Freshwater’s dismissal brought widespread attention to a local controversy over religious education in public schools that began almost a decade ago. In interviews with the Collegian, Kenyon professors recalled following the story over the years as it evolved from a rejected intelligent design curriculum into allegations of physical violence against students.The most disturbing quote from the story is this, though:
Between 2002 and 2003, Freshwater petitioned the Board of Education to adopt a lesson plan based on materials from the Intelligent Design Network, an organization dedicated to promoting creationism. Freshwater’s proposal “was turned down by the District’s science curriculum committee, and then was turned down by the Board,” said Richard Hoppe, an affiliated scholar in biology at Kenyon, who has written extensively about Freshwater’s case for The Panda’s Thumb, a science education blog.
After the last set of allegations about Freshwater’s conduct surfaced in 2008, Hoppe attended 38 of the 40 public school board meetings leading up to the 2011 termination decision. He also taught an interdisciplinary studies course at Kenyon about the conflict between creationism and evolution.
“The materials he used in support of that proposal were classical intelligent design creationism materials,” Hoppe said. “It didn’t surprise me when some of the allegations later were that he taught using those kinds of materials.”
Professor of Biology Wade Powell said Freshwater “was teaching creation science — and the fashionable version of it at that time was called ‘intelligent design’ –– and it coincided with some battles that were being fought at the level of the state board of education about the standards for Ohio education.”
Hoppe related an incident from the administrative hearings where a student witness, when asked what he had learned about science from Freshwater’s class, reportedly replied, “I learned that you can’t trust scientists. Scientists don’t know anything. You can’t trust science.”Sometimes, when I read what comes out of state legislatures with people like Paul Broun in Georgia, I think that they get these ideas from teachers like Freshwater. Rotten science education breeds rotten science legislation.
“That was the most striking and disheartening thing,” Hoppe said. “You can’t trust science.”