Freshwater Day 14: “He taught both sides” and questioning the text.

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Previous posts on the Freshwater hearing are linked at the end of this post.

The administrative hearing on the Mt. Vernon, Ohio, Board of Education’s resolution to terminate the employment of John Freshwater as an 8th grade science teacher resumed this morning for just half a day. Due to attorney conflicts and witness unavailability issues, the session was adjourned at 12:15 after hearing just three witnesses, all former students of Freshwater. The hearing will resume on March 20.

Opening Maneuvering

Today saw the resumption of Freshwater’s defense case. The first witness called by R. Kelly Hamilton, Freshwater’s attorney, was Mr. James Beroth. He is the father of a woman named Melanie Dobson from the state of Oregon who apparently overheard a conversation in a restaurant between Ian Watson, the President of the Board of Education, and an unidentified second person on December 29, 2007 (I’m pretty sure it was 2007 – see subpoena note below). Hamilton entered an affidavit from Ms. Dobson as an exhibit and began to examine Mr. Beroth on it because if would be a hardship for Ms. Dobson to come to Ohio from Oregon to testify. The examination got just far enough to establish that Beroth himself had overheard nothing, and that Melanie’s affidavit referred to Watson talking in the restaurant about “decisions” or “strategies” or “goals” regarding Freshwater when David Millstone, attorney for the Board, objected on the ground that the affidavit must speak for itself, and that Mr. Beroth could only reflect hearsay since he himself had not heard Watson. After some discussion the hearing referee upheld the objection and Mr. Beroth was excused from testifying. Immediately Hamilton handed a subpoena to Millstone requiring Ian Watson’s personal and work calendars from December 2007 to the present.

That is relevant because December 29, 2007, was after the Dennis family complained to the school administration about Freshwater burning a cross on Zachary’s arm (early December 2007) but before the independent investigation occurred in late spring 2008. Hamilton’s move here is consistent with other hints he’s made to the effect that the investigation was not actually independent but rather was a sham designed to provide justification/cover for firing Freshwater.

Hamilton then called Karl Heck. Heck is the uncle and guardian of Corbin Heck, a current 9th grader and former student of Freshwater in 8th grade science. Heck was sworn and Hamilton began questioning Heck regarding an affidavit that Corbin had signed just yesterday in front of Hamilton that reflected a conversation Corbin had with Hamilton several weeks ago. Millstone objected on the ground that Karl Heck could not testify to the content of the affidavit but only to hearsay, and that unlike Melanie Dobson, Corbin Heck is available a mile or so away at the high school.

Hamilton told the hearing referee that he intended to call parents of a number of former students to testify about affidavits their children had signed, and Millstone indicated that he would enter the same objection to their testimony. Hamilton got dramatic about preserving the childrens’ anonymity and protecting them from having to testify in public. (Recall that it was Hamilton who earlier successfully urged the hearing referee to breech the Dennis family’s anonymity and have Zachary Dennis testify in public.) Hamilton’s histrionics had little effect and the referee ultimately ruled that since there was no availability issue with the students, they and not their parents would have to testify if their affidavits were to be entered in evidence. So Karl Heck was excused and we had a lengthy recess while the first student, Corbin Heck, was fetched from the school.

Corbin Heck Direct Examination

Corbin testified that he met twice with Hamilton previous to today, and that Hamilton had prepared an affidavit from notes made from their conversations. Corbin made a few minor corrections and swore to it and signed it.

Corbin testified that he was in class when the Tesla coil was used on Zach Dennis. Corbin testified that he had the Tesla coil touched to his arm, and felt a “tickle” but no pain. There was no mark immediately, but after a few minutes there was a faint red mark, which Corbin described as a “pinkish X.” It was gone later that evening. Corbin had included a hand drawing of the mark in his affidavit. It was an “X” about the size of a half dollar.

Corbin testified that Freshwater first applied the Tesla coil to tubes of gases, causing them to glow, then to himself, and then to students who wanted to try it. Corbin said the majority of the class (12-13 students out of 21) had it done. Zach Dennis was among them.

Shown the pictures alleged to be of Zach’s arm later that night, Corbin testified that he hadn’t seen anything like that. He said “This is much more dramatic than any other I’d seen.” Corbin testified he didn’t see a mark on Zach’s arm. The width of the mark on Corbin’s arm was about the size of the ball in a ballpoint pen.

Corbin testified that he and Zach had been and still are friends – they have classes together, frequently eat lunch together, and Zach has been to his house as recently as late fall 2008.

