Chicago Creationist Science Teacher Keeps Job

For days, despite input from several operatives, we’ve neglected writing about a well-reported story in Chicago. It concerns a science teacher, Beau Schaefer, accused of teaching creationism at Libertyville High School.

Why did we neglect the story? Because it’s just one teacher at one school, and we didn’t regard it as a big deal. We usually wait until such things erupt into litigation. But today the papers are all screaming the story, so we can no longer resist. Besides, we don’t like the way events are unfolding.

In the Chicago Tribune we read Science teacher who taught creationism won’t be expelled from Libertyville HS. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

A north suburban school district will not fire a teacher who taught creationist beliefs about the origin of life in science classes, the superintendent said at a public meeting Tuesday night.

But people on both sides of the argument spoke passionately against and for its instruction at public schools at the Community High School District 128 board meeting in Vernon Hills High School.

Let’s step back for a second to see if we understand the situation. There are three facts that we’ve extracted: (1) the school district has a science teacher named Beau Schaefer; (2) the district knows that Beau taught creationism in science class; and (3) they’re not going to fire the guy.

What’s wrong with this picture? Plenty, and now you know why we decided to write about this one-teacher in one-school story. Let’s read on:

The father of a 15-year-old student of [Beau] Schaefer’s said he attended the meeting with his daughter because, as a Christian, he supports Schaefer’s [creationist] teachings. “I feel like evolution is more or less the dominant religion in education these days,” said Greg Krause, 40, of Grayslake. “It was very general what he said in class. We could just as easily be offended by my daughter only being taught evolution.”

The problem, dear reader, is that a big city like Chicago isn’t immune from the madness of creationism. There’s nowhere to hide. One last excerpt:

Superintendent Prentiss Lea said the school board is not going to take action on the teacher’s employment, because the issue has been resolved. “Regardless of our professional or personal opinions, in this area, there is no gray area,” Lea said. “The teacher in question is a longstanding D128 instructor. We will not be recommending his termination as this is remediable behavior.

We disagree with the superintendent. The teacher’s behavior is definitely not “remediable.” In your Curmudgeon’s humble opinion, adult creationism is almost always incurable. The disorder isn’t totally hopeless, however. There are adult creationists who have been known to abandon creationism after being exposed to scientific information — but such instances are rare. Adult cures require two things: (a) the creationist must be a rational individual, who (b) has somehow grown to adulthood without ever encountering the sane side of the evolution controversy. Given those conditions, people can change their minds.

In this Chicago case, however, we’re dealing with someone who doesn’t meet either of those requirements. Beau is a science teacher. That means he already has the information that supports evolution, yet he persists in being a creationist. It’s clear — at least to us — that there is no remedy here. Beau is not going to change.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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44 responses to “Chicago Creationist Science Teacher Keeps Job

  1. [Quote from resident] “We could just as easily be offended by my daughter only being taught evolution.”

    Hate to burst your bubble Greg, but its not about whether what he said was offensive. Its about whether what he said promotes (a) religious belief. And anyway, if your child is offended by something taught in science class, you’re going to have to take that up with mother nature.

    [SC] We disagree with the superintendent. The teacher’s behavior is definitely not “remediable.” In your Curmudgeon’s humble opinion, adult creationism is almost always incurable.

    I think you are probably right. However, were I a parent in the district, I’d probably be okay with a lesser disciplinary action combined with a “last warning – next time we fire you” message. Because, as you say, its almost 100% likely to happen again. OTOH if it doesn’t let him keep teaching. If a teacher can be creationist but not teach creationist, by all means let them keep their job.

  2. And what about those of us who want our children (OK, in my case it’s granchildren and great grandchildren) to learn SCIENCE in a SCIENCE class? Many of us are Theists, you know. And why, someone please tell me, does any Christian want a stranger to teach her child about religion?

  3. A creationist teaching evolution is like a Shaker teaching sex ed class.

  4. Per the article, Schaefer was honest with the district when questioned, and since he is not being fired (and the district has a “no gray area” policy on this issue) he apparently agreed to change the way he taught that subject. I imagine the district will monitor him rather closely for at least some period of time.

    Unfortunately, evolution is only a small part of a typical high school biology class anyway. Schaefer will just have to bite his tongue for maybe a week or two. I like the outcome because (1) the administration said there is no gray area on this subject, (2) everyone understood that teaching creationism was religion…there was no argument on that score, and (3) not firing him deprived the DI of another “expelled” example.

