Freshwater Hearing: Whose Arm? Some Contradictions.

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In my brief post yesterday (just below this post) I described Ben Neilson’s testimony to the effect that the injury shown in newspaper photos was not the mark he saw on Zachary Dennis’ arm when Freshwater used the Tesla coil on both students (in different classes). Today that testimony was contradicted, as an investigator described a very different account given by Ben Neilson to to the investigators in the course of an interview with Ben in the spring of 2008.

In this post I will juxtapose Ben Neilson’s testimony from yesterday, Mar 26, and the cross examination of Julia Herlevi, an employee of HR OnCall, which did the investigation for the Board of Education. Ms. Herlevi was present at the interview of Ben Neilson and took notes during the interview.

Later, sometime over the weekend, I’ll post a description of the rest of the testimony on Thursday and Friday.

Direct Testimony, Mark and Ben Neilson, Thursday, Mar 26

Before calling Ben Neilson, a student in one of Freshwater’s 8th grade science classes in 2007-2008, R. Kelly Hamilton, Freshwater’s attorney, called Mark Neilson, Ben’s father, to testify about Ben’s knowledge, saying that both Mark Neilson and Ben Neilson objected to Ben, a juvenile, testifying in open hearing, and that the Freshwater side was concerned about protecting students’ anonymity in the proceedings. David Millstone objected on the grounds that (1) Freshwater initially opposed a closed hearing and insisted on an open hearing; (2) Freshwater opposed an in camera hearing of the testimony of students, though the Board was willing; and (3) to attempt to introduce testimony by affidavit without the opportunity for cross examination, when the witness is available, is inappropriate. (Note that Zachary Dennis’ anonymity had been breached on the first day of the hearing at the insistence of the Freshwater side, even though a federal court had forbidden disclosure of his identity in federal proceedings. So Hamilton’s objections are merely crocodile tears.)

The hearing referee ruled that testimony about Ben Neilson’s knowledge had to come from Ben Neilson, since there was no issue of witness unavailability. This is the same ruling the referee made with reference to other students who testified earlier, and Hamilton clearly expected it since he had Ben Neilson waiting outside the hearing room ready to testify. Hamilton was merely piously grandstanding for the benefit of the gallery and newspaper reporters present at the hearing, as far as I could tell. The latter haven’t taken the bait.

When the referee made his ruling with Mark Neilson seated in the witness chair but not yet sworn, Neilson ranted for a few minutes about the cost of the hearing and how Freshwater is a good Christian man who is being done a great wrong. Neilson compared Freshwater to Peter and John in Acts 3 and 4, who were arrested by the Sadducees, spent a night in jail, and underwent questioning after healing a cripple and preaching about Jesus. Peter and John were released and went back to their preaching. Neilson ended his rant – and it was a rant in tone of voice and choice of words – by saying “It just has to stop!”

Mark Neilson is an Associate Professor in the department of graduate education at the Mt. Vernon Nazarene University, the source of many teachers in the Mt. Vernon City Schools. It’s an incestuous little town.

The referee calmed Neilson and required Ben Neilson to testify.

The referee did allow Mark Neilson to be sworn to testify to one incident where he had direct knowledge. Neilson testified that one morning at breakfast he was reading a newspaper in which a photo of the injury allegedly on the arm of a student was published. Ben Neilson, his son, saw the photo and exclaimed “That’s not Zach’s arm!” Under cross examination Mark Neilson couldn’t remember what newspaper it was nor when it occurred. In cross examination Neilson said that his son had exclaimed “That’s not Zach’s arm” in the photo, and not that it was “not the mark he had seen on Zach’s arm.” That is, Ben was claiming it wasn’t (a limb of) Zachary in the photo.

Ben Neilson Direct

Then Ben Neilson was sworn. In direct examination Hamilton introduced an affidavit that Ben had sworn before Hamilton. Hamilton first asked if Ben had been interviewed by HR OnCall, the Board’s independent investigators. He was. Hamilton asked if the investigators asked him to take an oath. He said they had not.

(Note - I don’t have a copy of the affidavit, and had just one rapid scan of it. I’ll try to get a copy to confirm exactly what it said. My mentions of what was in it below are based on that fast scan and what was said about its contents in the testimony.)

