Monday, July 21, 2008

Mt. Vernon OH and a teacher named Freshwater

For the past couple of months I have been trying to post a blog entry about Mr. Freshwater and the teaching of Biology in Mount Vernon HS, but every time I started writing about I got so damn mad!

For those of you not familiar with the story, apparently Mount Vernon, OH, has been letting John Freshwater teach Creationism for the past 11 years, at least. They have been unresponsive to complaints, including the annoying little fact that his students had to be re-taught scientific principles in later classes. That by itself is annoying, to me at least.

There were some articles a few months back when the school board told him to take the Bible out of his classroom, something he apparently refused to do. School Boards have the right to discipline teachers, but they also need the intestinal fortitude, which this school board lacked. That was annoying as well.

But then the school district got sued by the parents of a student who had a cross BURNED into his arm in the shape of a cross by this so called science teacher. Now I started getting very hot under the collar. It required a student to be physically abused before the school board found some . . . intestinal fortitude.

They finally fired the jerk and of course he is appealing claiming that they had no right to fire him. That takes the cake!

You know in the Dover trial I felt sorry for the school district as a whole for a number of reasons, but I really wished they hadn't have had to pay out 1 million dollars after already voting out the idiots who decided to take their roller coaster to ruin.

But in Mount Vernon I am not feeling so charitable. The School Board is as culpable as the teacher because over at least 11 years, they failed to take any positive action. I hope they wind up using their entire budget for this matter, in spite of the fact the kids are the one who will wind up paying the price.

There is no possible excuse for their behavior! At least the teacher can claim insanity!

Here is a link to the results of the investigation. In my opinion Mr. Freshwater should be in jail! Yes, the burns weren't serious, but the fact he inflicted them should be grounds. His inability to teach the required curriculum should have had him fired years ago. I do feel sorry for his students, and for the other teachers who had to work harder to make up for his ineptitude. In my opinion he is the type of person who should not be a teacher if he cannot teach without bring his personal religous views into the classroom. What makes it worse for me is that he apparently LIED to investigators, which tells me he knew exactly what he was doing.

Another wonderful example of lying for Jesus!

"The Devil in Dover" by Lauri Lebo

For those of you who like a quick and dirty review -- Excellent Book!

For those who like a little more, I'll get the praise out and then head more into the meat. I enjoyed Ms. Lebo's first-hand account of the what happened in Dover. Not only is it well written, but it offered perspectives that you cannot get from reading trial transcripts or even reading the local papers before, during, and after the trial. The only way I think you could get any better picture is if you were a Dover resident and were in the middle of the action yourself. I recommend anyone interested in the Trial read this book. You will get a much more personal view of all that happened and a deeper appreciation for the personalities involved.

As you might be able to tell, I did enjoy this book. At times heart-rendering and at other times infuriating. Once the trial started I had trouble putting it down. I finished it at about 4AM, which might give you a clue how good it is!

It's not a very long book, only about 250 pages, but what she says doesn't require more. She dives briefly into the people involved, some personality and some education and background. She could have written so much more, but it wasn't really needed. She managed to give you a feeling for the personalities involved that went beyond the normal brief blurb in a newspaper. She get you insight into the workings of the Thomas More Law Center and the Discovery Institute, in addition to the obvious subject, the Dover Area School Board.

She also added a very human element, something you don't get in newspapers, how she herself felt and how the trial impacted her personally. It helped bring the story together on a level that nothing had for me previously. I mean there have been very good, factual books on the case, but this book made it personal.

She laid bare not only the actions of the school board members, but their motivations. She showed us some of the weaknesses in journalistic coverage and also its strengths. When the two journalists were accused of lying! That part of the book had me riveted! They handled it with such professionalism, that she made me proud to know such people exist in a trade that doesn't get much positive press itself. Her own efforts against an editor trying to get her to 'balance' her coverage more was spot on! As was her recollection of the trial, it was fascinating without being as long winded as the trial itself certain was -- I did read the transcripts, all the transcripts! She also took us past the trial and saw some of the aftermath, for herself personally and also the others involved.

It's that understanding of character that has me place this book well above the other two I have read on the trial. I enjoyed the legal machinations in "40 days and 40 nights"by Matthew Chapman and the more extensive coverage of how Dover fits into the larger Evolution/Creationism debate in Edward Humes "Monkey Girl", but the personal nature of the characterizations Ms. Lebo describes really brought the trial home for me.

I recommend this book to anyone! Here is the Amazon link to it, as a hint :-)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Arte-y-pico Award

GumbyTheCat awarded this blog an "Arte Y Pico" award! Gumby's write up is here. I have to thank Gumby and tell you a little about his blog. I enjoy it on several levels. First of all Gumby isn't overly technical in the level of scientific detail of biology, which as a non-biologist I appreciate! Plus Gumby is another example of someone who can be a Christian and still understand and support science. This is important to me! All too frequently anyone who supports science, evolution in particular gets accused of being atheists, or worse. I know I've mentioned it on this blog (here). You would think being called the Anti-Christ would put me off, but I just see it as another chance to educate -- plus have a little fun tugging on chains. I think Gumby sees it much the same way. He does a great job at pulling chains as well!

Again I would like to thank Gumby and as tempting as it would be to re-award this back, I will list my other 5 favorite blogs and spread the wealth, so to speak.

Here are the rules from the originating website,

  • You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award, creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributes to the blogger community, no matter of language.
  • Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
  • Each award-winning, has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
  • Award-winning and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of “Arte y pico” blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.
  • To show these rules.
So here are Five Blogs of note for me personally are:
  1. Pharnygula, from PZ Myers. If you are involved in the "Evolution vs. All Comers"debate you are probably already familiar with this blog. Dr. Myers continues to be one of the champions of science and a consistent public critic of the Intelligent Design Movement.
  2. Panda's Thumb has won many awards, and it's another site anyone familiar with the Evolution debate should already know. It isn't the work of one person, but about 35, including PZ Myers. Here is where I go for much of the meat and potatoes of what's going on around the rest of the world in the debates.
  3. Total Drek is another one I enjoy for it's irreverence as much as it's content. Drek is a post-grad student with an affinity for mental meandering. I do believe that if I ran into Drek in a dark alley, I would end up laughing hysterically.
  4. A lesser known blog that really focuses on South Carolina happenings is Not Very Bright. Contrary to its name, I find it's evolution/Intelligent Design coverage brilliant. This is the blog that told me, and many others, about the disgrace being perpetrated by the State School Board President Elect in selected new biology textbooks. Not-Very-Bright seems to have taken part of the summer off, well I will miss it. Hopefully it'll be back in the fall and raring to go on presidential politicos and keeping an eye on Mrs. Kristin Maguire (the aforementioned head of the SC School Board)
  5. Anyone that posts a photographic walking tour of the new Creation Museum is worth an award. Whatever is the brainstorm of John Scalzi and it has been "Taunting the Tauntable since 1998"
There you have it, my selections for the Arte-Y-Pico awards!