    Do we know what, exactly, his version of creationism was? Was he a YEC teaching the goofball AiG/ICR version, or was he a pseudoscientific “pretend it’s not about god” DI acolyte?

  5. I think a creationist science teacher should be required to do 30 days of community service, successfully, before being allowed to return to the classroom.

    Community service, you say?

    Sort of. I would require the teacher to spend 30 days on a special thread at the Panda’s Thumb forum presenting and defending creationism with the denizens of that sordid place. Honest denizens, though, and if a valid creationist argument could be presented, which, face it, is impossible, then we would congratulate the teacher and pack our bags for Stockholm.

    It’s one thing to present creationist lies to children and it’s quite another to duel with actual scientists. A thirty-day thrashing should be enough punishment for both of us!

  6. I go away for a few weeks, and nothing has changed – I thought you would have solve this “controversy” thing by now. ;-)

    Longshadow: A creationist teaching evolution is like a Shaker teaching sex ed class.

    I thought you were supposed to shake her! {*drum-rif* *cymbals-crash*}

  7. Tomato Addict says:

    I thought you would have solve this “controversy” thing by now

    Oh yes, that’s all over. I’m moving on to bigger things. War on Canada!

  8. The problem, dear reader, is that a big city like Chicago isn’t immune from the madness of creationism.

    This isn’t exactly Chicago. It’s one of the far north suburbs, which can get a little fundie. It’s closer to Kenosha, WI than it is to Chicago proper.

  9. Ed: “…he apparently agreed to change the way he taught that subject.”

    That’s what I’m afraid of. He could certainly “teach” it while undermining it through his approach, his tone, and his comments. What if he presents it like Ms. Garrison did in South Park: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2QO3c9JL1A

  10. @ Reinard | 23-March-2011 at 4:46 pm |

    SC said: The problem, dear reader, is that a big city like Chicago isn’t immune from the madness of creationism.

    Reinard replied: This isn’t exactly Chicago. It’s one of the far north suburbs, which can get a little fundie. It’s closer to Kenosha, WI than it is to Chicago proper.

    Ummm, no. If you want rather fundie you need to go far south or far west into rural Illinois. Kenosha Wisconsin is a manufacturing blue collar town in a state with an education system that puts out factory workers.
    Libertyville is a mostly white collar town and highly affluent, not some back woods rural genetic dead end like Hebron Illinois.
    It’s my hometown, I should know.

  11. I am a newly certified biology and physical science teacher in Oklahoma. I may be leaving for a tiny reservation school in Montana. One thing I have found is this: In a lot of tiny rural schools, with crushing poverty, drug (mainly meth) addiction, teen pregnancy and violence…..this is not a problem. Teachers do not have the luxury of injecting their particular brand of religious garbage into science.

    We are lucky if we can just get basic material to stick, much less GODDIDIT or any other such Ooogity Booogity.

    (Pastafarianism is just so hard to get to the kids these days, you know?)

  12. Gabriel Hanna

    Illinois being a state where firing a teacher for any reason requires years of process and lawsuits, what other outcome did anyone expect?

  13. Gabriel, keep beating that old false “union teachers are impossible to fire” drum.

    Someone might believe it. Not where there are people with functional brains….but someone might.

    Teachers are supposed to get due process. Here in Okieland, we no longer have that right. The profession has become too hostile here, so my wife, myself, and many others are getting out of Dodge.

    As a matter of fact, under the new rules, I could have a principal or superintendent ask me to soft pedal evolution, or teach the barest minimum to pass the state exams, and if I refused, I could be fired for insubordination.

    On that superintendents recommendation to the school board, with no due process of my own.

  14. @ Gabriel and Bryan: Take my Scott Walker, please!

  15. Dude, we have Mary Fallin. All of the crazy of Scott Walker, none of the protesters.

  16. Gabriel Hanna

    @Tomato addict: My Scott Walker too, I live about hour northwest of Eau Claire.

    @Bryan Trim: Nice straw man you got there, pity something happened to it. Union teachers are not IMPOSSIBLE to fire, no one said so. It takes years of process and lawsuits. Exhibit A, covered extensively here, John Freshwater. Exhibit B, New York City’s rubber rooms, in which teachers were paid full time salaries for years even when they had, for instance, sexaully harrassed students.

    This kind of process does not exist in the private sector.

  17. So you have no recourse in the private sector if you are accused of something against company policy? Odd, considering there is a whole branch of law devoted to it.

  18. Gabriel Hanna

    @Bryan Trim:So you have no recourse in the private sector if you are accused of something against company policy?

    Nobody said that either. Do you have a teacher to thank for your reading comprehension?