Moving to the affidavit, Ben testified that he and Zach were in different 8th grade science classes. Ben testified that he had volunteered to be touched with the Tesla coil, and Freshwater moved it from roughly his wrist to near his elbow on the inside of his arm. He had diagrammed the mark it left in the affidavit. The diagram showed a cross shape roughly five inches tall with a slightly slanted cross-piece roughly 3 inches long. He said the mark was pink-ish/red-ish, and did not hurt. Ben said it looked like a cross but due to the slant of the cross-piece could be an X. He said it lasted a day or two.

Ben testified that after his class Zachary and he met in the hall and walked together. They compared marks. Ben testified that Zachary said the only time he felt anything was when he was sweating in his hockey pads.

(Note: The chronology is not clear here. If Ben and Zachary met after Ben’s class the same day Zachary was burned, Zachary would not yet know the hockey pads would exacerbate the mark. If it was later, then they were not burned in different classes the same day. That was not clarified in the hearing that I heard. It may be that they were marked on different days.)

In the affidavit Ben had drawn what he saw on Zachary’s arm. The drawing showed a short vertical line roughly an inch or two tall with no cross-piece. It looks nothing like the photo that was published here and is an exhibit in the hearing.

Ben testified that he thought Zachary’s mark was on his right arm, since they walked side by side with Zachary on his left, and that the mark on Zachary’s arm was on the inner forearm, In his testimony Ben pointed to the “bump” on the side where the ulna meets the wrist shown in the photograph in evidence as meaning that the mark was on the outer arm, in contrast to where he testified he saw Zachary’s mark on the inner forearm. According to other testimony the mark was on Zachary’s right arm, but on the outside of the arm, not the inside.

Ben testified that he didn’t believe the Tesla coil could cause the marks shown in the photographs.

Ben also testified that Freshwater never pushed creationism or intelligent design in class.

With regard to the allegation in the federal complaint by the parents, that Zachary had to be pulled from a field trip after he was moved to Freshwater’s group after Bill White, middle school principal, had leaked Zachary’s identity to Freshwater, (described here, Ben testified that it did not happen, that he and Zachary were originally assigned to a group not led by Freshwater, and there had been no shifting of assignments.

Ben testified that in FCA meetings Freshwater was in the back of the room (regular meetings) or at his desk (leadership meetings), and did not participate. He testified that students made speaker arrangements and led devotions.

With respect to the healing prayer incident, Ben testified that the students gathered around the ill pastor for what they called a “popcorn prayer,” where people gather around someone and each prays as the spirit moves them. Ben said that he himself was the first to pray. He didn’t remember whether Freshwater prayed, and said it was “50/50” if Freshwater ever prayed at FCA.

Ben testified that he goes to the same church as Freshwater (Trinity Assembly of God in Mt. Vernon).

Ben testified that things he learned in Freshwater’s class helped him in 9th grade science rather than having to be retaught.

Finally, under questions Ben testified that he knew the difference between right and wrong, and would say so if Freshwater did something wrong.

Ben Neilson Cross Examination, Thursday March 26

In cross examination David Millstone asked if Ben had told the investigators the truth in his interview with them. He responded, “Yes.”

In cross examination Ben could not remember when he saw the picture in the newspaper and thought it was in either the Mt. Vernon News or the Columbus Dispatch. Asked if it was “quite a while ago,” he said yes. Asked what grade he was in when he saw it, he thought in the 8th grade. (Note that this would put it before Zachary Dennis’ identity was made public, which was not until October 2008.)

There was no re-cross.

Millstone then recalled Mark Neilson, Ben’s father, for cross examination. Millstone asked when the incident about the newspaper photo occurred, and Mark Neilson couldn’t remember. He thought it happened “quite a while after the report.” (The report is dated June 19, 2008. The Board of Education voted to terminate Freshwater on June 20, 2008. The Columbus Dispatch provided a link to the pdf of the report on June 19. Again, Zachary Dennis was not publicly identified until early October 2008, though Principal White had leaked his identity to Freshwater in the spring of 2008 even though Superintendent Short had promised to maintain his anonymity.)

Investigator Julia Herlevi Cross Examination, Friday Mar 27

As I noted above, Julia Herlevi is a co-owner of HR OnCall, which did the investigation. She is also the wife of Tom Herlevi, who was the principal investigator in this case. Herlevi has nearly 30 years of experience in human resources, including over 15 years of management in which she was actively involved in a variety of investigations of allegations of employee wrong-doing.

