Friday, July 04, 2008

Shame on the Associated Press – The Truth About John Freshwater, A Deserving Teacher of the Year

There’s a fine line between media bias and an all out smear campaign. That line was stormed by the Associated Press in one of their worst displays of cruel and malicious personal attacks. The victim of their warped campaign: One John Freshwater, two time teacher of the year, the last time being in 2007.

John Freshwater is a teacher who is well liked and admired by his students. How often is it that we even hear of such a thing in most schools today? But that didn’t stop the Associated Press from running one of the most false and incendiary portrayals of an individual ever written.

We all know about media bias and the extent of it. What most readers don’t expect of the media is all out character assassination. But the Associated Press lowered the bar yet again, and defamation is now considered to be on equal footing with news reporting.

It is no secret that the average journalist is far to the left of even some of our most liberal politicians. As true radicals, they and their editors engage in tactics that all honest people would consider shameful. And in the eyes of these radicals John Freshwater had committed the ultimate “sin.” He told his class that there are two theories to the coming about of the universe, and encouraged them to study up on both and to think for themselves.

The AP didn’t go into the merits of either side of the creation vs. evolution debate. That would have forced them to highlight that creationists do have a scientific case, a stronger one than most people know. The AP didn’t even write one of their usual one sided pieces, with their standard uncalled for insertion of opinion into news articles. As Freshwater had committed the ultimate sin, he was set up for the ultimate in treatment; false insinuations and malicious character attacks. But in his case, the extent the AP went to was heinous beyond belief.

While the title of the Columbus Dispatch, the closest daily to Freshwater’s school, simply read “Teacher Disses Evolution” (itself a stretch), the AP saw more fit to run the insidious headline, “Report: Ohio teacher burned cross on kids' arms”.

What really happened is that a few parents, a very small minority, complained that Freshwater had exposed their children to creationism. And while no students complained, as they never saw a reason to oppose being presented all sides of an issue, the few parental complaints resulted in an investigation, one in which Freshwater’s merits as a teacher were generally upheld.

However, the report did (as all reports do), list the individual complaints specifically. And one parent, out of an entire class of students, had complained that her child and others had been “branded with cross by Freshwater.”

What really happened is that Freshwater demonstrated to a number of students how a high frequency generator worked. What he did was normal for a science class, and the fact that no students and no other parents complained, although Freshwater had demonstrated the device on several students, should make that point clear.

The only complainant was a couple who strongly disagreed with Freshwater’s encouragement of free thought. There also seems to have been a monetary factor, as they decided to sue the school district and Freshwater personally.

The litigating couple knows full well that all students who participated in the generator demonstration did so willingly. They also know that no other parents sought to complain.
If they had been around when I was in 7th grade and one of my science teachers had us test our blood to see if we were As, Bs, or Os, we would have been forced to endure investigations into whether our teacher was a vampire, provided that she had also mentioned something to the class that didn’t meet with this couple’s approval.

But while their actions seem solely designed to smear a respectable teacher whose views they disagree with (and if they can punish him a little bit more with a lawsuit, and maybe even come out ahead if the school district settles, then so be it), they are, at the end of the day, the lone acts of one misguided couple. One would expect better of the Associated Press.

The report does document this lone couple’s complaint. All complaints ever launched against Freshwater are documented, as that was the purpose of the report in the first place. But to remove all context from the story is incendiary, as is titling it “teacher burned cross on kids' arms” instead of the more appropriate “Lone Couple Accuses Two Time Teacher Of The Year of Burning Cross Into Students Arms,” (assuming the AP would again start capitalizing headlines).

Even the latter title should be followed with the byline, “Launch Lawsuit That No Other Parents Join In,” as is the norm when reporting on any wild accusations against an individual while the accusers remain nameless. This is especially true when no one else in the class had a problem and even the alleging couple waited for months to act, which would hardly have been the case if a teacher were actually “branding students with crosses.”

