John Freshwater Update (11 Dec ‘09)

BACKGROUND: This is an administrative hearing to determine whether John Freshwater will be fired as an 8th-grade science teacher in Ohio. He’s accused of burning a student with a Tesla coil , teaching religion in his science class, and failing to follow the school district’s orders. Freshwater says the district wants to fire him only because he refused to remove a Bible from his desk.

Our last update was more than 3 months ago, here. This hearing has been dragging on for more than a year, with long periods of no activity. The best coverage has been by Richard B. Hoppe at Panda’s Thumb, but technical difficulties have delayed his efforts, so we’ll say a word or two.

Freshwater himself has been testifying. In the Columbus Dispatch we read Teacher gives his side of conflict. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

Early in the hearing, which started in October 2008, Freshwater was questioned by an attorney for the school district and described using a laboratory instrument on volunteers’ arms to illustrate static electricity. But he denied hurting students or leaving burn marks.

Yesterday, testifying on his own behalf, he said he was confused about what his boss expected of him.

Ah, he was confused. Should he burn kids or not? Teach creationism or not? How’s a teacher supposed to know? Let’s read on. This should be interesting:

Among the school district’s charges is that Freshwater was insubordinate in April 2008 for failing to remove religious posters and Bibles from his classroom. Freshwater said he met at least six times with school Principal Bill White that month and received conflicting memos and directives. At one point, White told Freshwater that his personal Bible could remain on his classroom desk but later changed his mind, Freshwater said.

Poor John Freshwater. It was so difficult to know what they expected of him. Here’s more:

“That’s my workplace Bible, not my devotional Bible,” he said, explaining that the Bible served as inspiration but is not the one he regularly reads.

It’s so easy to see how he got confused. He didn’t have his devotional Bible in the classroom. Did they want his workplace Bible to be removed too? Why didn’t they say so?

He said a poster depicting the Ten Commandments on a wall in his classroom came from a stack of identical posters that had been left in the school’s administration office. “No one ever complained about them until April,” he said.

How was he supposed to know what the administration wanted?

Now let’s turn to Teacher testifies that anti-evolution handouts did not promote religion in the the Columbus Dispatch. Freshwater’s testimony goes on:

Classroom handouts questioning evolution were used as examples of faulty science, not to promote religion in the classroom, a Mount Vernon middle school teacher testified this morning in a hearing to determine if he should be fired.

What? We continue:

The handouts, describing how species such as the woodpecker and giraffe could not have evolved, were used to demonstrate faulty analysis, bias and the wrongful application of the scientific method, Freshwater said.

We must admit, we didn’t anticipate this defense. Let’s read on:

Parents of some of his students complained about the handouts, which they claimed that students were prohibited from taking home. Freshwater testified that he was not trying to hide the material. “I try to conserve paper. I would use them over and recycle them.

He not only teaches evolution, he’s an environmentalist too. What a great guy! One last excerpt:

Asked during a break in the hearing if Freshwater’s explanation is plausible, school district attorney David Millstone, said: “I can only laugh. There are students who have already testified that (the handout exercise) wasn’t just for that purpose.”

So the saga of John Freshwater drags on. According to him, he’s the most misunderstood man in Ohio.

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2 responses to “John Freshwater Update (11 Dec ‘09)

  1. Heh Heh. Freshwater=Purity of Essence

    Just to give you an example of this guy’s thinking: (From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2008/06/freshwater_investigation_repor.php"Ed Bradon's blog)

    “The lesson of the day had been on the creation of the universe. John talked about how the textbook could be wrong. He said, ‘Let me give you an example of how science can be wrong.’ He then went on to say that an article in Time magazine a few years back stated that scientists had found a genetic link to homosexuality. ‘In that case science is wrong because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin’ and so anyone who is gay chooses to be gay and therefore is a sinner.

  2. Curmudgeon: “Teach creationism or not?”

    Hindsight is 20/20, but if I were a scam artist I would not teach creationism or ID, only the “weaknesses” of “Darwinism.” Most students would infer their favorite fairy tale anyway. I’d make sure to censor all the refutations of those “weaknesses” of course.