#93 Weird Science

#93 Weird Science

So in case you haven’t heard, the subject of today’s comic is a real middle school teacher who actually did brand crosses on his student’s arms. What’s even more amazing is that this teacher held his job for over 21 years in spite of a long history of allegations of misconduct.

The cross branding itself is more than enough to fire a teacher. Mr. Freshwater actually defends himself by saying it’s an innocent science experiment and that the marks are X’s, not crosses (see here to judge for yourself). Leaving aside whether it actually is a cross (sure looks like one to me), the guy is using a high frequency Tesla coil to burn his students (see here for an account of how pleasant this experience is). This is a device clearly labeled with a warning not to bring in contact with flesh! And as you can see from the photo, he didn’t just make a small mark (which is what you’d expect if it really was a mere “scientific demonstration”), he drew large patterns on his student’s arms. That is insanity.

But there’s a lot more to John Freshwater than the cross burning incidents. There’s the fact he kept a bible on his desk in his classroom, despite being repeatedly ordered to remove it. Some are pointing out it should be ok for John to have his bible, citing freedom of religion. Well, of course. But as a government employee in a position of power over students, he should NOT have that bible in the classroom. As the Constitution states, no religion should be promoted over any other by the government.

Further, there are the allegations that Mr. Freshwater taught creationism in the classroom, did a poor job teaching evolution, and generally discredited evolutionary theory to his students. And further still, there’s an allegation from a substitue teacher that Freshwater’s lesson plan included a discussion of how science was mistaken in establishing a genetic basis for homosexuality because the bible says homosexuality is a sin and so therefore must be a choice. Freshwater’s transgressions of the established curriculum were so severe that high school teachers reported that they had to re-teach Freshwater’s former students material they should already have known. The High School Principal specifically requested that her daughter not be assigned to Freshwater’s 8th grade science class because of his teaching not being consistent with the curriculum.

As far as I can see, there is no question whether the school board was justified in finally voting to fire this guy. The only real question is, what the hell took so long??

Discussion (10)¬

  1. Raijinili says:

    This is addressed to both sides of the religious debate, not to you, chaospet.
    1) Yes, Christians actually do bad things in the name of religion, so stop denying it. And no, it’s impossible for the acts of this man to be construed as “bad only because of media bias” or “actually righteous”.
    2) No, just because a small minority of people do bad things doesn’t mean that we should kill off Christianity.

    I hope I have warded off any attempts to use this tragedy to push extremist and hateful views.

  2. chaos872 says:

    What are you talking about?! We most CERTAINLY SHOULD try to kill off Christianity in the contex of a School Enviroment. personal faith has no place in schools. Raise your kids how you want but do so Privately

    Also please stop being so ridicliously biased against people who demand that science be scientific. Disagreeing with you and wanting YOUR faith out of my tax-paid schools is neither extreme or hateful its just reasonable. If I firmly and devoutly belived a flying spaghetti monster created all things and I were to teach your children this you’d be within your rights to stop me.

  3. chaospet says:

    I think we can all agree that religion does not belong in the classroom. I think Raijinili (if I understand correctly, but perhaps I am mistaken) is speaking against those who would seek to eradicate religion entirely – which is only a very tiny minority of those who take issue with the practices of someone like John Freshwater.

  4. Morglor9 says:

    This should be causing a problem even if it wasn’t a cross he was burning into their arms and was an “x” as claimed, he’s still burning students’ arms…

    I find it odd that he kept his job for this long.

  5. chaospet says:

    Morglor, I agree completely. It’s really baffling…

  6. Raijinili says:

    chaos872: chaospet got it right. In fact, I’m an atheist. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t speak out on the “side” of religion.

    I made two statements, one addressed to each side. Perhaps your own bias made you think that because I said something that can be viewed as “pro-Christianity”, I must be a Christian. Since you’re on a philosophy fansite, you should ponder on whether your bias creates unnecessary hatred and taints your judgement.

    As for my view on religion in school, I say that most Christian parents have the choice to send their kids to schools which aren’t publicly funded. In my experience, the vast majority of people who argue against teaching kids science in schools, or for teaching intelligent design in the schools, don’t understand science.

    Regarding teachers: On the one hand, it’s the fault of the government for not recruiting more smart people to become teachers, to increase the options of the schools. On the other hand, the teacher unions (in NYC at least) insist on having in teacher contracts provisions that, in effect, make it difficult to fire bad and even harmful teachers.

    Again on the other hand, I’m not sure I can blame the government, since it isn’t like they’re not trying (again, in NYC). Maybe we should blame colleges, since, when I got to college, I found that many of the future high school math teachers decided to major in high school math because they thought pure or applied math would be too hard, and they tended to take the easy classes. I lost a lot of my respect for my high school teachers that day. 🙁

    Sorry for the long post.

  7. chaos872 says:

    Jumping from a discussion about religion in a classroom to the (generally accepted as rare) assumption that this would engender a desire to destroy religion itself is blatantly over the top, re-reading i guess i can see your valid points on against banning religion but thats kinda not the issue i under the impression that we were discussing
    “a small minority of people do bad things doesn’t mean that we should kill off Christianity”
    My inference that you were defending allowing religion in school was aparently incorrect, for that im sorry

  8. Psymon says:

    High school teacher is a low-paying, underappreciated, and very difficult job. It took so long to fire the nutcase because they couldn’t get a replacement for him. (Yes, it took longer than 21 years to find a replacement for him.) As for myself, you couldn’t pay me enough to deal with the abuse teachers receive on a daily basis.
    I took the pure math track, because there was absolutely no way I was going to become a math teacher (I suck at explaining things–the concepts come too easily to me, so my teaching would be an exercise in futility and frustration for everyone involved), and a few of the applied classes frightened me off.

  9. chaospet says:

    I’m aware that it can be very difficult to find quality high school teachers due to the substandard pay and rigors of the job. But unless you have some specific evidence to the contrary (and if so I’d be interested), the claim that in 21 years they couldn’t find someone at least minimally more competent than this fellow sounds like a pretty weak excuse.

  10. Psymon says:

    Yes, it was a weak excuse. I have trouble responding seriously.

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