Corbin testified that Freshwater used the coil in the same manner for all the students, and didn’t put his hands on any students. Corbin denied that Freshwater held any student’s arm. He said no one seemed to be in distress. He said that when Zach was zapped he laughed, and that Freshwater didn’t hold Zach’s arm.

Corbin testified that he attended FCA general membership meetings 5 or 6 times, and never saw Freshwater pray at one.

Under direct questions, Corbin denied that Freshwater taught from the Bible or promoted his religious beliefs in class. Corbin described Freshwater as “…literally, the best science teacher I’ve had.”

Asked if he would have recognized if Freshwater taught religious concepts, Corbin agreed that he would.

At one of their meetings Hamilton showed Corbin the Watchmaker video that previous testimony has indicated was shown in class. Corbin denied ever having seen it before.

Under direct questions from Hamilton, Corbin denied that Zach showed any signs of emotional instability or distress. (Those are Hamilton’s terms.)

Corbin Heck Cross Examination

In cross examination Millstone established that according to school records, Corbin missed 23 days of school last year.

Then Millstone asked about the use of the word “here!” (or “hear!) by students in Freshwater’s class. Corbin explained that “… if something wasn’t a fact that was listed in the text as a fact we’d say ‘here’.” For example, Corbin testified, “… if something in the book said something like earth was 6 billion years old we said ‘here’. If the test said a rock was about 4 billion years old we’d say ‘here’.”

Corbin affirmed that a class was spent on a debate about creationism and evolution.

That ended the cross examination; there was no redirect.

Nathan Thomas Direct Examination

Nathan Thomas was another student of Freshwater in 8th grade science in the 2007-2008 school year. He met twice with Hamilton at Freshwater’s church, and Hamilton again created an affidavit that Nathan made a few correction on and then swore to and signed.

Nathan testified that he notified his pastor, who notified Hamilton, because he read in the newspaper something he knew to be false. Specifically, he read that Bill Oxenford, another middle school science teacher, testified that he had ceased using the Tesla coil in class some 10 years ago, when he (Nathan) saw it used in his 7th grade class with Oxenford three years ago. At that time students were allowed to bring a finger near the tip to draw an arc. Nathan named other students who were in Oxenford’s class that year.

Nathan testified that in his 8th grade class Freshwater used the Tesla coil in a manner similar to Oxenford, holding the Tesla coil motionless while students put their forefinger near it to draw an arc. Nathan testified that he knew of no occurrence of an injury other than the one at issue in this hearing (my words, not Nathan’s). Nathan testified that Freshwater didn’t put a cross on anyone in his class.

Nathan denied that Freshwater ever preached in class, and that he would know the difference if it had happened.

In brief questioning about FCA, Nathan testified that two students did “most of” the calling of outside speakers.

Nathan Thomas Cross Examination

In cross examination Millstone established that in his affidavit Nathan had sworn that Freshwater “presented both sides”: “He’d present evolution, and then say some people believe that God created the universe.” Asked whether there was a debate in class about creationism, Nathan responded there was not.

Asked if Freshwater ever questioned facts in the textbook, Nathan responded “Yes, because relative dates are not accurate.” Pressed a little further, Nathan identified “Fossils and trees and stuff.”

Asked about the use of “here!” in class, Nathan testified that it was used by students “when there was a date in the book we’d say ‘here.’ When the book said a fossil was 49 million years old we’d say ‘here’.”

Nathan Thomas Re-direct

Redirect established that Freshwater was Nathan’s Sunday School teacher in 4th and 5th grades. Asked about the difference between Sunday School and science class, Nathan said in Sunday School Freshwater taught his beliefs.

There was no recross.

Riley Swanson Direct Examination

Riley Swanson is another former student in one of Freshwater’s 8th grade science classes. He testified that the Tesla coil was not used in his class.

Asked about FCA, Riley testified that he attended both the regular meetings and the leadership meetings, and that two other students, including Jordan Freshwater, did the bulk of the leading, with Jordan doing the most.

Riley remembered the healing prayer incident, saying that all prayed for the pastor who had the health problem. He couldn’t remember specifically who was there praying. Riley testified that Freshwater didn’t pray with students and never forced (Hamilton’s word) students to pray.

Regarding the incidents surrounding Joe Barone described here, Riley testified that his older brother was a friend of Luke Freshwater (one of the students alleged to have taunted Joe Barone), and that his brother was “shocked” by it.

Riley testified that by pre-arrangement, he and his parents met a number of other students from FCA to attend “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.”

Riley testified that Freshwater was his “… favorite teacher and I can’t believe he’d hurt anyone on purpose.”