Herlevi’s raw notes on a number of investigative interviews were introduced into evidence by Kelly Hamilton, Freshwater’s attorney, in his direct examination of Herlevi. David Millstone, introduced into evidence Julia Herlevi’s raw notes from the investigators’ interview of Ben Neilson. The interview was conducted by Tom Herlevi, the principal investigator, in the presence of Ben’s parents. Recall that in his testimony in cross examination described above, Ben said he told the truth to the investigators.

Herlevi testified that her notes said that when asked, Ben said he volunteered to be shocked with the Tesla coil in Freshwater’s class, and that Freshwater made a mark on his arm that lasted a day or two. Asked the shape of the mark, he said “A cross.”

The notes said that Ben told the investigators that the mark on Zachary’s arm looked about the same as the mark on his arm. He told the investigators that Zachary told him his arm hurt. According to the notes, Ben did not tell the investigators that the mark on Zachary’s arm was much smaller than his and was a single line but looked about like his own, which he had described to the investigators (and drew in his affidavit) as a fairly large cross.

Asked what goes on in Freshwater’s class, Herlevi’s notes say that Ben told the investigators that Freshwater “talks about Big Bang theory and the possibility of intelligent design …”, about “hydrosphere theory”, and about “a boat in a flood.” He told the investigators that Freshwater taught the students to say “here” when “something in the book wasn’t scientifically proven” such as “that the earth was formed X number of years ago.”

In his affidavit Ben denied the investigators’ account in those respects.

According to the investigators he told them that he thought Freshwater “sometimes wanted to talk about his beliefs.”

However, in his recent affidavit, Ben denied that Freshwater talked about creationism or intelligent design.

According to the investigator’s notes, in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting where the ‘healing prayer’ occurred, Ben said that Freshwater initiated the prayer, saying “Why don’t we pray for him.” In his affidavit Ben claimed that a student made that suggestion. The former story was confirmed by the investigator’s notes of another interview, in which a school employee named Ruth Frady (I’m not sure of the spelling) told the investigators that Freshwater “facilitated” the prayer by telling the students they could circle the ailing pastor and pray for him. She told the investigators that Freshwater participated in the procedure and said the closing prayer.

Re-direct of Julia Herlevi

In his re-direct Hamilton attempted to show that the investigator’s notes were her subjective impression, not a veridical account of the interview. He pointed to the paucity of quotation marks in the notes as an example. He derided her for taking hand-written notes rather than making an audio recording. He asked “You could have written anything you wanted to, couldn’t you?”

(At one point in direct examination by Hamilton Julia Herlevi had said that both she and her husband took notes in their joint interviews, and their notes corresponded closely.)

Herlevi defended her notes, saying she had nearly 30 years of experience and her notes had never before had their credibility questioned. She asserted they were a close representation of what interviewees actually said.

Under Hamilton’s questioning Herlevi said that interviewees had not had a chance to review her notes and make corrections if necessary.

There was no recross and Herlevi was excused.

Summation by me

It is clear that there are major discrepancies between the story the notes say Ben told the investigators and what he swore to in his affidavit and testimony. There are three hypotheses that could account for those discrepancies:

1. Ben did not tell the truth to the investigators, despite testifying under oath in cross examination that he had told them the truth.

2. Ben did not tell the truth in his affidavit and testimony yesterday, despite being under oath to tell the truth.

3. The investigator’s notes completely misrepresent what Ben told them and they simply fabricated their notes and the account of Ben’s interview in their final report.

Another potentially relevant bit of information in this connection is that after the session in which Ben testified, Mark Neilson took me aside outside the hearing room and attempted – unsuccessfully! – to evangelize me. He was pretty insistent and basically preached to me for several minutes. He first inquired somewhat aggressively why I “set up a web site” in opposition to Freshwater, apparently referring to the Panda’s Thumb. Then he moved to preaching to me. I left after several minutes, having got in a question (unanswered) about God’s love for the 16,000 Midianite virgins turned over to the Israelite army. But it was very clear that Mark Neilson is a hard-core Freshwater supporter and believes that Freshwater, a “good Christian man,” has been seriously wronged (recall the comparison with Peter and John in Acts in his rant to the hearing referee). This is the first time in 16 days of the hearing that someone has attempted to evangelize me.

