Teacher Dismissed For Pushing Creationism, But Poll Shows 12% Of Science Teachers Do The Same

Interesting post on the Madrigal Maniac site this morning, “Witness Called by the Defense Hurts Freshwater’s Case,” responds to the latest news about the dismissal hearing for a Mt Vernon teacher, John Freshwater. Freshwater is a ninth grade science teacher who, according to the board, insisted on teaching creationism.

The Madrigal Maniac site has two previous articles about this ongoing case, the first posted October 31, 2008 and the other January 5, 2009. On today’s post Mardigal Maniac analyzes the report given in The Columbus Dispatch, “Ex-superintendent: Science teacher should have avoided religion”

Jeff Maley, the retired superintendent, was called by Freshwater’s defense. Maley testified that Freshwater was an effective teacher. But Maley added this: “I believe that John, Mr. Freshwater, has a strong difficulty resolving his philosophical difficulties with the scientific community. I respect that struggle, by the way. He is very fervent about the issue of evolution being incorrect.”

This is an interesting way to frame the question — it’s all about philosophy — Mr. Freshwater, a science teacher, had “philosophical difficulties with the scientific community.” Wow.

Maley’s testimony is amazing. This educational leader appears sympathetic to the fact that a science teacher would fervently deny a major tenet of science. The retired school superintendent seemed to want to show some solidarity with Freshwater by saying, “I respect that struggle.”

Freshwater is only one of many public school science teachers who teach their own views of creation. I was surprised to see a report that research indicates one in eight science teachers, when surveyed, admit to teaching creationism, or intelligent design, as a “valid, scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species.” Amazingly this report also shows that 16% of science teachers who responded to the poll have a personal belief that humans were created by God within the last 10,000 years.

These results come from a polling effort in 2007. The researchers polled a random sample of nearly 2,000 high-school science teachers across the U.S. in 2007 — and 939 teachers responded.

Freshwater got in trouble for more than teaching creationism. He is also accused of burning crosses into the arms of a couple of students. Freshwater claims his marks were not crosses, but X’s. One set of parents are suing Freshwater because of injury to their child.

It looks like the school board will prevail. But, firing Mr. Freshwater has been expensive. In January, the report was that the board had spent over $200,000, so I’m sure the tab will end up much more.

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5 Responses to Teacher Dismissed For Pushing Creationism, But Poll Shows 12% Of Science Teachers Do The Same

  1. Mike,

    Thanks for the shout out. Evidently, Freshwater is not the only teacher promoting religion at Mt. Vernon. More proof that the data from the research report is valid. I posted about it over at MM.

  2. Joe says:

    Science for the most part is funded by government research grants. This is true for the medical, educational, and biological fields. Quite possibly the evolution hypothesis is steered by economic gain. Money has a strange way of corrupting all it touches. A lot of these “scientist and researcher” are very wealthy. I do not advocate the placement of humans on earth within the last 10,000 years but I also do not advocate the “theory” all life on earth started in a some primordial soup billions of years ago. It is a little hard to swallow that “theorist” claim we a closer kin to mushrooms than to sunflowers.

  3. Stan Hirtle says:

    Money corrupts politics and business, as we saw with the mortgage mess, and perhaps science as we saw from the Bush Administration. But that seems a small factor in the evolution debate. Scientists and researchers are not wealthy compared to the AIG executives and hedge fund investors dominating the news, even if some are comparatively affluent compared to factory or office workers and the like. Of course, to some extent science promotes orthodoxy culturally even as it also is open to undermining it intellectually. But anti-evolution people have money these days and haven’t come up with a whole lot. The evolution debate has been more about culture wars between a rising sunbelt culture and a traditional establishment, but that just proves that science isn’t the real issue.

    People really can’t comprehend what could happen over millions of years of change, because we don’t experience it. It’s like trying to figure out those big numbers in the bailout. Millions, billions, trillions. We can’t comprehend them.

    As to whether we are closer kin to mushrooms or sunflowers, I have never heard that, but it sounds like it based on some very distant common ancestors splitting off a very long time ago, one becoming plants, one becoming fungi and one becoming animals. There could be different strands that split off at different times. Is hard to relate to emotionally, and doesn’t mean we have much in common with mushrooms in any meaningful way, other than a reminder that we are part of the living world that sustains us. We might relate more easily to thinking of the common ancestors that became monkeys splitting off earlier than the later common ancestors that split into chimpanzees, but it’s the same argument.

    A theological question that underlies the evolution debate is whether people have a special meaning and role in creation that is different from other life. In theory, an “intelligent design” believer can accept evolution from primordial soup as long as it results from a designing intelligence. Some believe that the Genesis creation accounts must be literally true because otherwise the assaults of modernity on traditional faith result in moral chaos, anarchy and the triumph of evil. These are really issues of faith, not science (Could someone define and test what is intelligently designed and what is not? How would you do it? The classical “finding the watch” argument is suspect because people already know what a watch is and that someone made it. If you find something new and different, or something old like creation that we haven’t seen made, how do you know whether it was intelligently designed?) They should be taught and talked about in schools the way issues of faith and faiths are talked about.

  4. JoeC says:

    Joe, you are mistaken. The majority of scientific research today is funded privately – 2/3rds private, 1/3rd public..

    Also, you’re understanding of theory is at odds with what theory means in science – an assemblege of facts that best explain a phenomena.

    Stan, I have no problem with discussion of evolution vs Creationism Intelligent design, but not in a science classroom. Better in a class dedicated to critical thinking, or on religious belief.

  5. Stan Hirtle says:

    “Stan, I have no problem with discussion of evolution vs Creationism Intelligent design, but not in a science classroom. Better in a class dedicated to critical thinking, or on religious belief.”

    I agree with this. Science classes should be about science and other things are about philosophy, or study of religion. Some schools do that, although I suspect they are mostly in private schools or elite suburbs with college preparatory tracks.

    Someone might try to make a case that “inteligent design” can be defined in a way that makes for testable scientific hypotheses. I am very suspiecious about that, and of course to show that the “intelligent design” that they define corresponds to what we subjectively think of it as meaning might be another step. However it is more likely that these are faith statements and to some extent rotted in disputes for power and prestige between groups of Americans.

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