More Lessons from Dover
Ed Brayton printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jan 29, 2007 at 04:40:06 PM EST
The ruling in Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District was a pretty cut-and-dried text, as must judicial rulings are. So it was a bit surprising when, near the end of the opinion, Judge Jones bluntly referred to the "breathtaking inanity" of the Dover school board's adoption of the ID policy. But as bracing as such a bold statement was to see in a judicial ruling, the trial record shows that it was entirely justified. The behavior of the ID advocates on the school board ranged from negligent to ignorant to outright lying on the witness stand.
I've already documented the lies of board members Bill Buckingham and Alan Bonsell, whose dishonesty regarding who had donated the money to buy the 60 copies of Of Pandas and People. I've also documented the ignorance displayed by Buckingham and Bonsell in regard to what they knew about intelligent design; while aggressively pushing a policy to put ID into Dover science classrooms, their testimony clearly showed that they didn't understand even the most basic things about the idea they wanted in (and they knew even less about evolutionary biology).

Today I'd like to focus on board member Heather Geesey. Geesey is the only one of the pro-ID board members who remains on the school board today; all the rest were voted out in November 2005, but Geesey's seat was not up for reelection so she remains on the board. But as her testimony makes clear, she knew next to nothing about intelligent design, yet she voted to put it in to science classrooms in Dover. Here's part of her testimony:

Q Now, you said you voted for the October 18 curriculum change because you liked it.

A Yes.

Q You supported the change.

A Yes.

Q It -- because it gave a balanced view of evolution.

A Yes, I mean . . .

Q It presented an alternative theory?

A Yes.

Q And the policy talks about gaps and problems with evolution?

A Yes.

Q Yes. You don't know what those gaps and problems refer to, do you?

A No.

Q But it's good to teach about those gaps and problems?

A That -- yes, that's our mission statement, yes.

Q But you have no idea what they are?

A It's not my job, no.

Q Is it fair to say that you didn't know much about intelligent design in October of 2004?

A Yes.

Q And you didn't know much about the book Of Pandas and People either, did you?

A Correct.

Q So you had never participated in any discussions of the book?

A No.

Q And you made no effort independently to find out about the book?

A No.

Q And the administration had made copies of the book available to board members.

A Yes.

Q But you never read the book.

A No.

Q And no one ever explained to you what intelligent design was about.

A No.

Q And you never got any instructional materials or tapes about intelligent design.

A No.

Q And you never viewed any or read any books about intelligent design.

A No.

Q And you didn't study it independently.

A No.

Q You didn't go on the Internet and look it up.

A No.

Q So you didn't really think too much about intelligent design.

A No.

Q You just knew it was something else that the kids were going to learn?

A Yes.

Warms the heart, doesn't it? School board members voting things in that they made no effort to learn anything about. This isn't just the blind leading the blind, it's the willfully ignorant leading the kids we are educating for the purpose of overcoming ignorance. Worse yet, she admitted that she just accepted Buckingham's opinion, while ignoring the informed opinions of all of the Dover science teachers:

Q But you chose to listen to Mr. Buckingham and Mr. Bonsell?

A Correct.

Q Now, I know you said you don't have any background in science, correct?

A Correct.

Q And do you know whether Mr. Buckingham has a background in science?

A No, I do not.

Q Do you know that in fact he doesn't have a background in science?

A I don't know. He's law enforcement, so I would assume he had to take something along the way.

Q Did he ever tell you he knew something about biology?

A No.

Q How about Mr. Bonsell, do you know what his background is?

A No.

Q Do you know what he does for a living?

A He's a business owner, I believe.

Q He's not a scientist, to your knowledge?

A Not to my knowledge, no.

Q He's not a science teacher?

A No.

Q Now, there are people employed by the school district who do know a little something about science, correct?

A Correct.

Q And that would be the teachers.

A Yes.

Q And you know Ms. Bertha Spahr?

A Yes.

Q And she's been with the school district a long time.

A Yes.

Q And she's head of the science department.

A Yes.

Q And you know Ms. Miller.

A Yes.

Q And you know Mr. Eshbach.

A Yes.

Q And you know Mr. Lanker?

