NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2012/11/02
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, The Freshwater case is discussed in detail in Church & State. Plus a preview of Storms of My Grandchildren, a new issue of Reports of the NCSE, and the webcast of the HHMI's Holiday Lectures on Science.
FRESHWATER CASE IN CHURCH & STATE The Freshwater case is featured in the November 2012 issue of Church & State, the magazine of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. In his article, Rob Boston reviews the complicated course of the case, starting in Mount Vernon, Ohio, in 2007: "The Dennis family?s problems began one day when their son Zachary, then 13, showed them some marks on his arm. The red burns were in the shape of a cross, and Zachary told his parents that a science teacher named John Freshwater was responsible for them. Freshwater had made the mark with an electronic device called a Tesla coil." It was discovered that Freshwater engaged in a variety of inappropriate religious activities in the classroom, including not only branding crosses on the arms of his students but also displaying posters with the Ten Commandments and Bible verses and teaching creationism. In 2008, the school board voted to initiate termination proceedings. In 2011, after administrative hearings that proceeded sporadically over two years, the board voted to terminate Freshwater's employment. Freshwater then launched a legal challenge, which reached the Ohio Supreme Court in 2012; the court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case in February 2013. In his appeal, Freshwater contends that the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education violated his academic freedom and his free speech rights by terminating his employment. Boston notes, "Previous attempts by teachers who oppose evolution to secure an academic freedom right to teach creationism have not fared well in the courts," and quotes NCSE's deputy director Glenn Branch as commenting, "If Freshwater had his way, teachers could present any nonsense they wanted under the shield of 'academic freedom' -- and schools would be powerless to stop them from mis-educating their students." The Dennis family, NCSE, Americans United and the Anti-Defamation League, and the American Humanist Association and the Secular Student Alliance have all submitted friend-of-the-court briefs to the Ohio Supreme Court, supporting the board. Richard Katskee, who helped to litigate Kitzmiller v. Dover and who wrote the Americans United brief, told Church & State, "The creationists are trying to walk right through the front door of the schoolhouse with a bogus ?academic freedom? argument," adding, "Say what you will about the creationists, they're creative ... One might say their strategies are evolving." Jenifer Dennis told Church & State that she is stunned that the case is taking so long to resolve, but added that she considers it a learning experience: "It has taught me that what I once considered a given about individual rights is not in fact such an easy issue. ... I am dumbfounded that individuals still feel the need to inject personal beliefs to a captive audience of minors ... If families do not confront wrongdoings," she added, "they will continue to happen and the rights of all Americans will slowly be stripped away, leaving everyone to have to follow another?s beliefs or ideals." The same issue of Church & State commented editorially on the issues raised by the Freshwater case, observing, "The attempt to introduce creationism into the public schools is one of the most serious church-state threats young people face." The editorial concluded, "Secondary school teachers who elevate their personal religious beliefs above the core curriculum are doing more than violating the religious liberty rights of students. They are also engaged in a form of educational malpractice. Courts must recognize this and give public schools the tools they need to crack down on instructors who?d rather preach than teach." Legal documents relevant to Freshwater's termination and the subsequent court case are available on NCSE's website. Extensive blog coverage of the Freshwater saga, including Richard B. Hoppe's day-by-day account of Freshwater's termination hearing, is available at The Panda's Thumb blog; search for "Freshwater". Hoppe also recently contributed "Dover Comes to Ohio" -- a detailed account from a local observer of the whole fracas, from the precipitating incident to Freshwater's appeal -- to Reports of the National Center for Science Education 32:1. For the article in Church & State, visit: http://blog.au.org/church-state/november-2012-church-state/editorial/academic-freedom-is-no-excuse-for-teaching For the editorial in Church & State, visit: http://blog.au.org/church-state/november-2012-church-state/featured/insidious-design For NCSE's collection of documents from the Freshwater case, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/freshwater-termination-hearing For the Panda's Thumb blog, visit: http://pandasthumb.org/ And for Hoppe's article in RNCSE (PDF), visit: http://reports.ncse.com/index.php/rncse/article/view/99/92 A PREVIEW OF STORMS OF MY GRANDCHILDREN NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of James Hansen's Storms