A mother who tenderly gives birth to her child can technically, if not accurately, be described as “forcibly shoving her child out, on its birthday!” Indeed, for this reason Freshwater should be glad he’s not a woman, as the AP would have most likely added this description to his list of other fictional atrocities, because as shameful as all of the above is, the AP didn’t stop there.

The journalist covering the story went after Freshwater with added zeal. It wasn’t enough to tarnish him with an inflammatory headline. No mercy would be given to those who encourage free thought in the classroom, in a supposed institution of learning.

The AP reporter, or reporters, went about interviewing Freshwater’s colleagues and supervisors. And the more they did, the greater their disappointment. Everyone seemed to believe that he was an excellent teacher.

But since when should a few small facts get in the way of the agenda driven AP? Instead of reporting these positive endorsements, they pressed their subjects harder. After all, if you press long enough, you can twist the words of almost anyone, or otherwise get them to give the type of quote you want. And this is what the AP did.
When one colleague said that Freshwater is one of the best teachers they know, the AP reporter asked “What about the cross burning?” Of course, the teacher, caught off guard and without experience dealing with goons, replied “aside from the cross burning.” And so the AP got their quote “with the exception of the cross burning…… he’s teaching the values of the parents… in the school district,” painting all of his supporters as loons, when the truth is the exact opposite, that sanity decries the gross injustice done to him.

But don’t worry. The AP didn’t stop there. They are the AP after all, and they must live up to their agenda. And so they went about digging for dirt among past supervisors.

Once again, the responses they received were anything but what they wished for. The man was genuinely liked. So they asked questions like “has there ever been a complaint against Freshwater before?” (One would be hard pressed to find a public school teacher that hasn’t been the subject of parental complaints, even a twice awarded teacher of the year like Jeff Freshwater, especially given the “my child can do no wrong” attitude of some parents today.) To this, they received the answer they wanted.

The AP reporter pressed on, asking how long and frequent the complaints had been. When given the answer that they were few and far between, the AP reporter would ask when the first one happened. Had the first complaint been in the early years, when Freshwater was first hired? Had there been any complaints since? With these questions, the response to which would be “yes” if asked about 90% of long term teachers, the reporter could write that a former supervisor had “dealt with complaints” about the teacher over an extended period of time. That’s the AP’s way of saying 3 complaints in 11 years when the subject of these complaints is not to their liking.

The blatant character assassination engaged in by the Associated Press should be patently obvious to all readers. Had the teacher indeed “branded students with crosses” it should be as clear as day that no one would have waited for such behavior to turn up in an independent report, nor would this have been ignored by all students and by all parents except for one. But the AP couldn’t just run a story on a teacher in trouble for presenting creationism and for keeping a Bible in class. Not when they could smear him personally, portraying a twice awarded Teacher of the Year as one would portray an axe murderer.

The Associated Press could have simply reported that Freshwater taught that creationism has legitimacy. They could have also mentioned that he kept a Bible in class (which he did not even read from aloud or otherwise share with students). Many would have criticized him for that alone, without maliciously attacking his character. I would have personally sided with him, as creationists generally win scientific debates against evolutionists and the intent of the Founding Fathers was never to ban a teacher from keeping a Bible in a classroom, as is clear to any objective reader of US or constitutional history. However, the story would have been accurate, not an act of character slaughter.

Is this what we can expect from militant leftist journalists and editors? Well, from my own experience, the most virulent, radical and dangerous groups that I’ve come across have been militant atheists. After my recent column on the existence of the Divine, I experienced google stalking, harassing phone calls and was targeted with computer viruses and the like. When they could not successfully attack the substance of the column, or get Canada Free Press to stop running it after launching one of their typical campaigns to stifle free speech, they took to falsely attacking my character. In the end it was all small potatoes and nonsense, but it showed me just how militant some atheists can be. The results for Freshwater have been far worse.

John Freshwater is an exceptional teacher. Just last year he was recognized as the very best in his profession for the second time. This teacher will probably lose his job, not because of the outlandish, shameful and disgraceful coverage of the AP, but because of creationism, which schools have reflexively dismissed without even looking into (in part because of the tactics of militant atheists to stifle free speech and to smear any creationist), and because he kept a personal Bible in class.