Riley testified that he was interviewed by HR On Call during its investigation, but he recalled nothing at all about it beyond the fact that two people, a male and female, interviewed him.

Finally, Riley testified that Zach Dennis is “my friend,” and that Zach had never expressed anything negative about Freshwater to him. Asked by Hamilton if Zach appeared to be emotionally unstable or distressed, Riley denied it.

Riley Swanson Cross Examination

In cross Riley again testified that he remembered nothing at all about the HR On Call interview, and nothing at all about a Tesla coil. He couldn’t remember how FCA speakers were contacted.

There was no redirect.

Brief Summary

Hamilton today focused on two themes. First, he once again tried to establish that if Freshwater wasn’t preaching directly from the Bible it ain’t a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. In his questions of former students he repeatedly returned to “Did he [Freshwater] preach from the Bible in class?” “Did he teach Noah’s Flood?” And so on. I don’t know if Hamilton or the hearing examiner is familiar with the jurisprudence on the creationism issue in the schools, but I know David Millstone is.

Today’s second theme, reflected in questions asked of two of the former students, was aimed at Zach Dennis’ emotional state. And again, this is a return to Hamilton’s attack on the Dennis family in general.

Cross examination of the students appears to have hurt Freshwater more than their direct testimony helped him. Two of the students, Corbin Heck and Nathan Thomas, testified to the use of the response “Here!” to indicate the unreliability of the text book, particularly with respect to dating. Recall that Freshwater is a young earth creationist. Further, Nathan testified that Freshwater presented evolution and then remarked that “some people believe that God created the universe.” Corbin affirmed earlier testimony that there was a debate about creationism and evolution in class.

The hearing is now adjourned until March 20, with three more days scheduled for March 25-27. The hearing referee gave notice that he will be scheduling days in April soon. Recall that this hearing started in October 2008; we may be here until the next World Series!

The Freshwater hearings archive:

Days 1 & 2: The Superintendent

Day 3: Zach Dennis, his mother, and John Freshwater

Day 4: The Principal, and Science Can’t Be Trusted

Day 5: Only From Freshwater’s Students

Day 6: Another Student, Another Cross

Day 7: The Investigator

Day 8: Investigator cross examination, and another former student

Day 9: An Expert and Two Teachers

Day 10: The History of Creationism

Day 11: Board’s Case Ends; Freshwater’s Begins

Day 12: The Monitor

Day 13: A Parade of Teachers and Staff

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JISHOU, HUNAN — Since a member of my immediate family will soon be moving to Iowa, I have the perfect excuse to blog about a proposal in that fine state to ensure “academic freedom.” On the face of it, “academic freedom” w... Read More

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Nathan denied that Freshwater ever preached in class, and that he would know the difference if it had happened.

[…]

Asked if Freshwater ever questioned facts in the textbook, Nathan responded “Yes, because relative dates are not accurate.” Pressed a little further, Nathan identified “Fossils and trees and stuff.”

Nathan, what incompetent religious fanatic taught you that the dates aren’t accurate? Are you still sure that you’d know the difference between learning science and being preached (lied) to? My guess is you wouldn’t, because it happened and you still don’t realize it. Telling lies for Jesus is still preaching on behalf of Jesus even if nobody says the guy’s name.

Once again, thanks for the thorough summaries! There’s no direct for Corbin Heck–was that accidental omission or did you just miss that part of testimony?

racingiron said:

Once again, thanks for the thorough summaries! There’s no direct for Corbin Heck–was that accidental omission or did you just miss that part of testimony?

Gack! Screwed up the C&P from my offline text editor and then blew away that file. I’ll reconstruct it from my notes. Sorry.

To my layman’s eye it would appear that Freshwater is pretty well goosed…

But I wonder if folks on the panel are hearing but dismissing the ‘here’ ‘here’ nonsense?…how convincing is the creotard rhetoric that seems to be lying about the seemingly obvious intent!

If Freshwater does walk it might be an extremely black day for secular education!

Strangebrew said:

To my layman’s eye it would appear that Freshwater is pretty well goosed…

But I wonder if folks on the panel are hearing but dismissing the ‘here’ ‘here’ nonsense?…how convincing is the creotard rhetoric that seems to be lying about the seemingly obvious intent!

If Freshwater does walk it might be an extremely black day for secular education!

There’s not a panel as such. The hearing is before a referee, an attorney, who will write a report and make a recommendation to the Board of Education, which can accept it or not. The probability that they’ll accept it, regardless of which way it goes, approaches 1.0 very very closely.