Of the three hypotheses, my vote is for #2. It’s clear that Ben’s father holds very strong views on this subject (witness his rant and his evangelizing of me), and that Ben’s interview with the investigators is a significant part of the case made for termination. It corroborated allegations of burning crosses on students’ arms; it corroborated allegations that Freshwater was teaching religion-based creationism; it corroborated allegations that Freshwater was undermining students’ acceptance of the best science; and it corroborated allegations that Freshwater took an active role in FCA religious exercises during meetings.

Hamilton attempted to establish the credibility of hypothesis 3. If the investigators’ version of the interview with Ben could be impeached then Hypotheses 1 and 2 go away, and Hypothesis 3 accounts for the discrepancies. This is part of Hamilton’s general strategy, to argue that the whole matter is aimed at getting rid of Freshwater and that the Board of Education, their law firm, and the investigators are engaged in a massive conspiracy to sacrifice this good Christian man.

I don’t believe it. There is too much corroborating testimony by too many different people, some of them Freshwater’s supporters, to be attributed to a conspiracy. I think Ben did not tell the truth in one or the other instance, and I think it was in his affidavit and testimony yesterday, Hypothesis 2. I think it occurred under enormous pressure, possibly unwitting but possibly not, from his father and other co-religionists.

Ben attends Freshwater’s church. [Added in edit 3/28: This may not be the case; see my comment below.] He is encapsulated in a familial, social, and religious context where the account he gave to the investigators is in serious conflict with that context’s mythology about how a good Christian man, John Freshwater, is being unjustly persecuted by a cabal of – well, of someone. That was the main message of his father’s rant about Peter and John in Acts. That’s a very tough position for an adolescent, and I think under the pressure of that conflict Ben has changed his story, contradicting the true account he gave the investigators last spring before the pressure was on, in order to make it consistent with the mythology surrounding him in his home and church. Moreover, knowing something about the malleability of human memory, it would not amaze me if Ben now actually believes that his most recent story is the true one. That is, he may not be consciously lying.

I further believe that when this is over the district is going to have to do some serious administrator training, teacher professional development, and even maybe some housecleaning in the middle school. Given Lori Miller’s testimony Wednesday about her evangelizing in the school and the current prevalence of religious displays in the middle school, it sounds more like a parochial school than a public school. It’s not just Freshwater who is a problem there.

In former Director of Teaching and Learning Linda Weston’s testimony on Thursday (not yet described here on PT), she mentioned that the district offered teachers a voluntary professional development session on religion in public schools in the fall of 2003 after Freshwater’s proposal to the Board of Education was rejected. Freshwater did not choose to attend. It’s about time all of the proselytizing and preaching and praying teachers in that district learn the meaning of the First Amendment Establishment Clause.

33 Comments

He derided her for taking hand-written notes rather than making an audio recording. He asked “You could have written anything you wanted to, couldn’t you?”

Unbelievable. Her notes aren’t reliable, but the Neilsons’ memories of a private breakfast conversation–which might be a year ago, and might be seven or months less, they can’t even agree on that–are?

Hamilton must be planning for a loss. All this, I guess, is intended just to get Freshwater as much martyrdom cred as possible within his religious community, and to embitter it against the school administration for terminating him. The fact that it’s just making Freshwater look worse and worse to us infidels (and to the justice system) is irrelevant; we’re not the audience he cares about.

Richard B. Hoppe Wrote:

It’s clear that Ben’s father holds very strong views on this subject (witness his rant and his evangelizing of me), and that Ben’s interview with the investigators is a significant part of the case made for termination.

In that evangelizing, did he warn you what would happen to you if you didn’t obey the Nine Commandments? ;-)

“…Mt. Vernon Nazarene University, the source of many teachers in the Mt. Vernon City Schools. It’s an incestuous little town.”

Do we know if this university is accredited? Do we know if they teach evolution in the Biology Department” Do we know who teaches Biology there?

Incestuous indeed.

This will tell you everything you need to know about Mt. Vernon Nazarene University:

http://mvnu.edu/about/stand.asp

This hearing is getting into the ridiculous stage. The churches that support this clown Freshwater should be sued to get some of the money back this is costing.

Here’s what’s up in the Mt. Vernon Nazarene U. Biology department:

http://www.mvnu.edu/catalog/natsocs[…]partment.pdf

You’ll find the word “creation”.