  19. “This kind of process does not exist in the private sector.”

    You cited extremes, and then tried to use them to prove as a rule to the whole. Bad science.

    I simply pointed out that the private sector has it’s own form of due process…so why don’t you have a warm cup of STFU?

    Does that fit in your reading comprehension level, or do I need to bring it down a bit more?

  20. Gabriel Hanna

    @Bryan: in the private sector, employees do not have years of process and lawsuits as the DEFAULT. I never said they have NO process.

    Most private employment is at-will. Do you dispute that? If not, then why talk about means vs extremes? New York City’s rubber rooms were the DEFAULT for a huge school system.

  21. For ONE school system. Just because it is large does not mean it is the norm. Do you know what we have out here in Oklahoma? We are a “Right to Work” state. Our teacher’s union is neutered, tame, and complicit.

    We have teachers at rural schools openly teaching creationism, and then are shocked by the fact that their school’s standardized test scores are in the toilet.

    Then again, they do not really even begin teaching science until high school….

    The GOP supermajority government here got rid of one of our few protections, which is Trial De Novo. That meant if a teacher was to be fired, they got to go before a district court judge, presumably an impartial outside person.

    Schools here excel at making teachers quit rather than firing them though.

    But then again, it only matters if it is on a coast, right?

  22. Calm down, Bryan. We’re all grown-ups here.

  23. Sorry. Considering my new profession is constantly under attack I get a little touchy.

    People often point to big mega systems like New York, Chicago, or LA as indicative of all school districts.

    I left the comfortable and good paying field of medical laboratory science to teach high school biology, in a RURAL area, simply for the reason that rural kids are being preyed upon by teachers like this one in Chicago. He is violating a FEDERAL statute. Someone must have motives for keeping him.

    Beauty may be skin deep, but adult creationism is to the bone.

  24. Gabriel Hanna

    @Bryan: That meant if a teacher was to be fired, they got to go before a district court judge, presumably an impartial outside person.

    Uh huh. What private sector employees got this KIND of process as the default? None. A private sector employee normally gets FIRED, and can THEN sue, and then MAYBE see a district court judge.

  25. Gabriel Hanna

    @Bryan:Considering my new profession is constantly under attack I get a little touchy.

    I am also a teacher of sorts, at the university level. Faculty have the same kinds of benefits and protections some teachers enjoy, but adjuncts, who do most of the teaching, do not have any of them, and can be removed for any reason or none. Few universities can afford to extend gold-plated jobs to more than a few people, you see.

  26. Show me a private sector job that has the unique risks inherent to teaching public school….

    We have to deal with parents who refuse to take any responsibility for their child’s education, we have students who make sexual harassment allegations for amusement, threats of violence from parents AND students….On top of that, communities who see us as lazy, over educated, over paid unionized liberals simply because THEY did not make the sacrifices to attend college.

    Teachers need to have someone OUTSIDE the system to hear these cases.

  27. I chose to become a teacher for two reasons. To fight creationism on the front lines, and have a relatively secure job after leaving the military. As a disabled Iraq veteran, I only have so many options anyway.

  28. Bryan Trim says: “Beauty may be skin deep, but adult creationism is to the bone.”

    Amen, bro.

  29. Gabriel Hanna

    @Bryan: People who work in the private sector also have to deal with unreasonable, violent people unwilling to take responsibility for anything that goes wrong–we call these people customers. Private sector employees can be accused of sexual harassment and molestation. And people like yourself see them as greedy and amoral and scam artists, if they make too much money and work for something with “Inc” in its name.

    Sorry, man. Too many people work crappy jobs to pay for your benefits and process. Even people who don’t have kids and never will have. They can’t opt out, if you don’t pay taxes you go to jail. Complain about how hard your life is to a cook at Denny’s and see what sympathy you get.

    I’m a public-sector employee just like you, you know. Teaching is a sweeter gig than Denny’s. If not, offer to trade.

  30. Bryan Trim says:

    Show me a private sector job that has the unique risks inherent to teaching public school….

    Every job is unique, but the private sector is subject to market forces, and except for the rare cases when governments go bankrupt or get overthrown, government employees are sheltered from that.

  31. Gabriel Hanna

    @SC:but the private sector is subject to market forces,

    I WISH. The politically connected ones get bailouts and government loans.

  32. Gabriel Hanna says:

    The politically connected ones get bailouts and government loans.

    I should have said: “The private sector is subject to market forces, except for instances of political corruption.”

  33. People without children pay taxes to support education because an educated populace is a more economically viable populace.