“The examination got just far enough to establish that Beroth himself had overheard nothing, and that Melanie’s affidavit referred to Watson talking in the restaurant about “decisions” or “strategies” or “goals” regarding Freshwater when David Millstone, attorney for the Board, objected on the ground that the affidavit must speak for itself, and that Mr. Beroth could only reflect hearsay since he himself had not heard Watson.”

What? Some lady is in town visiting from another state and 4 months later news hits the media about a teacher. Then she happens to remember this conversation she overheard at Christmas? Yet no one hears about her until 14 months later? She also remembers it well enough to make a statement on an affidavit? Needless to say it is interesting that the man was sitting in the audience all this time and never mentioned it.

The hearing is now adjourned until March 20, with three more days scheduled for March 25-27. The hearing referee gave notice that he will be scheduling days in April soon. Recall that this hearing started in October 2008; we may be here until the next World Series!

Sheesh! 40 days and 40 nights again?

This has got to be costing them money.

I know of a similar situation here, but the school and school board never had the guts to see it through. The idiot lives on.

What are the possible outcomes? Are there plausible recommendations between “do nothing” and “fire him”?

To my layman eyes, and despite my opinion of the guy, it doesn’t look like Freshwater’ll get fired. Seems to me he did a couple of things wrong, but none seem to blatantly cross the line. I try to go over them below:

Using a Tesla-coil in a stupid manner. The use of the Tesla coil on students’ skin (ignoring for now the fact that it was clearly a cross; see below) was implicitly approved by the School. C.f. the other science teacher, for instance. So to fire him over this now would be arbitrary. They haven’t told him to cut it out for how many years?

Marking a student with a cross. Given that it’s ok to make marks on kids (see above), and that it’s sometimes ok (i.e. implicitly approved by the school) to have some religious material in class (c.f. the Colin Powell posters), this doesn’t strike me as really out of bounds. Freshwater apparently knew Zach’s religion (from FCA; also from church? not sure…) and reasonably assumed consent.

Insubordination w.r.t. the Bible on the Desk. He complied with the letter, if not the spirit, of the order to remove the Bible from his desk. Recall that he did remove it, but replaced it with the School’s own copy. I presume his intent was for the School to clarify their stance on the matter, which to date they have not. This sort of “legal argument” with administration seems to me inoffensive, particularly coming from a teacher of Freshwater’s long, good standing. (the fact that the object of controversy is religious item is covered below under “over religiousness”).

Sowing doubt about the MET. Teaching let’s call it “beyond the curriculum” is apparently not against the law. He is not required to accept the MET; his students are not required to accept the MET; and he’s not required to require his students to accept the MET. He is only required to teach the basics of the MET to his students, who are required to understand it. There’s no evidence that he’s failed in this regard, and his students apparently do well on standardized tests.

Freshwater’s overt religiousness. So this includes the posters, the personal opinions, the Bible on the desk, the stuff he does at FCA meetings, organizing trips to go see Expelled, etc.. Let’s face it, the guy is really devout; to what extent does he have to cover this up? An unreasonable standard would be for his students to have no idea what Freshwater’s religion is. This is simply not practical and is not demanded of any teacher. When he has transgressed, what with the Biblical quotations in his classroom, he’s made efforts to tone it down upon explicit requests. He even reacted (though argumentatively) when asked about the Bible on his desk. For the most part he doesn’t do anything at FCA meetings, but apparently he “prays all the time”. In other words, there’s no time when he’s not praying. Very importantly, the other teacher who testified is not significantly less overt about his beliefs. Apparently he only toned it down after he attended a non-required sensitivity seminar at the local college. He subsequent “sensitivity” was notably not due to the School’s urging. In other words, to fire him about this now would be arbitrary.

All of the above. As in, he’s not sackable for any one individual offense, but the combination of his behavior warrants his termination. Well, I don’t think it works that way and it’s not particularly fair. The guy has been with the School for a number of years now, and of course he’s made some mistakes. But those mistakes should be measured against his value as a teacher, which apparently is very high: “…literally, the best science teacher…”

Don’t get me wrong, I do think the guy harms children. To me the sowing of doubt re. the MET is more offensive than the branding. But he seems very cognizant of where the legal and professional (if not the moral) lines are, and a.f.a.i.c.t. he hasn’t crossed any of them enough to warrant a firing.

Oh yeah, one more offense:

Teaching Creationism or ID. This is a sackable offense, but not one Freshwater is guilty of. Sowing doubt about evolution is not equivalent to teaching creationism, unless we admit the false dichotomy. In other words he makes the case for Creationism or ID about as strongly as he does for space aliens while neither hiding nor advocating his favored explanation.

