NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2009/08/28
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, A partial settlement in a legal case involving a teacher accused of inappropriate religious activity in the classroom, including teaching creationism. The HHMI Bulletin discusses ways for teachers to introduce evolution in a non-threatening way. And there are now over 1100 signatories to NCSE's Project Steve.
PARTIAL SETTLEMENT IN FRESHWATER CASE A partial settlement was reportedly reached in Doe v. Mount Vernon Board of Education et al., the case in which a Mount Vernon, Ohio, teacher, was accused of inappropriate religious activity in the classroom -- including displaying posters with the Ten Commandments and Bible verses, branding crosses into the arms of his students with a high-voltage electrical device, and teaching creationism. The Mount Vernon News (August 27, 2009) reported that "the board’s insurance company has agreed to pay $115,500 toward the plaintiffs’ legal fees, $5,500 to one of the plaintiffs as compensation and the sum of $1 each to two other individuals." The board, superintendent, and principal of the middle school admit no liability in the agreement, which will have to be approved by a court. Not covered by the settlement agreement is the teacher himself, John Freshwater. Shortly after the filing of the case, the board voted to initiate proceedings to terminate Freshwater's employment in the district. Freshwater appealed the decision, and administrative hearings have been proceeding intermittently since October 2008. Detailed reports on the hearings by Richard B. Hoppe are available on The Panda’s Thumb blog (search for "Freshwater"). Complicating the legal situation, Freshwater filed a counterclaim in Doe v. Mount Vernon in 2008 and his own lawsuit, Freshwater v. Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education et al., against the board and a number of district administrators in 2009, alleging religious discrimination, defamation, conspiracy, and breach of contract. According to the Mount Vernon News, the school board also agreed to "[p]rohibit staff from discussing the John Freshwater case with or in the presence of students during the school day and at school activities; [p]rovide training to board members and administrators concerning religion and the school, and provide training to teachers on the same topic ... [and] [m]ake a public statement at the conclusion of the Freshwater administrative hearing." A statement released by the board explained, "The resolution of the lawsuit against the board, superintendent and middle school principal has no impact or bearing on the pending administrative hearing with respect to the middle school teacher’s employment. Due to pending litigation, the board will not be commenting further." For the story in the Mount Vernon News, visit: http://www.mountvernonnews.com/local/09/08/27/school-board-resolves-federal-lawsuit For NCSE's collection of documents from Doe v. Mount Vernon, visit: http://ncseweb.org/creationism/legal/doe-v-freshwater-mv For Richard B. Hoppe's reports on the hearings, visit: http://pandasthumb.org For NCSE's collection of documents from Freshwater v. Mount Vernon, visit: http://ncseweb.org/creationism/legal/freshwater-v-mount-vernon And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Ohio, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/ohio THE E WORD IN THE HHMI BULLETIN How can teachers introduce evolution in a non-threatening way? Nancy Volker's article "The E World," published in the August 2009 issue of the HHMI Bulletin, discusses a number of strategies for introducing evolution gradually and without fanfare. "It's like adding shredded zucchini to a homemade chocolate cake," she explains. "No one knows it's there, and once it's pointed out, people realize it's not at all what they thought." Among the resources on teaching evolution suggested in the article are NCSE's website, the University of California Museum of Paleontology's Understanding Evolution website, and the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine's booklet Science, Evolution, and Creationism. The web version of the article also includes audio interviews with Kelly Smith and Margaret Ptacek, both of Clemson University. For the article in the HHMI Bulletin, visit: http://www.hhmi.org/bulletin/aug2009/upfront/word.html For the cited resources, visit: http://ncseweb.org http://evolution.berkeley.edu http://www.nap.edu/sec PROJECT STEVE: N > 1100 With the addition of Stephen D. Kinrade on August 25, 2009, NCSE's Project Steve attained its 1100th signatory. A tongue-in-cheek parody of the long-standing creationist tradition of amassing lists of "scientists who doubt evolution" or "scientists who dissent from Darwinism," Project Steve mocks such lists by restricting its signatories to scientists whose first name is Steve. (Cognates are also accepted, such as Stephanie, Esteban, Istvan, Stefano, or even Tapani -- the Finnish equivalent.) About 1% of the United States population possesses such a first name, so each signatory represents about 100 potential signatories. ("Steve" was selected in honor of the late Stephen Jay Gould, a Supporter of NCSE and a dauntless defender of evolution education.) Although the idea of Project Steve is frivolous, the statement is serious. It reads, "Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to 'intelligent design,' to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools." Among the 1101 current signatories to Project Steve are 100% of eligible Nobel laureates (Steven Weinberg and Steven Chu), 100% of eligible members of President Obama's Cabinet (Steven Chu, the Secretary of Energy), at least ten members of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors of widely used textbooks such as Molecular Biology of the Gene, Psychology: An Evolutionary Approach, and Introduction to Organic Geochemistry, and the authors of popular science books such as A Brief History of Time, Why We Age, and Darwin's Ghost. When last surveyed in February 2006, 54% of the signatories work in the biological sciences proper; 61% work in related fields in the life sciences. For information about Project Steve, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/2009/08/taking-action/project-steve Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncseweb.org -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it. -- Sincerely, Glenn Branch Deputy Director National Center for Science Education, Inc. 420 40th Street, Suite 2 Oakland, CA 94609-2509 510-601-7203 x310 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncseweb.org Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism -- now in its second edition! http://ncseweb.org/evc Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools http://ncseweb.org/nioc NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncseweb.org/membership