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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2012/07/06

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The latest twist in the Freshwater saga. A new poll on climate change.
And a new discussion of the challenges to teaching evolution from
Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer, the authors of Evolution,
Creationism, and the Battle to Control America's Classrooms.

FRESHWATER APPEAL TO BE HEARD

The Ohio Supreme Court will hear the appeal of John Freshwater, the
middle school science teacher in Mount Vernon, Ohio, who was fired
over his inappropriate religious activity in the classroom, including
teaching creationism. The Associated Press (July 5, 2012) summarized,
"The court said Freshwater can argue that it is unconstitutional to
fire someone without clear guidance on what teaching materials or
methods are acceptable. Freshwater also can argue that it is
unconstitutional to fire someone over the mere presence of a religious
text like the Bible in the classroom."

In 2008, a local family accused Freshwater of engaging in
inappropriate religious activity and sued Freshwater and the district.
The Mount Vernon City School Board then voted to begin proceedings to
terminate his employment. After thorough administrative hearings that
proceeded over two years and involved more than eighty witnesses, the
referee presiding over the hearings issued his recommendation that the
board terminate Freshwater's employment with the district, and the
board voted to do so in January 2011. (The lawsuit against Freshwater
was settled in the meantime.)

Freshwater challenged his termination in the Knox County Court of
Common Pleas in February 2011. When the challenge was unsuccessful, he
then appealed the decision to Ohio's Fifth District Court of Appeals
in December 2011. NCSE filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the
appellate court, arguing that Freshwater's materials and methods
concerning evolution "have no basis in science and serve no
pedagogical purpose." In March 2012, the Fifth District Court of
Appeals upheld the lower court's rejection of Freshwater's challenge.
Freshwater then appealed that decision to the Ohio Supreme Court in
April 2012.

Documents relevant to Freshwater's termination and the subsequent
court case are available on NCSE's website. Extensive blog coverage of
the Freshwater saga, including Richard B. Hoppe's day-by-day account
of Freshwater's termination hearing, is available at The Panda's Thumb
blog; search for "Freshwater". Hoppe also recently contributed "Dover
Comes to Ohio" -- a detailed account from a local observer of the
whole fracas, from the precipitating incident to Freshwater's appeal
-- to Reports of the National Center for Science Education 32:1.

For the Associated Press article (via the San Francisco Chronicle), visit:
http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Ohio-court-to-hear-appeal-of-teacher-in-Bible-case-3685906.php 

For NCSE's friend-of-the-court brief (PDF), visit:
http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1716 

For NCSE's collection of materials from the case, visit:
http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/freshwater-termination-hearing 

For The Panda's Thumb blog, visit:
http://pandasthumb.org/ 

For Hoppe's "Dover Comes to Ohio" (PDF), visit:
http://reports.ncse.com/index.php/rncse/article/view/99/92 

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

A NEW POLL ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Almost three in four of Americans accept recent global warming,
according to a new poll conducted for the Washington Post and Stanford
University -- but only three in ten agree that it is mainly due to
human activity.

Asked "Do you think that the world's temperature probably has been
going up ["slowly" was used with half of the sample] over the past 100
years, or do you think this probably has not been happening?" 73% of
respondents said yes, 25% of respondents said no, and 2% indicated
that they didn't know or refused to answer.

Asked (with two different wordings) about the cause of the rise in the
world's temperature, 30% agreed that it was due mostly to human
activity, 22% agreed that it was due mostly by natural causes, 47%
agreed that it was due about equally to human activity, and 1%
indicated that they didn't know or refused to answer.

Asked "How much do you trust the things that scientists say about
global warming?" 6% of respondents responded "completely," 22% "a
lot," 33% "a moderate amount," 26% "little," 11% "not at all," and 1%
indicated that they didn't know or refused to answer.

For the first two of these questions, about the rise in the world's
temperature and its cause, the report of the poll provides comparable
data extending back to March 2006; the third question, about trusting
scientists about global warming, was new.

According to the report of the poll, it "was conducted by telephone
June 13 to 21, 2012, among a random national sample of 804 adults,
including landline and cell phone-only respondents. The results from
the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.5
percentage points."

For the report of the poll (PDF), visit:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/documents/global-warming-poll.pdf 

And for NCSE's collection of polls and surveys on climate change, visit:
http://ncse.com/polls/polls-climate-change 

"AN EVOLVING CONTROVERSY"

Will a new generation of science standards improve the teaching of
science? Writing in the summer 2012 issue of American Educator,
Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer, the Pennsylvania State University
political science professors who coauthored Evolution, Creationism,
and the Battle to Control America's Classrooms (Cambridge University
Press, 2010), offer their view: "We see a rough road ahead for
teachers." Noting that A Framework for K-12 Science Education -- on
which the Next Generation Science Standards now under development are
based -- emphasizes the centrality of evolution in the life sciences,
they note that evolutionary biology is poised to become "much more
salient for many teachers who have never before had to teach it." They
add, "Understanding the challenges of teaching evolution has
increasing relevance, therefore, across the science curriculum and
speaks to more general debates concerning the importance of teachers
having deep content knowledge."

After discussing the basis for the scientific consensus on evolution,
Berkman and Plutzer review the current public opinion polls on
teaching evolution and creationism in the public schools, the
religious roots of antievolutionism, and their own national poll of
public high school biology teachers, which revealed that only 28% are
"clear advocates of evolutionary biology," while 13% are advocates of
creationism and 60% are in the "cautious middle," many of whom "do not
feel like they have the expertise they need to confidently teach
evolutionary biology in a rigorous and unapologetic manner."
Emphasizing the importance to society of a sound science education,
they express hope that "educators will be supported by their
administrators and community members so they can teach evolution,
climate change, the antiquity of the universe, and any other socially
controversial subject with the same commitment to scientific accuracy
as when they teach other topics in science."

For Berkman and Plutzer's "An Evolving Controversy" (PDF), visit:
http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/summer2012/berkman_plutzer.pdf 

For Berkman, Pacheco, and Plutzer's report on their national poll of
teachers, visit:
http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.0060124 

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 and climate education and threats to them.

-- 
Sincerely,

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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http://reports.ncse.com 

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