    You do not get innovation from ignorance.

    As far as complaining to the cook at Denny’s? I would suggest to the cook at Denny’s ways he or she could advance their education on any budget and any amount of free time.

    It is kind of my thing.

  34. Gabriel Hanna

    @Bryan Trim: People without children pay taxes to support education because an educated populace is a more economically viable populace.

    And when fivefold increases in education spending over forty years produce NO measurable improvement in education, those taxpayers may think that money is ill-spent, and want to cut it back to, oh, say, 1985 levels.
    (Real dollars, of course).

    As far as complaining to the cook at Denny’s? I would suggest to the cook at Denny’s ways he or she could advance their education on any budget and any amount of free time.

    Right, if everyone studies hard no one will ever have to work at Denny’s.

    And of course that logic applies to yourself–if you don’t like being a teacher, you can get more advanced degrees, and do something else for a living.

  35. You have all the answers. I suppose I should bow to your superior knowledge and acumen.

    Except you seem to just be regurgitating garbage.

    What is the measure of student achievement? Standardized tests.

    All standardized testing produces is a culture of knowledge bulimics, not learners.

    Also, when did teaching professionals get the saddled with all of the blame for student failure? What about, oh I dunno, THE STUDENTS THEMSELVES?

    How about their parents?

    I keep hearing people say it is about TEACHER accountability….but what about student and parent accountability?

    Standardized testing is a sham, and it is designed to make schools fail. As is No Child Left Behind and every other bloody brilliant unfunded mandate that comes down from the federal and state level.

    We are asked to do more and more, for more students, with less and less to use as resources, and then are punished for “failing”?

    Also, I CHOSE to be an educator. I have other options. If I felt like it, I could sit on my ass all day and collect my VA disability and bitch on the internet.

  36. Gabriel Hanna

    Look, Bryan, it’s not that I hate teachers, or think they always do a lousy job or are free-loaders or whatever. Teaching has been part of my job description for 8 years now. But my students had all passed through the K – 12 system and they struggle with adding fractions, much less trig and algebra. It’s hard to teach calulus-based physics to people who struggle with fractions.

    Now I know teachers are not solely to blame for this, but as a profession they always demand more money and more security. More money and more security would attract better teachers. But it also attracts BAD teachers AND makes them impossible to get rid of, in the states where they have more money and more security. And the teachers’ unions exacerbate the problem.

    Teachers are not saints and angels, they are an interest group whose interests are not identical with parents, students, or taxpayers. Since 1990 per-pupil spending in real dollars has increased by 30%. Have educational outcomes improved by even 3%? So what is the point of that?

    http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=66

  37. Gabriel Hanna

    @Bryan As is No Child Left Behind and every other bloody brilliant unfunded mandate that comes down from the federal and state level.

    NCLB was not adopted in a vacuum. It was adopted because per-pupil spending keeps going up and up and up and educational outcomes stay flat. Obviously it has not fixed the problem, but it did not cause the problem either.

  38. As a parent and college student, I just want to say that I absolutely recognize and appreciate the sacrifices and BS that teachers in public schools have to put up with. I feel like teachers, as holders of our nations futures, should be well-compensated for their work and should enjoy some measure of security in their jobs. They have a thankless job, and get blamed for all the problems in the schools, and for any student that doesn’t flourish in a system that is ill-suited to learning in the first place. Here in NM, the gangs are rampant in the schools, threats against teachers are very real, and they have to deal with an excuse making culture that thinks kids should never have to take responsibility for their actions or their education- “Jito is a good boy, so what if he stabbed that one kid anyway it wasn’t his fault!”. I will NEVER understand why teachers put up with the crap that they do, but I’m grateful that they do. The whole system is broken, and blaming the teachers isn’t going to fix it.

  39. Gabriel Hanna “Now I know teachers are not solely to blame for this, but as a profession they always demand more money and more security.

    Is that not true of all professions though?

  40. You keep making sweeping generalizations about all teachers, Gabe.

    There is a huge difference between teaching in a rural setting and teaching in an urban school.

    The main differences are smaller class sizes (Good) far less pay and benefits (bad) increased parental involvement(good) and increased meddling by outside groups such as churches and “community leaders.”

    As highly educated licensed professionals, teachers get the shaft in many ways. I am getting sick of hearing the backhanded slur of “well, get more education and do something else.” It goes back to the old BS about those who can’t, teach. We decide to teach because we feel that we can make a direct impact on the future of America…..and then the reality hits.