Guyefaux- You obviously aren’t following this story. He refused to remove his Bible from his desk. He also added two other religious books to “make a point”. That is insubordination, which is one reason they are firing him. You can’t make an electrical burn on a student if you are a teacher. Period.

If being a totally, demonstrably incompetent science teacher isn’t a sufficient reason for terminating a science teacher, then this is probably a good analysis. After all, it’s not illegal for any teacher to turn out misguided, ignorant, or otherwise terribly educated students. My understanding is, the teachers union itself exists primarily to ensure that the ability to educate is off the table when teacher competence is evaluated.

I agree that Freshwater is a skilled gamesman. He seems to know just how to preach his faith and undermine his profession, year after year, without ever quite violating the exact letter of any particular law or policy. So we have two distinct questions here, with very different answers. The first question is, has Freshwater explicitly committed a fireable offense? And the answer is, well, you can at least make a good case that he has not. The second question is, would any rational educated people want Freshwater teaching science to their children? And the answer to that question is, HELL NO!

So we’re really waiting to see which question this whole long expensive process ends up answering. At the very least, it will powerfully motivate responsible parents to make DAMN sure their kids never learn ignorance from Freshwater when they can learn science from someone competent.

MTV:

You’re right, and yet you’re wrong. These hearings aren’t nearly that black and white. I submit that ultimately, the question isn’t going to be whether Freshwater broke some rule and doing so requires “zero tolerance” automatic firing. Rather, the question will be whether those who get to make such decisions do or do not want Freshwater teaching science in their jurisdiction.

There will be people who’d be glad to see Freshwater imprisoned in solitary confinement for life for what he’s done to so many children. There will be others who regard Freshwater as a sincere missionary for Jesus, who’d support his continuing on the job even if he were caught poisoning atheists and burying them in his back yard!

The real issue here isn’t what Freshwater has been doing all this time. The issue is how those sitting in judgment of his position and behavior relate to it. Recall that in Dover, even after the trial made it clear that the defendents were lying, cheating, and stealing, the creationist school board members lost VERY close elections. Recall that in Kansas, running for state school board on a pro-science platform is regarded as a ticket to failure by the pro-science candidates, who must find some neutral issue (like efficiency, or education level).

In short, this is a political exercise, not a judicial exercise. If “they” believe that Lying For Jesus is one of the best virtues a man can possess, and Freshwater’s accusers’ “love of Jesus” doesn’t seem devout or sincere enough, then he’s their hero.

MTV Wrote:

Guyefaux- You obviously aren’t following this story.

I’ve been following RBH’s recounting of the hearings so I guess you’re right, I’m relying on hearsay.

MTV Wrote:

He refused to remove his Bible from his desk. He also added two other religious books to “make a point”. That is insubordination, which is one reason they are firing him.

The lines aren’t so clear:

RBH Wrote:

…White testified that Freshwater did not promptly comply with the instructions to remove the religious materials, so in mid-April White wrote Freshwater a letter giving him a deadline for the removal. White said that Freshwater asked him if he didn’t comply would that be insubordination. White replied in the affirmative. Sometime during that week Freshwater added a Bible checked out from the middle school library and a book titled “Jesus of Nazareth,” also from the middle school library, to the science table in his room.

White testified that Freshwater left his Bible on his desk at the end of the school year.

So Freshwater found out what exactly what constituted insubordination and made sure to not commit it. His Bible was out of view until the end of the school year. He did display other religious books, but they all belonged to the school. I’m sure in his mind he was just moving the display.

Yes, this is argumentative. But I defend his actions to seek unambiguous and clearly justified guidelines from his superiors. Any employee should have the right to know what does and does not constitutes a job well done, and all employees do have the right to know what they could be fire for.

MTV Wrote:

You can’t make an electrical burn on a student if you are a teacher. Period.

You ignored my defense of this. The stupid use of Tesla coils at this school is implicitly sanctioned. C.f. the other teacher who was not fired for same, and c.f. years of him being not fired for same. And he was never told to stop. To fire him over this is arbitrary.

Flint Wrote:

I submit that ultimately, the question isn’t going to be whether Freshwater broke some rule and doing so requires “zero tolerance” automatic firing. Rather, the question will be whether those who get to make such decisions do or do not want Freshwater teaching science in their jurisdiction.

But Freshwater is golden politically, at least locally. Apparently he’s a very popular teacher, loved and respected by most of his students (and by proxy, their parents). He has a track record of being a very solid teacher.

And fair enough: the law should be there to protect the students despite the student’s opinion of the offender. And IMHO the law here isn’t very toothy.

