Ohio science/religion teacher Freshwater loses yet again

JISHOU, HUNAN — So, here’s the short version. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled, 4-3, last week that the Mount Vernon School District was well within its rights to fire teacher John Freshwater for insubordination, given that he repeatedly ignored orders to remove religious material from his classroom and from his teaching. The court’s ruling, however, sidestepped the thornier underlying question of how much discussion of creationism and Intelligent Design may be permissible in a science classroom. That question in fact was a large part of Freshwater’s appeal of a lower court’s decision. And the court’s failure to address the issue drew sharp words from the three dissenting judges. Writing for the dissent, Justice Paul E. Pfeifer writes: {¶ 105} What next? With the insubordination claim gutted, the lead opinion should have moved on to consider the constitutional issues remaining in the case. Instead, the majority walks away from the opportunity to provide helpful guidance to every school board in Ohio and to the thousands of great teachers who could benefit from knowing more about the extent of and limits on their academic freedom. Justice O’Donnell’s well-reasoned dissent addresses the issue, but goes unrebutted. In short, the majority shrinks from the ...

And long those same lines, here’s Ulysses S. Grant …

JISHOU, HUNAN — Serendipitously, here’s a quote from President Grant, speaking before Civil War veterans a century after Adams wrote his letters. Let us all labor to add all needful guarantees for the security of free thought, free speech, a free press, pure morals, unfettered religious sentiments, and of equal rights and privileges to all men irrespective of nationality, color or religion. Encourage free schools, and resolve that not one dollar, appropriated for their support, shall be appropriated to the support of any sectarian schools. Resolve that neither the state nor nation, nor both combined, shall support institutions of learning other than those sufficient to afford to every child growing up in the land the opportunity of a good common school education, unmixed with sectarian, pagan, or atheistical dogmas. Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate. With these safeguards, I believe the battles which created the Army of the Tennessee will not have been fought in vain. (Source) The context for his remarks were sectarian battles in many cities about what religious ideas should be taught in tax-supported schools. Grant’s ...

Why wait for Superman? 4

JISHOU, HUNAN — From my distant perch here, I’ve heard the news about the film, Waiting for Superman*, which ballyhoos the charter-school model as the solution for America’s supposedly failing public schools. Oprah, queen of fads-du-jour, had the filmmakers on her show. Bill and Melinda Gates are involved. It’s the latest “big thing” in education, which has been plagued by about a hundred “big things” in as many years, all promising to solve problem X, where stands for the Dilemma of the Moment. I haven’t seen the flick, but as they say, I’ve read the reviews. While some reviews just gush about the film, a more nuanced review is in The Nation. I encourage you to read it, as a counterpoint to the mostly mindless adulation of the film and its rather one-sided message. Today I read an article in The New York Times about a huge public high school in Boston that got results, not by adopting the education fad-du-jour, but by doing things the old-fashioned way. Instead of throwing up their hands and declaring “The public school is dead!” teachers at Brockton High School rolled up their sleeves and restructured the school’s instructional plan. Brockton was among Massachusett’s ...
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