John Freshwater has been officially fired from the Mt Vernon Ohio School system where he was a Biology teacher for 8 years. My reaction is good riddance. I know some folks might not agree with me, but that's OK. But since this is my blog, I get to spell out my thinking. You can comment if you wish.
When I first heard about John Freshwater the main issue -- or maybe I should say the main reason it made the local papers stemmed from his use of an electrostatic device to burn, what was described by many -- including some of his supporters, a cross in student arms. This was something I could not understand. I don't care if it was an 'x' or a cross. Doing such a thing crosses [pun unintended] many lines. When you deliberately use a device on kids arms, you should be on your way to jail. Do not pass Go, do not collect your $200! If he was doing it, even with the kids permission, that is not someone who should be a teacher. Toss in the fact he was apparently doing it based on some religious justification is absurd. The fact he had been doing it for years is just plain appalling.
While I understand the whole burning of the arms was pretty well back-burnered by the referee and settled out of court (Not in Freshwater's favor). It was, and is still a sore spot for me. I don't care what religion you are, taking that device to your students is reason enough to be fired. Aside from that, look at his behavior once his transgressions were brought out in the light of day. . . let's just say I am not surprised at the outcome, only that it took so long and cost the school system, and their insurer, so much money. Seriously, he refused to teach the subject for which he was hired to teach. he refused to comply with direction from the very people who hired him and paid his salary, and finally he lied to investigators and taught his students to lie in order to cover-up his activities.For all of those reasons I am happy to see John Freshwater heading out the door. You can read all about it at Panda's Thumb.
Now some of you might disagree for various reasons, but in my opinion, you are making a mistake. I do not care what religion John Freshwater is. He could be a Buddhist or Zoastronist for all I care. It was his conduct as a teacher of our children that should never have been tolerated, regardless of your or his religious beliefs. In my opinion he used his religion as an excuse to avoid taking personal responsibility or fulfilling his professional obligations.
While the final hearing de-emphasized the crosses burned into kids arms, I still have a problem with that one. This piece of equipment was labels, and the documentation clearly stated that it was not for human contact. Yet Freshwater disregarded all that. Yes, he did it for the glory of his God. If your reasoning to support Freshwater is based on your religious beliefs, you really need to re-examine them. Suppose a kid had a heart condition, maybe a pacemaker -- how would you feel if he killed a child with that device? What if the device has malfunctioned? Would you still be OK with it simply because you agree with his religion? Please answer honestly! Could you actually stand in front of a grieving parent and say
"I'm sorry little Bobby is dead after being electrocuted by that malfunctioning device. But Mr. Freshwater was doing it in Jesus' name."Seriously? Let's take it one step further. Suppose it was your child? Do you really trust John Freshwater any longer?
As for his teaching ability, how many times do you think kids need to be taught the exact same subject? When teachers in later grades identified the need to re-teach subject material because Freshwater wasn't teaching it -- that tells me there is a problem. You hired a science teacher and you should have a perfectly reasonable expectation for him to fulfill those duties. Again, if you support him because he shares your religious beliefs, you still should look very carefully at those beliefs. Suppose he was teaching from a different religious tradition? Would you still support him? If so, then I salute you. I still disagree with you, but it's nice to know you are consistent in your support for religious freedom -- even though I do not think it should apply in this case. If your support for him would evaporate because he is no longer in agreement with you, then I suggest you look at your own prejudices. He was hired to teach science, not religion, and Creationism/Intelligent Design is a religious concept not a scientific one! You might disagree with that as well, but then you really need to talk to some biologists -- like the ones at the school where they had to re-teach Freshwater's students. If he disagreed that Creationism and ID are religious concepts, then the question becomes was his classroom the right venue for addressing it? Certainly not! Suppose he believed the world was flat, is his classroom the correct venue?
Now how about his continual disregard for the policies and guidelines from the school board and his superiors -- you know them, the ones who hired him. So the best avenue to implement his particular version of religion is to accept a position of trust and then betray that trust? This is the lesson you want to teach your children? Sure, when you disagree with someone or something, pretend to agree until you are in a position of responsibility and then stick a knife in and twist hard. That is what Freshwater did! The avenue for addressing such things is not in their disregard, but in working to change them. If you still support him after all you have learned about what he did, then you really need to re-look at the types of messages you are giving your kids. So in the future when they disagree with you and go behind your back -- it's OK? We might start calling that "being freshwatered!" Think about the consequences of his actions! If nothing else he should have quit on his own. But no, he failed in the job he was hired to do and ignored every opportunity to change his behavior.
My final point is that I really wonder what many of those students thought once they read about Freshwater's responses to the investigators and even the resolutions, transcripts and news reports. How many of them understand that he wasn't willing to accept the responsibility for his actions. Freshwater might have stood in front of them and preached, but when things got rough he wasn't man enough to accept responsibility for his actions. He lied to investigators and even developed code-words with his students to circumvent the rules. He taught your kids how to lie and offered his religious beliefs as an acceptable reason to do so. Sure, he's just the type of teacher your kids need!
I, for one, am glad John Freshwater is no longer teaching in Mt Vernon OH. He betrayed those entrusted to his care. He did it for his own personal religious reasons and he is probably quite proud of himself. As one who shares that profession, at least on a part-time basis, I don't feel pride in John Freshwater. I am proud of the students, teachers, and administrators who did not bow before the pressure of other folks and their religious beliefs and did the right and the legal thing!
There are those who will probably hold him up as some sort of martyr for religion. But as you can see by my comments, his actions may have been excused or motivated by his religion, I might have respected him if in spite of the roadblocks put in front of him, if he had come up with a better method than betrayal, lies and deceit. The very fact he encouraged kids to join him in his lies is the worst possible indictment of his character!
While editing this post over the course of a couple of days, I checked in with one of my favorite writers, Lauri Lebo, and she caught a post from one of my less-than-favorite apologetic sites, Answers-in-Genesis, who, typically, got the wrong message. According to AIG "Scientists and Science Should Not Be Questioned According to a Local School Board" The very title of their post reveals that they simply don't get it. No, that might not be true, they may get it, but they can't sell it to their supporters. The school board said no such thing and they implied no such thing. What they said was that Freshwater should have done his job, should not have lied and encouraged his students to lie, and certainly should not have assaulted his students. When you do things like that, you have to accept the responsibility for your actions. if you refuse, they will help you out . . . the door. Read it for yourself and shortly you see that the topic left the idea of questioning science and scientists quickly and turned to religion, the bible, and teaching Sunday school. So much for keeping to the theme they set in the title.
I do find it interesting that the message you might glean from their support of Freshwater is that AIG doesn't believe that people hired to do a job should actually be held accountable for doing their job. Gee, maybe the workers in AIG's newest foolishness, A Noah's Ark Theme Park, will remember that and fail to do their jobs -- then sue for their unearned salaries! Why not? Sounds reasonable to me and one in line with AIG beliefs. If they do manage to get this 'theme' park built, maybe kennie ham (Owner, operator, and spender of other people's money with AIG, the Creation 'Museum') give Freshwater a job. Maybe he can hang a effigy of John Freshwater on a cross and really make a martyr of him.