You will not find the word “evolution”.

jfx said:

This will tell you everything you need to know about Mt. Vernon Nazarene University:

http://mvnu.edu/about/stand.asp

I only skimmed the site, but among the Biology courses I saw nothing about evolution, and a few things about a “Christian perspective.” Given “Voices for Evolution” and the “Clergy Letter Project” I have to assume that they do teach evolution, without the misrepresentations that are peddled as “strengths and weaknesses.” Either that or they’re deceiving themselves - if not outright lying - as to what constitutes a “Christian perspective.”

Thanks jfx.

Now I wonder how a Biology program in a “university” could get accredited without having evolution in the curriculum? And I wonder how anyone could get a job in a public school without a degree from an accredited institution? There is something rotten in Denmark and it’a not just fish.

I thought Nazarenes were officially OK with evolution. Am I missing something here, or is this just the old “don’t ask don’t tell” routine in operation again?

I had a close look through the prospectus. It appears to be an attempt to graduate teachers with a nominal science degree with some biology, who have never heard of the Theory of Evolution.

It appears to be succeeding.

They appear to be accredited with the North Central Association, but their biology information looks like a vacation flier, “come to Jamaica mon!”

I have to agree that option two seems most likely. The kid, under the pressure (whether overt or not), has come to believe that the newspaper conversation took place, that Ben’s arm was flipped, that Freshwater never did any of the things even he said Freshwater did previously. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if dad and family prayed for Freshwater quite regularly which would, again, drive home the “persecuted Christian” fairytale.

Dr. Georgia Purdom was a professor of biology at Mt. Vernon for six years if that tells ya anything.

http://www.answersingenesis.org/hom[…]g_purdom.asp

All the Nazarenes I know are fundamentalist creationists, by the way. The snake in the garden six day literal creation, God had to kill people back in the old testament because he had to deal with them more harshly back then, literal flood, blah blah, etc., type variety creationist.

Almost forgot, I wanted to comment on Richard’s assessment of the school district:

“I further believe that when this is over the district is going to have to do some serious administrator training, teacher professional development, and even maybe some housecleaning in the middle school.”

As someone who is certified both as an educator and an administrator, I have to agree completely. From what I’ve read here, teachers at the middle school have openly gone so far over the line that it is unbelievable that they haven’t been sued a dozen times over. The problem is, and this is a facet of local control, this town seems like a place where they have Christians, conservative Christians, and “Fire and Brimstone” Christians. Any agnostics or atheists that might live there are likely further in the closet than a gay man at a gay bashers convention. That likely means that the board is (generally speaking) a reflection of that population. Scary thing is, statistically speaking it is more likely to be a conservative reflection of that community. The superintendent and administrators, if they don’t agree with the board, are almost guaranteed to shut the hell up to keep their jobs. I don’t know about Ohio, but in many areas administrators can be released from their contracts for just about any reason, in some they sign annual contracts, if they aren’t given a contract, they don’t have a job … the end.

Now, from what I’ve read here, it appears that the administrator at the high school already had a proper attitude towards legal limitations on preaching in school and an equally proper attitude towards good pedagogy and teaching the standards. The new administrator at the middle school seems to, at least, be following through with investigations, etc., but he may be doing so reluctantly and I believe he is the guy who leaked Zach’s name to Freshwater, so I think the jury is still out on that guy.

Ultimately the board is going to have to want to institute change. If the SI is at all intelligent and they have good legal counsel, they’re going to do so. From that point they need to implement mandatory administrator training. At the high school and other schools an in-service/training about the state of the law, and at the middle school a serious mandatory training session explaining the legal limitations. The middle school is going to be the major problem, but it might only be the tip of the iceberg. At the elementary school you aren’t likely to have complaints because the kids don’t know any better. At the high school you could still have a problem even with an apparently savvy administrator because the community seems to generally support “preachin’ and teachin’.”

I’ve been informed that I may be wrong about Ben attending Freshwater’s church. Ben testified that he had prayed with Freshwater, and I thought he said ‘at our church.’ The Neilson family, I am told now, at least used to be members of a local Nazarene church. So I may be wrong about their current church membership.

Thanks dogmeatib.