I don’t know John Freshwater. But I can’t help but be touched by his story, his exceptional teaching record and the obviously baseless smears launched against him.

This is disgraceful. But the fact is that I doubt that a teacher on a fixed salary, who now faces losing his job and is the subject of a frivolous lawsuit launched by a couple that took issue with his teaching and therefore sought to smear and malign him in the most ridiculous of ways, is sitting very comfortably. I would therefore urge readers to help this man out with a donation to his legal defense fund. A collection is being raised by the Community Council for Free Expression at http://agoodchoice.blogspot.com/2008/05/freshwater-legal-defense-fund.html. I will be sending a check with a copy of the this column and I would urge you to send your own donations to help this man during his trying times. I would also urge readers to write the AP and to demand a retraction and full apology for their baseless and shameful distortions of a twice awarded teacher of the year.

8 comments:

Jorge said...

I wonder if you have the courage to leave this posted on your blog. I wonder if you have even more courage to print a retraction based on the following...

In your rant against the bad journalists of the AP liberal media you seem to have ignored what good journalism requires. There is a little thing good journalists like to call research and facts which seems to be missing in your rant against the story on John Freshwater. The link below is the PDF of an official report created by an professional human resources firm hired by the school board's lawyers to do an independent investigation. Since both the attorneys and the HR firm's professional reputations depend on accuracy of facts which might be presented in a courtroom (which they certainly would expect in this case) it seems less than unlikely it is "made up" in any sense of the word.

http://www.dispatch.com/wwwexportcontent/sites/dispatch/local_news/stories/2008/06/19/Freshwater.pdf

jorge said...

Looks like the URL was clipped in the final comment display. The whole URL is:

http://www.dispatch.com
/wwwexportcontent/sites
/dispatch/local_news/stories
/2008/06/19/Freshwater.pdf

Also, if you click on my name it will take you there.

Yomin Postelnik said...

Jorge,

This is a joke, right? That you for proving my point, and the obvious, that the report was a mere compilation of the accusations (which was the purpose of the report), not a fact finding piece. What they found is that he conducted the same experiment on that kid that he had done on students for 10 years, without a single complaint! I guess that's what you'd call branding.

Nice to see you devote so much effort to your witch hunt. I hear Macy's has a 50% sale on daggered cloaks. They should come in handy for you.

Jorge said...

(Just as an fyi, I personally DO believe in Intelligent Design, so this is not about my "evolutionary" leanings, it is about a problematic teacher who says one thing but does another.)

You need to go back and re-read the report. Let us look at the facts and the statements made by Freshwater himself:

=== ITEM #1 ===

As to the whole burning of the students' arms, I consider that to be a mountain being made of an anthill. It does grab headlines but even the investigators found no evidence of intent to harm.

What does bother me on this item is the same thing that bothers me on the entire issue...

Freshwater says it was not a "Cross" but an "X" yet ALL evidence both photographic and testimonial say it was a Cross on each student's arm. Freshwater appears to be very willing to be a Witness for Christ but it seems only if he can do so by deceiving authorities and covering his ass. I always thought the Sword of Truth was the weapon of Christ's Followers, not the falseness of the Prince of Lies.

=== ITEM #2 ===

On page 4 of the report Freshwater says that he teaches according to the standards and on page 3 the standards are defined to include:

"...[the Academic Content Standards K-12 Science book] stated that there should be no instruction regarding creationism or intelligent design OR ANY CHALLENGE TO THE CONCEPT OF EVOLUTION..." (emphasis added)

Yet Freshwater admits he created an extra credit incentive assignment promoting the viewing of the movie "Expelled" which is all about challenging the concept of evolution and challenging the school boards. Even as an optional assignment, introducing this subject matter to 8th grade students clearly violates the Ohio School Board standards.

=== ITEM #3 ===

During an 8 minute broadcast TV interview on Larry Elder's SHOWDOWN on July 5th, Freshwater stated very emphatically "I do not teach creationism" and then later said "I do not teach ID, I do not teach creation".

