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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/12/16

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

John Freshwater appeals his termination as a middle school science
teacher. A county school superintendent in Kentucky blasts evolution
-- and the state education commissioner replies. And the Turkish
government is accused of censoring a website on evolution.

THE FRESHWATER CASE STILL CONTINUES

With a brief filed in Ohio's Fifth District Court of Appeals, John
Freshwater is appealing a court's ruling to uphold his termination as
a middle school science teacher in Mount Vernon, Ohio. It is the
latest twist in a long saga that began in 2008, when a local family
accused Freshwater of engaging in inappropriate religious activity --
including teaching creationism -- and sued Freshwater and the
district. The Mount Vernon City School Board then voted to begin
proceedings to terminate his employment. After administrative hearings
that proceeded sporadically over two years, the referee presiding over
the hearings issued his recommendation that the board terminate his
employment with the district, and the board voted to do so in January
2011.

Freshwater challenged his termination in the Knox County Common Pleas
Court on February 8, 2011. After the court found "there is clear and
convincing evidence to support the Board of Education's termination of
Freshwater's contract(s) for good and just cause," the Rutherford
Institute, a Virginia-based conservative legal group, promptly
announced its intention to appeal the decision on Freshwater's behalf.
The latest brief was filed by Freshwater's attorney R. Kelly Hamilton
"in conjunction with" the Rutherford Institute. It asks for a reversal
of the lower court's decision, monetary damages for wrongful
termination and violation of civil rights, and reinstatement of
Freshwater in his teaching position.

With respect to Freshwater's teaching of creationism, which was cited
in the board's resolution to terminate his employment with the
district, the brief alleges, "Freshwater sought to encourage his
students to differentiate between facts and theories, and to identify
and discuss instances where textbook statements were subject to
intellectual and scientific debate," claims, "his encouraging students
to think critically about scientific theories ... cannot be rendered
illegal based solely on the presumption that Freshwater's personal
beliefs happen to align with one of the competing theories
considered," and accuses the board's actions of constituting "an
outright hostility to religion that ... violates the Establishment
Clause."

For NCSE's collections of documents from the various proceedings
involving Freshwater, visit:
http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/doe-v-freshwater-mv 
http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/freshwater-v-mount-vernon 
http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/freshwater-termination-hearing 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Ohio, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/ohio 

COUNTY SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT BLASTS EVOLUTION

The superintendent of the school system in Hart County, Kentucky, is
complaining about the emphasis on evolution in the state's new
end-of-course test for biology, according to the Lexington
Herald-Leader (December 13, 2011). In a November 21, 2011, letter to
state education commissioner Terry Holliday and the state board of
education, Ricky D. Line expressed "deep concern about the increased
emphasis on the evolution content required in the new End-of-Course
Blueprint ... I find the increase is substantial and alarming." He
continued, "I have a very difficult time believing that we have come
to a point in education that we are teaching evolution, not the theory
of evolution, as a factual occurence, while totally omitting the
creation story by a God who is bigger than all of us. I do not believe
in macroevolution, and I do believe in creation by our God." Line
oversees six schools with about 2200 students.

Toward the end of his letter, Line posed these questions to the
commissioner and board: "1. Do you consider macroevolution to be fact
or theory? 2. Do you believe that macroevolution contradicts the Bible
and God's hand in creation? 3. Are you personally willing to promote
macroevolution as what our students should be learning as fact? 4. Do
you believe it is the role of the state to mandate the teaching of
macroevolution at the exclusion of other theories or beliefs?" He
added, "If you don't believe in macroevolution, then please rethink
what we are mandating our teachers to instill in our students. ...
Stop requiring our teachers to teach, as fact, an evolution that would
convince our children that they evolved from lower life forms and,
therefore, have reason to discount the Bible and the faith beliefs
that follow. This is not an improvement in our public education
system."

In a written response to Line, Holliday explained the difference
between the vernacular and the scientific uses of the word "theory,"
emphasized that "science is not a system of belief" and that "creation
science" is not considered to be appropriate for science classrooms,
remarked that evolutionary theory "is one of the foundational
components of modern biology," and reviewed the treatment of evolution
in Kentucky's state science standards (which received a D in Anton
Mates and Louise Mead's 2009 review of the treatment of evolution in
state science standards). Unsatisfied, Line told the Herald-Leader,
"My argument is, do we want our children to be taught these things as
facts? Personally, I don't," adding, "I don't think life on earth
began as a one-celled organism. I don't think that all of us came from
a common ancestor ... I don't think the Big Bang theory describes the
explanation of the origin of the universe."

Holliday told the newspaper that no further response to Line was
contemplated. "I think what was unclear to Ricky is that we certainly
are not teaching evolution as a fact, but as a scientific theory," he
said. "That's been in the program of study for a number of years."
Controversy over the teaching of education in Kentucky is not new,
however. Still on the books is a statute (Kentucky Revised Statutes
158.177) that authorizes teachers to teach "the theory of creation as
presented in the Bible" and to "read such passages in the Bible as are
deemed necessary for instruction on the theory of creation," although
the Louisville Courier-Journal (January 11, 2006) reported that in a
November 2005 survey of the state's 176 school districts, none was
teaching or discussing "intelligent design." The most recent
antievolution bill in the state, House Bill 169, died in committee in
March 2011.

For the article in the Lexington Herald-Leader, visit:
http://www.kentucky.com/2011/12/12/1992514/kentuckys-plan-for-biology-tests.html 

For the text of KRS 158.177 (PDF), visit:
http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/158-00/177.PDF 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Kentucky, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/kentucky 

EVOLUTION CENSORED IN TURKEY?

Evolution "ranks alongside pornography and terrorism as topics that
the Turkish government's controversial new Internet filtering scheme
keeps out of the hands of children," according to a post on the
ScienceInsider blog (December 9, 2011). The Hürriyet Daily News
(December 8, 2011) reported that a website explaining evolution was
blocked for children by the new filtering scheme." Users choosing the
"children profile" for their internet connection are able to access
"only several types of web pages such as public and educational
websites," the newspaper explained.

Acknowledging that the block was subsequently lifted, ScienceInsider
observed that nevertheless, "science advocates and Internet freedom
activists say it's a worrying sign of the government's attitude toward
evolution." Aykut Kence, a biologist at Middle East Technical
University in Ankara, told the blog that the censorship "shows the
mentality of people censoring the websites ... Apparently they thought
that this was deleterious for kids." Kence added that the creationist
websites operated under the Harun Yahya name were available "without
any restriction."

For the ScienceInsider story, visit:
http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/12/controversial-turkish-internet-c.html 

For the Hürriyet Daily News story, visit:
http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/internet-filters-block-evolution-website.aspx?pageID=238&nID=8758&NewsCatID=341 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events abroad, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/international 

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 education and threats to it.

-- 
With best wishes for the holiday season,

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
branch@ncse.com 
http://ncse.com 

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