of My Grandchildren (New York: Bloomsbury, 2009). The preview consists of the first half of chapter 7, "Is There Still Time? A Tribute to Charles Keeling," discussing the events leading up to Hansen's famous talk at the American Geophysical Union meeting in 2005 in honor of Charles David Keeling, the scientist famous for his observations of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Praising Storms of My Grandchildren, the reviewer for the Los Angeles Times wrote, "James Hansen gives us the opportunity to watch a scientist who is sick of silence and compromise; a scientist at the breaking point -- the point at which he is willing to sacrifice his credibility to make a stand to avert disaster, to offer up the fruits of four-plus decades of inquiry and ingenuity just in case he might change the course of history." For the preview of Storms of My Grandchildren (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/book-excerpt For Hansen's 2005 talk (PDF), visit: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2005/Keeling_20051206.pdf For information about the book from its publisher, visit: http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/storms-of-my-grandchildren-9781608192007/ RNCSE 32:5 NOW ON-LINE NCSE is pleased to announce that the latest issue of Reports of the National Center for Science Education is now available on-line. The issue -- volume 32, number 5 -- features Minda Berbeco's "The Butterfly Effect," reporting on butterflies and climate change, and Jere H. Lipps's "A Thrilling Chase," reviewing Nick Lane's Life Ascending. For his regular People and Places column, Randy Moore discusses the career of Sue Hicks, the original Boy Named Sue, who served as a member of the prosecution in the Scopes trial. Plus a host of reviews of books on creationism's past and present: Taner Edis reviews Jason Rosenhouse's Among the Creationists, Matthew H. Haber reviews Bradley Monton's Seeking God in Science, Adam Laats reviews Jeffrey P. Moran's American Genesis, Steve Watkins reviews David E. Long's Evolution and Religion in American Education, Bruce H. Weber reviews Alister E. McGrath's Darwinism and the Divine, and Robert "Mac" West reviews Warren D. Allmon's Evolution and Creationism. All of these articles, features, and reviews are freely available in PDF form from http://reports.ncse.com. Members of NCSE will shortly be receiving in the mail the print supplement to Reports 32:5, which, in addition to summaries of the on-line material, contains news from the membership, a regular column in which NCSE staffers offer personal reports on what they've been doing to defend the teaching of evolution, a new regular column interviewing NCSE's favorite people, and more besides. (Not a member? Join today!) For the table of contents for RNCSE 32:5, visit: http://reports.ncse.com/index.php/rncse/issue/current/showToc For information about joining NCSE, visit: http://ncse.com/join "CHANGING PLANET: PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE" Has Earth changed over deep time? How did Earth shape life and life shape Earth? What does Earth's climate in the distant past tell us about the future? These are the questions that Andrew H. Knoll, Naomi Oreskes, and Daniel P. Schrag will be answering in "Changing Planet: Past, Present, Future," the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Holiday Lectures on Science. *** Modern humans have lived on Earth for only the past 200,000 years -- not even a blink of an eye in the history of a planet that is about 4.6 billion years old. Scientists have discovered a rich fossil record of animal evolution going back more than 600 million years and a much richer one of microbial life starting almost 4 billion years ago. Throughout this time, the geologic record reveals that dramatic changes have occurred to Earth?s oceans, atmosphere, climate, and land forms, which match major biological transitions. In concert, studies in biology and earth science are providing incredible insights into the forces that have shaped, and will continue to shape, life on our ever-changing planet. *** The talks will be delivered on November 15 and 16, 2012, and webcast from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. ET and 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET and re-webcast at 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 PT and 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. PT. Information about registering to view the webcast, and about previous events in the Holiday Lectures on Science series, is available at the HHMI's BioInteractive website. For information about the webcast, visit: http://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/ Thanks for reading. And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncse.com -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution and climate education and threats to them. -- Sincerely, Glenn Branch Deputy Director National Center for Science Education, Inc. 420 40th Street, Suite 2 Oakland, CA 94609-2509 510-601-7203 x305 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Read Reports of the NCSE on-line: http://reports.ncse.com Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd http://twitter.com/ncse NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncse.com/join