Pages 4, 5, and 6 of the report provide hard evidence that this is false:

(A) questionaire responses written by Freshwater's 2004-2007 students show that Freshwater was teaching them ID and creationsim, and that in fact they debated the matter in class. (in particular see page 6, responses to question 4)

(B) student worksheets created by Freshwater asking "Is there an [Intelligent Design] involved?

(C) an official letter dated 2006 reprimanding him for using anti-Darwinian religious materials and instructing him to cease.

(D) and (in my opinion) the most damning of all is the 2nd bullet item on page 4 concerning the material on dragons and dinosaurs handed out to students. The fact that the material provided to the investigators had been ALTERED to remove explicit references to God and the Bible speaks volumes about how far over the line of Policy he went. Had it not been for a student's having kept unedited copies of the material these efforts to hide these violations might have passed unnoticed. If Freshwater honestly feels he did nothing wrong then why were these pages edited?

=== ITEM #4 ===

Items on page 7 show that Freshwater used the Bible within the classroom as partial basis for his topics, notably
* discussion of the meaning of the Resurrection of Christ (pg 7)
* allusion to Noah's ark (pg 7)

If these two items had been isolated instances I would have no problem, but there is a third item on page 7 where he is alleged to have said "...science is wrong because the Bible states..." and discuss definitions of "sin" is out and out preaching in the classroom. For Freshwater to say to a student "science is wrong" is to undermine his very role as a science teacher.

Additionally he numerous religious posters with Bible verses on the walls and several Bibles around the classroom for student use. What legitimate role would the Holy Scripture have in a public school science classroom?

All of this after Freshwater's having been formally instructed in 2003 to "adhere to board policy ... with respect to Religion In The Curriculum".

=== ITEM #5 ===

On pages 11 and 12 there is self-convicting admissions by Freshwater that he violated Policy by being an active participant and leader in a student religious organization. School Policy and Ohio Law restricts him from any role other than monitor.

=== ITEM #6 ===

Freshwater stated on the above mentioned TV show that he is "very submissive to authority" and demonstrates that by noting that when asked to remove any religious material from the classroom he did so, with the exception of his own personal Bible.
In fact he did not follow the instructions of his supervisor and left several items of religious material in the classroom in plain view of the students and the investigators.

NOTE: I am unclear on if Freshwater was told to remove his personal Bible "from the classroom" or just remove it "from the desktop" (ie: out of sight). In either case when I mention "religious material" in this section I am NOT refering to Freshwater's personal Bible.

Despite Freshwater's assertion that he is submissive to authority, the entire report shows that numerous discussions and other efforts repeatedly occuring through many years, failed to get Freshwater to comply with the "no instruction to challenge evolution in 8th grade" policy. Even after the investigation was started he continued to maintain a collection of anti-evolutionary reference materials in his classroom (pg 7).

Additionally, he not only failed to follow the instruction of his School Principal but the evidence shows that Freshwater actually took deliberate steps to be definant of this instruction by ADDING additional religious material to his classroom from the school library ONLY ONE DAY AFTER being so instructed (pg 12). He stated for the record that he deliberately did this to make a statement (pg 13).

==============

This report is far more than a "compilation of the accusations". It includes (as attachments) hard documents showing Freshwater's abuse of his position as a public employee. It includes summaries of investigative interviews which are subject to discovery in a court of law. It has findings of fact at the conclusion and its writers are subject to charges of liable and defamation if they cannot back up their findings with documentation.

The bottom line in my opinion is that Christians who choose to commit acts of civil disobediance such as defying existing school policies should do so proudly and openly, not in cowardly ways followed by defensive lies.

Yomin Postelnik said...

Jorge,

Your distortions are the mountain out of a molehill.

Are you actually serious debating whether the high voltage device was a cross or an x? When held straight it looks like a lopsided x. But the point is that it was a normal experiment he had done for a decade with no complaint.

