Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Two Firings, yet Only One Outcry from the Discovery Institute

You all might remember John Freshwater, the former science teacher of Mt Vernon OH?  If you don't remember, here's a nutshell reminder:

John Freshwater was held accountable for a number of actions, including failing to teach the science he was hired to teach, lying to investigators about what he was teaching, asking his students to lie for him about what he was teaching, burning crosses into students arms using an electrostatic device whose instruction said not to use it against skin . . . there's more and you can read much more of the particulars as Panda's Thumb.

Well, as you can guess, the DI discussed his firing, claiming it was an issue of Academic Freedom.  You can listen to one of their conversations about it here: "The Academic Freedom Case of John Freshwater".  OK, so the DI likes to market themselves as champions of academic freedom, right? So where is any commentary on Thomas Jay Oord?

You might not be as familiar with Professor Oord.  His case didn't put out as much press nor drag out in the headlines like Freshwater.  You can read much more about him in "Northwest Nazarene professor shares views on God, loses academic freedom".  Why do I bring him up?  Because while the DI claims Freshwater was about academic freedom, Oord's case was certainly about academic freedom . . . yet where is any outcry from the DI?
Yes, there are some differences

  • Freshwater was teaching religion in a public school, instead of the science he was supposed to be teaching.  
  • Oord was teaching religion at a religious school and he just differed in some of the religious details from his Nazarene hierarchy.
  • Freshwater was warned, in writing, that he was in violation of school policy.
  • Oord found out he was being fired while on vacation.
  • Freshwater immediately found himself a lawyer and tried to argue all the way up to the Supreme Court.
  • Oord worked out a peaceful settlement.
But where was the DI in all this, especially based on their interest in academic freedom?  What makes it more interesting is while Freshwater was an unknown to the DI before the publicity started, Oord wasn't.  He was a contributor to "Evolution and Ethics: Human Morality in Biological & Religious Perspective" and other writings published by the DI.  Could it be because he was also critical of the theological implications of ID and also offered a number of other criticisms of ID, while agreeing, at least in principle, with some of it's overarching concepts.

In any event, we have a theist who is illegally teaching religion in a public school science class while burning crosses into students arms and another theist who is teaching religion at a religious school and differs in religious degree with his superiors.  One raises the ire of the DI, falsely claiming academic freedom concerns -- and the other is ignored by the DI.

There are other cases where a Creationist/ID Proponent was held accountable and the DI immediately springs to their defense, like Guillermo Gonzalez, Catherine Crocker. Yet never a single word when a teacher is teaching what they are supposed to be teaching finds themselves in trouble, like Pamela Hensley (2011) or Stacy Mendrick (2014)

So much for being a Champion of Academic Freedom!  So when I say, and others say, that the DI's idea of academic freedom isn't actually academic freedom, you will know better what I mean.  Their version seems to be academic freedom for public school teachers to teach religion only.  Which makes sense when your organization is more of a religious ministry than the scientific 'think tank' they claim it to be.

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