Faux- RBH wrote in Oct about Freshwaters testimony:

“In the afternoon session Millstone turned to the issue of religious displays in Freshwater’s classroom. After establishing the timeline for their removal (Apr 6-16 2008), Millstone asked about the two books Freshwater checked out of the middle school library and placed on his science table in the classroom. They were a Bible and a book titled “Jesus of Nazareth.” Asked why he had them there, Freshwater responded that since he’d been instructed to keep his own Bible out of sight during class time and he had not done so, he was afraid he’d come into his classroom some morning and find his own Bible gone and wanted the other available since the Bible is his inspiration. He did not recall saying he had them there to “make a point” as the independent investigator’s report alleged.

He recalled the middle school principal telling him that it would be insubordination to fail to comply with the instruction to keep his Bible out of sight during class hours, but then said he didn’t think it was insubordination. “

He kept his Bible on his desk all year long. There are even web sites about it. He never removed it.

MTV Wrote:

He kept his Bible on his desk all year long. There are even web sites about it. He never removed it.

The testimony you cite contradicts this. He kept his Bible out of sight. The Bible actually on display on his desk, as well as the J. of N., were the the school’s library’s, not his.

Splitting hairs? Yes. Argumentative? Yes. Insubordination? Well, technically, no. He got a very clear definition of what would constitute insubordination and he made sure to not commit it.

I don’t know where you are getting your information that he removed his Bible. He kept his Bible on his desk ALL year. How does Mr Freshwaters testimony from October contradict this? He said he didn’t remove his Bible from his desk. RBH- can you clarify?

“The controversy escalated in April when Freshwater went public with his refusal to remove his Bible from his desk, claiming First Amendment rights to free speech.” “He maintains the board’s action is rooted in his refusal to remove a personal Bible from his desk.” This is from the Mount Vernon News http://www.mountvernonnews.com/loca[…]ng-to-resume

If you slap a student and you’re not fired for it, it doesn’t mean you can continue slapping students. Yes, the MV school district has been ball-less and derelict in this case, but it doesn’t give Freshwater free reign. Nor is he absolved because he “got away” with it for so many years.

Freshwater burned a student pure and simple. I don’t care if he taught witchcraft.

He misused his authority as a teacher and should be fired.

Doc Bill Wrote:

Nor is he absolved because he “got away” with it for so many years.

I agree, but lawfully he is absolved. Freshwater’s employers established a precedent of allowing Tesla coils to be misused. If the school fires him for that reason now, they’ll get sued and lose. You can’t change the conditions of somebody’s employment without warning them, it’s as simple as that. And it’s not a case that “he got away with it”: he didn’t hide his actions, and he’s not being tried for assault. Also, you can’t differentially fire people for committing the same acts. C.f. the other teacher, nobody is thinking of firing him for his antics with the Tesla coil way back.

The slapping analogy is good. IANAL, but corporal punishment used to be legal in this country. When it ceased being legal, the old teachers who administered corporal punishment weren’t all fired. Yes, it was wrong when they were slapping students, but legally they were ok. Just following precedent.

Doc Bill Wrote:

Freshwater burned a student pure and simple.

Anything but. He was following his accepted and approved methods. The usual remedy to these types of situations is to change or clarify policy and notify everyone. Not termination.

MTV said:

I don’t know where you are getting your information that he removed his Bible. He kept his Bible on his desk ALL year. How does Mr Freshwaters testimony from October contradict this? He said he didn’t remove his Bible from his desk. RBH- can you clarify?

Yes, please clarify. I concluded that he removed his Bible, since, why borrow the library’s Bible to display if he already has his own Bible on display? Also from the fact that White testified that Freshwater left his Bible on his desk at the end of the year, meaning it wasn’t there beforehand.

I get the sense that the sequence of events was: 1) Overtly religious stuff on display; 2) being told to tone it down; 3) Removing most stuff except the Bible and a couple of other things; 4) being told again, this time explicitly brining up insubordination; 5) removing his Bible and replacing it with the library’s.

I think Freshwater is bitching about (bibleonthedesk.com) 2) and 4), even after having complied technically both times.

Can somebody (RBH) confirm?

GuyeFaux said:

Oh yeah, one more offense:

Teaching Creationism or ID. This is a sackable offense, but not one Freshwater is guilty of. Sowing doubt about evolution is not equivalent to teaching creationism, unless we admit the false dichotomy. In other words he makes the case for Creationism or ID about as strongly as he does for space aliens while neither hiding nor advocating his favored explanation.