Yes, reports document all allegations. That was exactly my point. I doubt he would have said "the Bible says...so science is wrong " because his whole point is that creationism is science.

He didn't "teach" creationism. He did, however, encourage students to find out about it. Extra credit on viewing alternative viewpoints of anything seems like a great idea, except to militants who want to squash freedom of ideas and hide the truth. And before you say otherwise, realize that creationists generally win debates with evolutionists and ever since that became clear very few evolutionists will agree to debate. That doesn't mean they get to hide the facts from everyone else. I've debated evolutionists myself and they've come up very short.

What's most amazing is that you spend so much time researching this man and twisting everything about him. Are you that hellbent against all who oppose your views?

jorge said...

(Note: my name above is a link mentioned later in this posting)...

Thank YOU for documenting MY point. You very obviously did NOT read the report! You prove this beyond all doubt when you say:
I doubt he would have said "the Bible says...so science is wrong " because his whole point is that creationism is science.

You prove that you do not even know what the report says because Freshwater's "whole point" when he used this phrase had NOTHING to do with creationism but rather an entirely different science. Read the report! Be a journalist and check your facts! Don't be an ostrich with your head stuck in the sand! If you find things that show you are wrong, be a man and admit you were wrong!

As for your comment:
He didn't "teach" creationism. He did, however, encourage students to find out about it. Extra credit on viewing alternative viewpoints of anything seems like a great idea, except to militants who want to squash freedom of ideas and hide the truth.

You completely ignore my main concern on this: Freshwater tells the authorities and the press that he teaches "to the Standards" yet those Standards include an explicit instruction not to introduce challenges to evolution theory in the eight grade. If he wants to teach this material then he should apply for teaching an older class grade where challenging ideas is permitted by the rules.

Freshwater knows the rules because his own statements specify that in 2003 he attempted to change those rules (see page 4 of the report, 3rd paragraph) but his proposal was not accepted. So when he could not change the rules he appears to have chosen to ignore them.

The Bible teaches us to respect civil authority. My problem is not what Freshwater is teaching but rather that he says one thing but does another. He says "he teaches to the standards" but he does not. He says he is "cautious about following school policy and protocol" but he is not. He says he is "very submissive to authority" but he is not. The Bible teaches us to respect civil authority but Freshwater chooses to ignore God's Word when it suits his purposes.

As far as debating evolutionists I am delighted to do the same. Go to www.ThankGodForEvolution.com and download a free book on why Intelligent Design has to be true! A book written by a scientist and a book respected by scientists.

On the other hand as far as you winning these debates I suggest you try going to Wikipedia and see how far you get "correcting" the evolutionists with your poor research skills. Wikipedia is not for the faint of heart because they demand research and argument that adheres to well established standards and protocols. I believe in ID but I have found (by checking out facts) that some of the sources I used to quote were written not by scientists but rather by certifiable crackpots which in turn made me look like a crackpot when trying to support ID. I have learned which sources are trustable in such debates and which are built on real science which thus makes my pro-ID arguments stronger. So go ahead and join Wikipedia but only if you have the courage to be challenged and even more courage to admit that some of what you know is wrong.

Lastly, your comment:
Are you that hellbent against all who oppose your views?

No, but I am "heavenbent" against three kinds of people...

(1) I am deeply offended and saddened by people who claim to be Christian and then lie about their actions for self-preservation and/or agenda advancement. More and more I see this happening in our world and it sickens me. Lies are an blatant act against the Commandments God gave to Moses for all time. Lies are the tool of Satan and every Christian should be ashamed of themselves to even think of telling a lie. I am sure God is saddened by them.

(2) I am against "fools" (see Matthew 7:24-27) who call themselves a journalist, but do not follow the basic principals of research and fact checking. Yes, it is hard work ... and sometimes we find we are wrong in our first impressions and have to admit our errors, but it is worth it because you are stronger for being able to argue from a position of fact-based "solid ground".