    NCLB was not developed in a vacuum…it was developed in Texas, by politicians. It is focused on expensive, time consuming standardized testing which has little or no educational value.
    “Teacher accountability” is the big catchphrase. It really means ways to shift blame from the rest of society on to teachers…by setting up a false standard.

    If you can show me metrics on how standardized testing improves anything in education, I would love to see it. Oh, and that increased spending and less and less payout? THAT COINCIDES DIRECTLY WITH THE RISE OF INCREASED STANDARDIZED TESTING IN SCHOOLS.

    Funny, don’t you think? Perhaps the solution is not more standardized testing and teacher witch hunts to “get rid of bad teachers” but maybe getting more of that money into classrooms, and out of the hands of administrations, test company consultants, and state government.

  41. Gabriel Hanna

    @Bryan: We decide to teach because we feel that we can make a direct impact on the future of America

    Right, teachers ARE saints and angels, I was misinformed.

    http://www.projo.com/news/content/central_falls_trustees_vote_02-24-10_EOHI83C_v59.3c21342.html

    Union leaders said they wanted teachers to be paid for more of the additional work and at a higher pay rate — $90 per hour rather than the $30 per hour offered by Gallo.

    Oh, and that increased spending and less and less payout? THAT COINCIDES DIRECTLY WITH THE RISE OF INCREASED STANDARDIZED TESTING IN SCHOOLS.

    If you think correlation implies causation, thank a teacher!

    but maybe getting more of that money into classrooms, and out of the hands of administrations, test company consultants, and state government.

    Right, it’s ALL going into the pockets of the people who make scantron readers.

    Is there ANYTHING that you think teachers could or should do better? Is it really a conspiracy of students and parents and state governments to make you look bad? Is there ANY form of accountability for educational outcomes that you would support? Is there no such thing as a bad teacher?

    Most people in this country don’t get the salaries, benefits, and protections that many teachers get. They are paying the taxes that provide those things for you. It is not unreasonable for them to wonder what they are getting for their money.

  42. Gabriel Hanna

    My sister teaches high school. I don’t hate teachers. What I hate is that through their unions and lobbying, they resist any form of accountability, always demanding more money and benefits, and hide behind the children and claim that everyone but themselves are responsible for poor outcomes.

    Teachers are not saints and angels, they are not a monastic order, and their jobs are better than what most people in this country have.

  43. I pay taxes. My wife pays taxes. I forgot to check the little box that says “Pay taxes, Yes No?”

    I never said there are NO bad teachers. There are. Bureaucrats that just push paper….but there are also good teachers who are stifled because all they have the time to do is push material for these tests.

    You are also being either naive or obtuse if you think that there is not a massive testing industry. It is more than just scantron readers. Do you have any idea how much work goes into producing these tests? I suspect not.

    There are many things teachers can do better…but are they expected to pay for materials out of their own pockets? We are allowed a tax credit of 250 bucks for supplies we purchase. That is maybe a third of what your average teacher spends for their classrooms.

    As far as “additional work” do you know what that is? Being assigned to be a club sponsor, taking extra evenings, weekends, etc away from YOUR time, or from instructional time to accomplish these tasks. Would you do extra work with no expectation of compensation? I think not.

    You posted the Central Falls story…..Do you understand it? We are already facing massive lay offs due to budget cuts, increased class sizes (I have personally seen two classrooms here with forty students in them. Optimal size for effective teaching is about fifteen, with the outside being twenty six), and decreased funding for everything from printer paper to basic supplies.

    I am not saying keep dumping money into the system. I am saying find where the money is being soaked up. Massive increases in administration, for one. The school my wife works at has SIX principals, each of which makes over a hundred grand a year. The school has barely five hundred students. They are on a skeleton crew of support staff, and recently let a librarian and another counselor go due to lack of funds.

    I am all for education reform. However, this reform is squarely focused on teachers, and I think the entire system needs to be evaluated.

  44. I am not saying anyone BUT teachers are responsible for poor outcomes. I am saying EVERYONE shares part of the blame, not JUST teachers.

    There goes that vaunted reading comp of yours again.

    As far as “having better jobs than most” so do doctors and lawyers. I suppose by your metric, since pediatric cancer doctors have such a low “success” rate, their pay should be slashed.

    We are highly educated, licensed professionals. Of COURSE we have better pay and benefits than the proverbial cook at Denny’s.

    You seem to hold teachers to a different standard than other licensed professionals. In short, you are not only drinking the Kool Aid, but snorting those lovely purple crystals as well.

    By the by, does your sister know about all of these attitudes you have towards teachers, or is she exempt?