Irrationality in the Schools

Conservatives who deny our heritage of separation of church and state sometimes try to frame the issue as being one of providing the free choice of including religion in the schools. They claim that liberals and activitt judges are infringing upon their freedom. In case anyone wonders why the courts have gotten involved in insisting upon respect for separation of church and state in the schools, this story provides an excellent example.

A Mount Vernon teacher undermined science instruction in the public school district by discrediting evolution in his classroom and focusing on creationism and intelligent design, an investigation has found.

Eighth-graders who were taught by John Freshwater frequently had to be re-taught in high school what they were supposed to have learned in Freshwater’s class, according to outside investigators hired by the district.

For 11 years, other teachers in the school district and people in the community complained about Freshwater preaching his Christian beliefs in class and slamming scientific theories, a school administrator told investigators.

It took them eleven years to act upon this? It sounds like they only reason they are finally taking action is for something even more extreme than teaching creationism:

The report confirmed that Freshwater burned crosses onto students’ arms, using an electrostatic device, in December.

Freshwater told investigators the marks were X’s, not crosses. But all of the students interviewed in the investigation reported being branded with crosses. The investigation report includes a photo of one student’s arm with a long vertical line and a short horizontal line running through it.

The family of one student who was burned filed a federal lawsuit last week against Freshwater and the district, saying the student’s civil rights were violated.

If the views of one defender of Freshwater are indicative, it sounds like perhaps the burning of crosses is the only part of this which the local community really finds to be alarming:

Neither Freshwater nor his attorney, Roger Weaver, could be reached for comment last night. Freshwater’s friend Dave Daubenmire defended him.

“With the exception of the cross-burning episode. … I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district,” he said.

Daubenmire is a former London High School football coach whose district was sued in 1999 by the American Civil Liberties Union because he led his players in prayer at games, practices and meetings.

Of course irrationality in the schools is not limited to the religious right. PZ Myers points out this story in which a Canadian school called in Children’s Aid with accusations that a student had been sexually abused. Their “evidence” for this abuse was based upon the claims of a psychic:

“The teacher looked and me and said: ‘We have to tell you something. The educational assistant who works with Victoria went to see a psychic last night, and the psychic asked the educational assistant at that particular time if she works with a little girl by the name of “V.” And she said ‘yes, I do.’ And she said, ‘well, you need to know that that child is being sexually abused by a man between the ages of 23 and 26.'”

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