(3) Lastly, I am incredibly opposed to so-called Christians who bully and insult and hurt the hearts of others. One of the sad truths of this whole affair is that kids at the school who "support" Freshwater are bullying those who don't. See this article here:
http://www.mountvernonnews.com/local/08/05/06/freshwater_upd.html (I will also link it to my name at the top of this article in case it formats badly again)

I have a step-sister who's children attend Mount Vernon Middle School(Freshwater's school). She heard these stories before the news ever printed any of them. Her own kids have never been in Freshwater's class so they cannot speak to his actions, but they have seen these cowardly acts of darkness being done against others in the school. They go to their Mom in confusion and tears asking "Why?".

What kind of America will these kids live in where the Torah is given disrepect. It is the Holy Book of the Jewish people whom Jesus was King of. It is the Word of God. The Jews may have missed the Good News but the Torah contains the same scripture as the Old Testament in your Bible. My step-sister is just a Christian mom with Christian kids. A mom who is horrified that her kids go to school with other kids who think it is OK to abuse Jewish and Christians classmates for ANY reason.

Yomin, do you think this behavior is OK? Would you condone your kids acting this way?

Be a Witness for Christ, but do so with honesty and integrity and respect for all the Children of God, even those with whom you disagree. John Freshwater wants to teach Bible truths. He wants to teach kids to question the ideas they read in their textbooks and the ideas they hear from their teachers.

If John Freshwater really wants to teach Christian values, he should start with Christian behavior. He should publicly speak out against bullying and disrespect and he should speak out against lying.

Anonymous said...

Yomen,

So, are so saying that you think everything in this report is a lie?

http://www.dispatch.com/wwwexportcontent/sites/dispatch/local_news/stories/2008/06/19/Freshwater.pdf

If not everything, could you please point out specifically one or two things in it that you think are lies, and why you think so?

Anonymous said...

Hooboy, where to start, there’s so much.

Actually, that’s a good place to start. Really, really, way too long. If you’d been my composition student, I’d have told you to rewrite the two papers/essays/articles. You had one, apparently disparaging AP’s journalism, but another suggesting Mr. Freshwater should actually be allowed to teach creationism in public school (I apologize if those were not in fact your exact premises).

Both “articles” needed some sort of citation. You really should have at least linked to the article you were criticizing. And you gave no other documentation at all.

About a quarter of the way down you write: “However, the report did (as all reports do), list the individual complaints specifically.” without explaining what “report” you’re talking about. You’d just been railing against an AP article, hadn‘t yet mentioned a ‘report‘. Were you in fact referring to the report made by the independent HR company, whose report was in no small part the reason the school board decided to proceed with Mr. Freshwater’s termination? This one?:

http://www.dispatch.com/wwwexportcontent/sites/dispatch/local_news/stories/2008/06/19/Freshwater.pdf

If so, and if what you wanted to do was actually to prove to readers how badly Mr. Freshwater was being railroaded, and how shamefully the AP was portraying him, surely you would have linked to the AP document and the HR report from which they got much of the information for the article. It’s OK for you to have an opinion, but you should at least have the courtesy to link to the sources of your information and let the readers decide for themselves whether they agree with you or not.

If you, in fact, had *not* read the HR report yourself however, you were not in a place to have made the assumption that the AP author was “smearing” Freshwater, especially when you say (about two paragraphs from the end), “I don’t know John Freshwater.“ And if you had read the report, you certainly shouldn’t be afraid to show others what document(s) you used to come to your own conclusions.

In a nutshell, if you want people to believe that what you are writing is fact (as you claim more than once), you need to back it up with something. Otherwise, everything you write will (as it should) be interpreted as merely your opinion. So why don’t we be ‘scientific’ and look at what facts we’re got before we go pronouncing the AP ran “…one of the most false and incendiary portrayals of an individual ever written.”. That’s hyperbole. And if you want people to believe hyperbole, ya gotta give ‘em some facts and cite sources!

That’s enough for now.

PS. If link above does not work, copy and past into your browsers, eliminate any extra spaces, this address:

http://www.dispatch.com/wwwexportcontent/
sites/dispatch/local_news/stories/
2008/06/19/Freshwater.pdf