The Panda’s Thumb has been keeping a close tab on Ohio science teacher/religious fanatic John Freshwater even since he got into trouble last year, allegedly burning a cross on a student’s arm with a Tesla coil.
Freshwater and school officials have been making their cases in adiministrative hearings since then. There have been six days of testimony so far, spread over several months. So far, the testimony suggests Freshwater was an insubordinate teacher who resisted his superiors’ efforts to bring him in line, perhaps because he believed God’s authority trumped theirs.
Members of the science department were supposed to bring their Tesla coils to the front office; Freshwater kept his. He was supposed to remove his Bible from plain sight of students; he put additional religious materials in his classroom instead. Ohio’s scope and sequence of science instruction places the teaching of evolution in the 8th grade and later, and forbids the teaching of creationism; Freshwater was telling his seventh graders that evolution was bunk, that the world was only 6,000 years old, and that humans and dinosaurs co-existed for a time.
Freshwater, who apparently is a very popular teacher and has won teaching awards in the past, is associated with rightwing Christian organizations, particularly the kind that just can’t seem to accept that old “separation of church and state” idea enshrined in the Constitution. They try to weasel their church teachings into the public schools in defiance of federal (and state) law anyway.
As a science teacher, my opinion is that Freshwater is a loose cannon on deck, and should be tossed overboard. Regardless of his extreme Christian belief, he has clearly abused his authority as a classroom teacher and has abused a captive audience of middle school students mentally and psychologically. He does not belong in a science classroom — any science classroom. That he was allowed to keep his job as long as he has is a disgrace.