News & Criticism

The Fine Art of Burying the Lede (Creationism-vs.-Torture-in-the-Classroom Edition)

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I just clicked through this story at Drudge headlined "Ohio town split over teacher accused of preaching…."

It takes you to a Columbus Dispatch tale of John Freshwater, who might be bounced from his job as a Mount Vernon eighth-grade science teacher for pushing creationism in the classroom:

An investigator for the district found that Freshwater's teachings undermined science education in the public school district and that his students had to be re-taught science principles when they got into higher grades.

Far more important, to my mind, is what got buried toward the end of the piece:

The family of one of Freshwater's former students who had a cross burned onto his arm by the teacher sued the school district and Freshwater last month. The suit says the boy's civil rights were violated.

I'm as pro-evolution as the next mammal or Pokemon desperately trying to rise above both nature and nurture, but I really think burning a cross onto a student's arm deserves to be in the first paragraph.

I did a quick Google search to get more background on the story and came across National Review's Kevin Williamson thinking the same thoughts (only more quickly and succinctly):

I might have written this Columbus Dispatch story a little differently. Seems a teacher in Ohio is going to be fired after accusations that he has improperly inserted his personal opinions into the curriculum….They're arguing about whether the guy went a little too Genesis during eighth-grade science when he burned a cross into a student's arm? Egad. Mightn't that have been a little higher in the story?

More here.

Update: National Review's Williamson pointed me to this additional story. Freshwater has been fired and seems likely to appeal his dismissal. Snippets from the story:

Freshwater's friend Dave Daubenmire defended him.

"With the exception of the cross-burning episode….I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district," he told The Columbus Dispatch for a story published Friday.

Several students interviewed by investigators described Freshwater, who has been employed by the school district located 40 miles northeast of Columbus for 21 years, as a great guy and their favorite teacher….

Freshwater used a science tool known as a high-frequency generator to burn images of a cross on students' arms in December, the report said. Freshwater told investigators he simply was trying to demonstrate the device on several students and described the images as an "X," not a cross. But pictures show a cross, the report said.

Daubenmire sounds like a great friend, but that's a pretty big exception, don't you think?

The longer story and an image of the cross on a student's arm is here.

I am tempted to turn this into a pro-school-voucher story because, well, you know, nothing bad ever happens at private schools. But I think in the end it might just be an anti-school story. Or an anti-Ohio story. Or maybe just a summer vacation story.