Testimony by former students of John Freshwater, and teachers who subsequently dealt with those students, stated, in the Freshwater termination hearing, that the creationist content of the curriculum caused the students to doubt the value and veracity of science. One of the students who took the stand was Jewish, demonstrating that creationism in the classroom effects all students; not just those whose religious convictions align with a literal interpretation of Genesis. This is disturbing to me for a couple of reasons.
In the 2006 PISA international science test, the US ranked 19th out of thirty nations tested; well below average. Yet it indicated that only Switzerland spends more money per student than the US and, with one of the highest percentages, 38.8% of our students believe they will be in a science related job by age 30. This seems to indicate that although we do a lousy job of teaching science, we do a good job of convincing our students that we are preparing them to be competitive in a high tech world. An awful lot of our kids will be surprised and disappointed when they end up serving hamburgers to the high tech workers that got the real science educations. I saw the results of our educational system when I worked for a biotech company 15 years ago; a lot of US applicants were losing out to people from overseas in the most demanding jobs.
So, what does this have to do with Freshwater? We already have demonstrated that we are below average at teaching science and we know that a fair percentage of those kids will be told Sunday morning to disregard whatever information they were taught the previous week, under threat of eternal damnation. The last thing our kids need is a science teacher exacerbating the situation. Who knows how many potential gifted scientists were steered away from finding a disease cure or inventing a flying car by the propaganda from one teacher.
The other thing that bothered me was that a Jewish boy was convinced that conclusions drawn from the scientific method were irrelevant; but that the views of someone else’s religious beliefs were relevant. There are several non-bible-based religious centers near Mount Vernon, so it’s possible that Freshwater’s classes could contain children of Hindus, Buddhists or a few other religions that don’t have anything to do with the Bible. How would it feel for a student from a Hindu household to be told that he or she was required to be familiar with the first chapter of someone else’s religious book as part of their science curriculum? Would the Christian students in Mount Vernon mind aligning their scientific curriculum with the Bhagavad Gita?
What I’m trying to say is that we owe our children the best education money can buy and that should make them the most learned students in the world. Our schools don’t even come close to that goal and we have people investing huge amounts of money and effort in propaganda that undermines that education. The “intelligent design” proponents have no interest in science education; their only goal is to prosthelytize for their religion. That is unethical, unconstitutional, and incredibly self-centered. The creationists are destroying our educational system and the future of our children simply because they believe it will earn them more brownie points with God.