Oh, he most certainly did teach creationism. He had handouts printed straight from creationist websites (one on why the giraffe’s long neck couldn’t have evolved), and he offered his class extra-credit if they went to a screening of Expelled.

And “sewing doubts” about evolution, if it’s done because of a religious motivation, is definitely viewed by the courts as the equivalent of teaching creationism. Remember why ID failed in Dover. Even though ID was just creationism lite with all overt religious language removed, it still failed the lemon test because there was no secular justification for teaching it in public schools. The same standard should be applied for Freshwater. What’s the secular justification for (falsely) teaching students that radiometric dating methods are grossly unreliable? There isn’t one. He’s motivated by his religious beliefs to deliberately misinform students.

There is no false dichotomy here. He violated the constitution. He didn’t stick to the established curriculum, but instead tried to undermine valid science and teach creationism at every turn. Burning students just provides an additional reason for dismissal, but Freshwater would be in clear violation of the law based on what he taught to students alone.

Thanks for your efforts, Dick. I have been looking forward to your updates.

Gary

But Freshwater is golden politically, at least locally. Apparently he’s a very popular teacher, loved and respected by most of his students (and by proxy, their parents). He has a track record of being a very solid teacher.

Wrong.

On direct examination Kathy Kasler testified that she had numerous complaints from high school science teachers about the students they were getting from Freshwater’s 8th grade class. Asked about the content of the teachers’ complaints, she listed teaching things not in the standards, having to reteach some material to correct student misconceptions, and hearing comments from students expressing doubt about various scientific concepts like carbon dating and the age of the earth from Freshwater’s students.

Asked whether she got complaints from high school teachers after 2002-2003, she replied that she did, and the complaints had expanded to include Freshwater having students memorize the periodic table (there’s no chemistry in the 8th grade standards), that students commented that they shouldn’t believe everything they hear about evolution, and that science isn’t always accurate. Asked whether she got written complaints from high school teachers, Kasler responded that she did, citing email from Bonnie Schutte, a high school science teacher who teaches 9th grade science

http://pandasthumb.org/archives/200[…]-2.html#more

Doesn’t sound like the track record of a “very solid teacher” to me.

GuyeFaux said:

MTV said:

I don’t know where you are getting your information that he removed his Bible. He kept his Bible on his desk ALL year. How does Mr Freshwaters testimony from October contradict this? He said he didn’t remove his Bible from his desk. RBH- can you clarify?

Yes, please clarify. I concluded that he removed his Bible, since, why borrow the library’s Bible to display if he already has his own Bible on display? Also from the fact that White testified that Freshwater left his Bible on his desk at the end of the year, meaning it wasn’t there beforehand.

I get the sense that the sequence of events was: 1) Overtly religious stuff on display; 2) being told to tone it down; 3) Removing most stuff except the Bible and a couple of other things; 4) being told again, this time explicitly brining up insubordination; 5) removing his Bible and replacing it with the library’s.

I think Freshwater is bitching about (bibleonthedesk.com) 2) and 4), even after having complied technically both times.

Can somebody (RBH) confirm?

Freshwater did not remove his own personal Bible. It remained in his room until the end of the school year. After removing most of the religious material from his room he borrowed two books, a Bible and one titled “Jesus of Nazareth,” from the middle school library and placed them on a lab table near his desk. This was after he had asked Bill White, Principal of the middle school, if not removing his own Bible would be construed as insubordination and having been told that it would.

RBH Wrote:

It [his Bible] remained in his room until the end of the school year.

But was it on prominent display? I though he kept it in or on his desk or something, similar to a couple of other teachers.

H.H. Wrote:

Doesn’t sound like the track record of a “very solid teacher” to me.

I thought his students did quite well on standardized tests. Yes, he was a bit the prick to a bunch of his students, but it seems that most of his students liked him. Hence “politically golden”: politics by popularity. As I said, the law should be there to protect the abused minority despite the offender’s popularity.

GuyeFaux said:

RBH Wrote:

It [his Bible] remained in his room until the end of the school year.

But was it on prominent display? I though he kept it in or on his desk or something, similar to a couple of other teachers.

It stayed on his desk. Apparently sometimes it was covered with papers, sometimes not.

H.H. Wrote:

Doesn’t sound like the track record of a “very solid teacher” to me.

I thought his students did quite well on standardized tests. Yes, he was a bit the prick to a bunch of his students, but it seems that most of his students liked him. Hence “politically golden”: politics by popularity. As I said, the law should be there to protect the abused minority despite the offender’s popularity.