Now why would the North Central Association give accreditation to a Biology program lacking evolution entirely? It is requred by all accreditation agencies that I am aware of and strongly encouraged as an integral part of every Biology curriculum. Is this agency legit, or is it just a puppet organization for creationism? Either way, something is still fishy here.

386sx said:

Dr. Georgia Purdom was a professor of biology at Mt. Vernon for six years if that tells ya anything.

http://www.answersingenesis.org/hom[…]g_purdom.asp

All the Nazarenes I know are fundamentalist creationists, by the way. The snake in the garden six day literal creation, God had to kill people back in the old testament because he had to deal with them more harshly back then, literal flood, blah blah, etc., type variety creationist.

The Nazarenes I know range from young-earth creationists to something close to theistic evolutionists, or rather evolutionary creationists, as they seem to prefer being termed. The denomination is not officially hard-core young-earth creationist, but the broad membership is probably mostly YEC and the Naz colleges and universities depend on that membership for funding. Recall that Rick Colling, a Nazarene through and through, is currently prohibited from teaching intro biology at Olivet Nazarene University because he wrote a book that dared to suggest that it was possible to accept both the Bible and evolution. The main reason is pressure from the outside, from the churches that fund the college. See the summary here. Physicist Karl Giberson, who has also written on the relation between science and evolution and Christianity, is also a Nazarene and is at a Nazarene university. I haven’t yet read his most recent 2008 book, Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution. Purdom, of course, is hard-core YEC.

Sheesh!

All I can say is, when articles about this came out, and my neighbor will confirm this, I pointed at the photo of Ben and yelled “THAT’S NOT MARK NEILSON’S CHILD!”

It makes me want to re-read the books about Dover - Devil in Dover and Monkey Girl in particular - with an eye toward figuring out how many parents used their kids as footsoldiers in the war for establishing fundie protestant evangelical full-Gospel-minus-the-Beatitudes state religion.

Thanks for the writeup, Richard.

What I find really sad about this situation (in addition to all the obvious stuff) is that, from what students and ex-students say, Freshwater is a really popular teacher who makes real connections with his students and seems to love working with them. It’s just sad to see that kind of talent, which by some reports is really lacking with teachers today, and have it wasted and/or corrupted by overt religious proslytizing. If the guy would drop all the religious mumbo-jumbo, he’d probably be the perfect teacher.

I feel bad for the kids who are going to miss out on having (seemingly) an otherwise great teacher… all because of religion.

RBH Wrote:

The Nazarenes I know range from young-earth creationists to something close to theistic evolutionists, or rather evolutionary creationists, as they seem to prefer being termed. The denomination is not officially hard-core young-earth creationist, but the broad membership is probably mostly YEC and the Naz colleges and universities depend on that membership for funding.

Without accusing any individual in particular (which I could only do if I could read minds), I have to wonder if some of them are faking their belief of YEC just for the funding, or at least to keep the “masses” from behaving as if all were permitted.

In the linked article, Ronald Bailey wrote:

Thus, following the lead of Strauss and Kristol, those who support the attacks on evolutionary biology may be reasonably suspected of practicing a high-minded hypocrisy. They want to bolster popular morality and preserve social order. Attacking Darwin helps to sustain what Plato regarded as a “Noble Lie”– in this case preserving the faith of the common people in Genesis, and thus the social order.

Dan Gilbert said:

Thanks for the writeup, Richard.

What I find really sad about this situation (in addition to all the obvious stuff) is that, from what students and ex-students say, Freshwater is a really popular teacher who makes real connections with his students and seems to love working with them. It’s just sad to see that kind of talent, which by some reports is really lacking with teachers today, and have it wasted and/or corrupted by overt religious proslytizing. If the guy would drop all the religious mumbo-jumbo, he’d probably be the perfect teacher.

I feel bad for the kids who are going to miss out on having (seemingly) an otherwise great teacher… all because of religion.

That’s exactly my feeling. The Greeks with their tragic flaws knew what they were talking about. And just the other day a spectator who is relatively neutral made the same observation.

In that evangelizing, did he warn you what would happen to you if you didn’t obey the Nine Commandments? ;-)

You mean the Eight Commandments. They can be also be violent and occasionally murderous.

All I know about the Nazarenes is from reading. It doesn’t seem to be a very common sect on the WC.

The impression is that the denomination like many is split on YEC versus modern science and there may be a power struggle going on. Some Nazarene colleges used to teach evolution although after the Dr. Richard Colling persecution they may no longer do so.