A I don't -- I wouldn't be able to place him, but I know the name, I know he's a teacher.

Q And he's a science teacher?

A Yes.

Q And you knew that the science teachers were all opposed to introducing intelligent design?

A Correct.

This is absolute negligence. If you have control over a school's science curriculum, you need to know something about science. And you need to put in the effort to educate yourself on the issues you vote about. To vote to put a concept into the curriculum that you don't understand and refuse to take the time to understand is unprofessional, willfully ignorant and dangerous to the entire purpose for which you are on a school board.

Of course, this is the same woman who made this absolutely bizarre statement during a school board meeting after the policy was passed:

"We are not doing to be sued. It's not going to be a problem. I have confidence in the district's lawyers."

Except that the district's lawyers had urged the board not to adopt the policy and told them that they were going to be sued if they did so. The pro-ID school board members were willfully ignorant to the point of being delusional.




Display:
One- It was the ACLU that brought the suit, the scholl board was merely defending their right to say the Evolution was not a proven fact. They were NOT attempting to teach intellegent design.

Two- The case was decided by a JUDGE (as opposed to a jury), whom I doubt had any college level education in science beyond "rocks for jocks".

by Kris W on Tue Jan 30, 2007 at 10:52:41 AM EST

wrote:

One- It was the ACLU that brought the suit, the scholl board was merely defending their right to say the Evolution was not a proven fact. They were NOT attempting to teach intellegent design.

As the teachers rightly testified, everything they say in a classroom is teaching. By telling the students that they should read a creationist textbook and consider "intelligent design theory", they were, in fact, teaching intelligent design. And since there is no "intelligent design theory", only a long list of already discredited creationist arguments wrapped up in a new label, there is no doubt that such teaching is unconstitutional.

Two- The case was decided by a JUDGE (as opposed to a jury), whom I doubt had any college level education in science beyond "rocks for jocks".

And therefore...what? Judges have to decide on cases involving complex scientific issues all the time, especially in liability cases. That's why you have expert witnesses. In this case, the expert witnesses for the defense crumbled on the witness stand and did more damage to their case than they did help.

by Ed Brayton on Wed Jan 31, 2007 at 02:56:29 PM EST
Parent



In the military we would call this dereliction of duty which is a court martial offense and can send people to prison.  I would like to offer a sort of analogy that might put this into perspective and I will use the military as an example.

As far as rank goes this school board would be approximately the same rank as a board of Lieutenant Colonels (O-5 for you military types).  Imagine for a moment you have a group of these guys who are put in charge of deciding the future course of something important such as the development of a new communications infrastructure.  I use this as an example simply because it is within my area of knowledge.  They could just as easily be in charge of a new weapons system or a health care system.  Anyway, they are tasked with coming up with the best infrastructure for the South West region of the U.S. that provides security, interoperability, expansion, flexibility, capacity and various other capabilities.  There are plenty of vendors all putting in bids and making their pitches to the board but there happens to be one vendor that has absolutely no experience in communications, very little capital to work with and more importantly, they have personal relationships with the board members.  As a result of this personal relationship the least capable vendor wins the contract.  Instead of improving on the current infrastructure and making upgrades the new vendor has nothing to offer except poor explanations.  Eventually the vendor is told to take a hike but the members of the board would all face serious charges of dereliction for their poor judgement.  

My analogy is a bit crude but I think it serves to make my point.  The actions of the Dover school board could be considered criminal negligence.  They are elected to positions that are far more important than most people realize.  Their job is to produce the highest quality product they can.  In this case the high quality product is a well educated student who can reason and deal with the world as an adult.  Instead, they went out of thier way to produce students who would not have the ability to pursue higher educations due to their lack of fundamental knowledge and reasoning abilities.  In this case the voters (one might think of them as shareholders in a company) decided to vote out the unqualified board for one that has their better interests at heart.

This article describes the old board as willfully ignorant.  This is an accurate term but I prefer to go a step further and call it aggressive ignorance.  Not only do they choose to be ignorant but they work very hard at being so and they work hard at making sure those around them are ignorant too.  

by Ross Raymond on Tue Jan 30, 2007 at 10:55:50 AM EST



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