The standardized test taken in the spring of 8th grade covers material from 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Hence Freshwater was responsible for roughly 1/3 of the material covered on the standardized test. There are no data regarding which teachers had Freshwater’s students in 6th and 7th grades, but there are indications that his classes were not random samples from all rising 8th grade students. He had somewhat more students on IEPs – Individual Educational Plans, indicating some academic trouble – than the other 8th grade teachers, and therefore was also assigned disproportionately more high-performing students as well. So it’s a difficult to assign responsibility for the scores of his classes on standardized tests.

I have no doubt that Freshwater is an engaging teacher – I’ve known him for years. I also don’t doubt that he has great difficulty disengaging his religious views from his teaching of subject matter when that subject matter – evolution, the age of the earth, and so on – directly impinges on his young earth creationist beliefs. Having listened to him and having read his proposal and supporting material in 2002-3 when he formally proposed altering the science curriculum, and having read the handouts he has used since then and listened to the testimony of numerous students in the current hearing, I have no doubt that he was distorting and misrepresenting science in the areas that directly impinge on his religious beliefs.

I also think he genuinely believes that science works the way Georgia Purdom implies in the video I posted here, as a procedure for validating prior beliefs rather than as a process for testing those beliefs against evidence.

When someone’s being dogged on, and doesn’t seem to have a case at all, I sometimes feel a pull to speak on the person’s behalf. So on the issue of the accuracy of relative dating techniques, I was gonna speak in support of the guy. Then I got one of those flashes of memory of something I read in a textbook about the difference between precision and accuracy. So I got nothin’.

mharri said:

When someone’s being dogged on, and doesn’t seem to have a case at all, I sometimes feel a pull to speak on the person’s behalf. So on the issue of the accuracy of relative dating techniques, I was gonna speak in support of the guy. Then I got one of those flashes of memory of something I read in a textbook about the difference between precision and accuracy. So I got nothin’.

I actually think (though don’t know) that the student was referring to radiometric dating but screwed it up. There have been other indications that Freshwater believes the standard creationist canards about radiometric dating.

I’m feeling a little slow witted for being uncomfortable with the title of this thread but not being able to put my finger on it or noticing the quotes around “He taught both sides”.

Those of us in the science community are going to have to be careful about letting ID/Creationists set the language for discussion (“He taught both sides? Oh horrors (sarcasm)! Now, just what is wrong with that?”)

We need to be clear that ID/Creationists who engage in this kind of behavior are injecting pseudo-science and serious misconceptions into their classes that will set students up for more difficulties later if these students want to continue to study science.

It is one thing for a teacher to be incompetent and be filled with misconceptions that they inadvertently pass on. But it seems clear in Freshwater’s case that he is knowingly pushing the envelope on how much he can mislead. He has certainly had enough feedback to know he is teaching stuff that is wrong.

He is not “teaching both sides”, he is deliberately misleading students by making pseudo-science seem legitimate. And he is doing it for sectarian reasons.

He is not “teaching both sides”, he is deliberately misleading students by making pseudo-science seem legitimate. And he is doing it for sectarian reasons.

By this reasoning, there are the same “two sides” to any conceivable statement - what exists in reality on one side, and “invisible magical all-powerful indetectable space aliens did it” on the other side.

And as Purdom and others have made clear, you can’t decide between these “sides” on the basis of evidence, because evidence itself is dismissed as an artifact of prior convictions by either side. So how can you decide which “side” is more probably correct? By experience, we know one method that works with satisfactory reliability - present ONLY the desired side to children starting at birth.

GuyeFaux said:

What are the possible outcomes? Are there plausible recommendations between “do nothing” and “fire him”?

To my layman eyes, and despite my opinion of the guy, it doesn’t look like Freshwater’ll get fired. Seems to me he did a couple of things wrong, but none seem to blatantly cross the line. I try to go over them below:

Using a Tesla-coil in a stupid manner. The use of the Tesla coil on students’ skin (ignoring for now the fact that it was clearly a cross; see below) was implicitly approved by the School. C.f. the other science teacher, for instance. So to fire him over this now would be arbitrary. They haven’t told him to cut it out for how many years?

So two wrongs make a right :-) ?

Stuart

The creationist ‘both sides’ argument always reminds me of the Blues Brothers; ‘What kind of music do you play here?’ ‘Why, both kinds, mister - Country AND Western.’

Its been twenty five years since McLean (and twenty eight since the movie!) and creationists still haven’t figured out that there are more than two types of music.

Its been twenty five years since McLean (and twenty eight since the movie!) and creationists still haven’t figured out that there are more than two types of music.

Despite the fact that they’re in a big tent full of musicians playing completely different type of tunes.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on February 27, 2009 3:31 PM.

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