This happened within the Xian Reformed church years ago. The modern science people eventually won out with no increase in demon traffic, spontaneous human combustion, or live sacrifices of puppies and kittens to the dark forces. There might have been a schism or two but this sect has split so many times that it is impossible to keep track of the splinters.

Freshwater has no business teaching in the public schools. But he doesn’t have to. There are xian private schools every where and he would be a square peg in a square hole. He could teach hard core YECism, blame the Holocaust on Planned Parenthood and Darwin, and talk about how UFOs exist and are piloted by demons from hell. Everybody wins.

FWIW, the UFO’s with demon pilots is a very old and very common, popular fundie belief. I’m sure there is as much evidence for that as there is for a 6,000 year old earth and a boatload of dinosaurs drifting over a flooded Palestine.

raven Wrote:

The impression is that the denomination like many is split on YEC versus modern science and there may be a power struggle going on.

If so there’s probably a lot of OEC and “don’t ask, don’t tell” between those groups. As for the Commandments, some of them obey might not obey any. But as you know, the whole purpose of being a radical authoritarian fundamentalist is to obsess about how others behave anyway, especially in matters related to reproduction. On that note, I’ll check out the new thread about McLeroy. If “Judgment Day” is anything like Christians claim, he’ll have a lot of ‘splainin to do.

DS said:

Thanks dogmeatib.

Now why would the North Central Association give accreditation to a Biology program lacking evolution entirely? It is requred by all accreditation agencies that I am aware of and strongly encouraged as an integral part of every Biology curriculum. Is this agency legit, or is it just a puppet organization for creationism? Either way, something is still fishy here.

I was thinking the same thing, unfortunately from their website I can’t determine what the heck they teach. We just went through our recertification, I was on the committee and saw the pre-observational product of our work, I have a hard time seeing them make it through the process with smoke and mirrors.

Dan Gilbert said:

Thanks for the writeup, Richard.

What I find really sad about this situation (in addition to all the obvious stuff) is that, from what students and ex-students say, Freshwater is a really popular teacher who makes real connections with his students and seems to love working with them. It’s just sad to see that kind of talent, which by some reports is really lacking with teachers today, and have it wasted and/or corrupted by overt religious proslytizing. If the guy would drop all the religious mumbo-jumbo, he’d probably be the perfect teacher.

I feel bad for the kids who are going to miss out on having (seemingly) an otherwise great teacher… all because of religion.

Dan (if you don’t mind),

I’ve seen this in my career as a teacher. You’ll have some fantastic teachers, real connections with the students, promote learning, motivational, they really care. Unfortunately if you put them in the wrong context, their personal faith and feelings suppress the better aspects of their personality and they can’t seem to leave their personal beliefs out of the classroom. In Freshwater’s case, he might be a great teacher (I take that with a grain of salt), but he was unable to keep his own personal religious beliefs out of his teaching. His faith would be a strength in his church, a Christian school, in many other facets of his life, but when working with kids in a public school, a captive audience, you have no right to push your beliefs onto those kids.

I am hesitant to accept the test scores and the comments of his former students as evidence that he is a phenomenal teacher. First, most state standardized tests measure the minimum standards and basically label the students as not meeting, meeting, or exceeding those standards. Depending on how the test is devised, exceeding might not be that difficult, also he might not have taught them good scientific skills, but instead helped them with skills to be successful on the test. Students will often like or rave about a teacher based on nothing to do with their ability as an educator. I’ve known of teachers who were “cool” because they almost never assigned homework, or because they spoon fed the kids notes for a week or two, then gave them the test with notes. I knew one teacher was very popular because on Mondays he would talk to the students about what happened over the weekend, football games, baseball, basketball, parties, etc. Just so you know, none of these teachers are still in the profession, but in all three cases, when they left, the outcry was “what will we do without them?!?!” Within a semester or so the mumbles shifted to “what the hell did they do all day?”

I’m not saying he did any of these things and I’m not saying that the test scores aren’t indicative of a phenomenal teacher, but I’m skeptical.

I prayed for inspiration, and this is what I received:

It’s well known the evilutionists are also grave robbers - look at burke and hare and look at frankenstein, for just 2 well-known examples.

That was not a living arm!

