationists think Evolution ACTUALLY works.

I’d say that, since creationists know evolution doesn’t happen, they have no way to evaluate the plausibility of arguments against it. Kind of like evaluating the reasons why the moon is NOT made of green cheese - all proposals might seem equally valid.

So while absurd caricatures of any idea are easier to mock, when the idea is known to be nonsense any caricature is as absurd as any other.

Can anyone simultaneously defend this sort of teaching and also claim that they support “critical analysis” of anything?

It is all here (I know this link has been posted before) http://agoodchoice.blogspot.com/sea[…]q=Freshwater Mary

Doc Bill said:

I have noticed that all of our creationist friends are totally absent from commenting on these threads.

Where’s the support for Freshwater? Where are the demands for academic freedom, viewpoint discrimination and all the rest?

Where are the cries of outrage that a teacher can be restrained from assaulting students?

For our creationist friends out there, suppose that I etched, burned, inscribed or inked a pentagram or 666 on your child’s arm. Would you laugh it off? Grant me academic freedom? Buy me lunch?

Seriously I hope not. Seriously I hope you would do everything in your power to run me out of the School system, and back on the other side of the fence, I would support you to that end.

Ideology aside, this case is about a sociopath in charge of children. It’s simply wrong. It doesn’t matter that the school administration was spineless or turned a blind eye for years. Freshwater needs to be fired. And the administrators need to be disciplined for their lack of action.

My opinion. Worth nothing, of course!

I didn’t notice anybody mentioning that the giraffes who are evolving may be less likely to be fainters and sprint away from the carcasses of their less fortunate brethren. Seems to me that God rolls His Dice and either gives or does not give some random mutation after the giraffe equivalent of a dinner and a movie, and the resulting newborn lucky or luckless beast has gotten its lifetime’s share of the evolution pie.

I had some fantastic science teachers growing up in Australia (i even went to a Christian school), and I have never been more thankful for that since reading this [bull] crap.

This kind of stuff makes me want to be a teacher again.

I taught physics at a small, private Christian school for 2 years. And I “taught the controversy.” I was expected to teach ID, but I tried to discretely show its inadequacies. We actually had curriculum given to us based on Expelled. I informed my headmaster and principal about my objections and worked my way around the subject. Good thing I was a physics teacher. However, I think I did influence some students to consider the evidence.

I don’t disagree with the pedagogy of filling in the blanks. It is actually a fair strategy for learning disabled students. On occasion I would prepare my notes in fill-in-the-blank form for several of my students. I believe it helped them. Now, this particular worksheet was horrible. Regardless of its obvious fallacies, this worksheet would be in no way beneficial. It was a horrible attempt at a “fill-in-the-blanks” learning aide. None of the key words were the ones left blank. The goal is to have students fill in the key words to complete the idea while creating some familiarity with those new words. Fishwater’s attempt was awful. If that’s how he teaches, I wouldn’t trust him to teach any subject.

Misha said:

I taught physics at a small, private Christian school for 2 years. And I “taught the controversy.” I was expected to teach ID, but I tried to discretely show its inadequacies. We actually had curriculum given to us based on Expelled.

OK, not picking on you at all, but on visualizing this scene it sounds like real life exceeding parody: “I just can’t make this stuff up.”

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

mrg (iml8) said:

OK, not picking on you at all, but on visualizing this scene it sounds like real life exceeding parody: “I just can’t make this stuff up.”

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Oh, I’m not kidding. I had to work my factual evidence into my lectures in an almost secretive manner. In my physics class I used the speed of light and our distance from other galaxies to encourage the students to accept a more ancient history. In my freshman science class I was a bit more bold. I purposefully placed our lessons on biomes and animal adaptations before our study of the cell. That way when I got to DNA I could go back and talk about those adaptations again. I also used the DNA lessons to discuss the similarities between human and chimp DNA, including the combination of chimp chromosome pairs to result in inactive centromeres.

And before you get all worked up, my headmaster and principal were terrific through all of it. They were more interested with the balance of my faith and science than mandating a rubric. They had never encountered someone who could seriously consider both the way I had. I was more fearful of the other teachers, parents and members of the school board. They were the ones who were pushing the misconceptions strongly.

Misha said:

Oh, I’m not kidding.

I didn’t think you were, it’s just that this the Freshwater scenario stood on its head.

And before you get all worked up …

Worked up? About what?

Cheers – MrG / http://gvgpd.proboards.com

Worked up? About what?

Cheers – MrG / http://gvgpd.proboards.com

That wasn’t necessarily directed towards you. I just know that we all tend to get in a tizzy, and rightfully so, about a lot of this. I just wanted to point out that a lot of times its parents that get too involved. Its not always the administrators.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on January 13, 2009 7:05 PM.

Freshwater Day 10: The History of Creationism was the previous entry in this blog.

Organismal size over evolutionary time is a constrained stochastic property is the next entry in this blog.

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