How much evolutionary biology do we need to operate a torch and a pitchfork?

You can pay for college but you can’t buy class!

Regarding the question as to what church Nielson attends, he does not attend Freshwater’s church, but instead goes to Lakeholm Church of the Nazarene. Nielson had the Tesla coil used on him the day after Dennis did.

See article “Second Student Tells of Seeing Accuser’s Arm without Burn.”

Students will often like or rave about a teacher based on nothing to do with their ability as an educator.

That is true. Students often have an us (teen agers) against them (adults) mentality. This is the normal human adolescent condition.

They are able to like teachers that seem to be on “their side.”

We had a high school teacher, newly hired out of college that was 21, athletic, and good looking. This made him popular with the jocks. He also impressed the girls by being slightly older, cute, employed, and asking them out on dates.

Oops. That last got him fired. Not sure exactly what happened, probably some parents complained, but he disappeared and quite suddenly.

I just wanted to second the opinions here that “popular” doesn’t equal “good” for classroom instruction. Sometimes teachers are popular for the same reasons that jocks and cheerleaders are popular, and I’m not talking about good looks. One easy way to gain popularity is by ridiculing the same kids who are already unpopular. My 4th grade science teacher was a joke. Being the well-read and extremely precocious natural-sciences geek that I was, I found myself compelled to correct the teacher’s information quite frequently that year. I was met with mockery, derision and scorn, and he encouraged other students to join in the fun. On good days he simply sent me out of the room to wait in the hallway until my next class. Funny, I was consistently a teacher favorite in almost every other class from K-12.

I would posit that anti-intellectualism always score points with the majority of students.

Dan Gilbert said:

Thanks for the writeup, Richard.

What I find really sad about this situation (in addition to all the obvious stuff) is that, from what students and ex-students say, Freshwater is a really popular teacher who makes real connections with his students and seems to love working with them. It’s just sad to see that kind of talent, which by some reports is really lacking with teachers today, and have it wasted and/or corrupted by overt religious proslytizing. If the guy would drop all the religious mumbo-jumbo, he’d probably be the perfect teacher.

I feel bad for the kids who are going to miss out on having (seemingly) an otherwise great teacher… all because of religion.

But I think the point is if Freshwater is proslytizing he cannot be a good teacher. Regardless of his ability to engage his students he is teaching them christianity information that in itself makes Freshwater a bad teacher. Not to mention branding crosses into children is nothing I would think belongs on a good teacher’s CV. What is sad about this situation is it took too long to be handled and all his students up to this point have had a faulty science education. Freshwater should have been canned years ago because they knew he was teaching religiously laced information that was never on the curriculum. Who cares if a few fundy kids think he is great? What about the agnostically, Jewish, Muslim, or hell Catholic raised children who have to keep their mouths shut about things in class as children shout here about “unproven” scientific theories such as the big bang theory? If you could find one or two that are willing to admit their lack of YEC beliefs I somehow doubt they would have the same opinion of Freshwater.

mountvernon1805 said:

Regarding the question as to what church Nielson attends, he does not attend Freshwater’s church, but instead goes to Lakeholm Church of the Nazarene. Nielson had the Tesla coil used on him the day after Dennis did.

See article “Second Student Tells of Seeing Accuser’s Arm without Burn.”

Thanks!

Sarah said: But I think the point is if Freshwater is proslytizing he cannot be a good teacher.

I think what people here have been saying is something like: Freshwater is good at imparting information to students. He’s made some very poor choices about what information to impart, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t an engaging speaker. Delivery good, but content bad.

Sometimes teachers are popular for the same reasons that jocks and cheerleaders are popular, and I’m not talking about good looks. One easy way to gain popularity is by ridiculing the same kids who are already unpopular.

Zapping a special ed kid on the butt, for instance?

Anton Mates said:

Sometimes teachers are popular for the same reasons that jocks and cheerleaders are popular, and I’m not talking about good looks. One easy way to gain popularity is by ridiculing the same kids who are already unpopular.

Zapping a special ed kid on the butt, for instance?

Exactly, but that’s only among the most egregious examples. Teachers are in a position to mete out unbelievable amounts of subtle psychological harm. Fortunately, it isn’t at all common for teachers to do so. I hope!

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on March 28, 2009 12:57 AM.

Freshwater Day 16: Whose Arm? was the previous entry in this blog.

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