We’re so accustomed to hearing about good Christian parents complaining about the material their kids are taught in science class, and lobbying school boards to ban the eeevilution word from the school, that it’s rather nice to see an example of the shoe on the other foot. A school in Sisters, Oregon (I know that place! Nice little town in the Cascades, east of Eugene) fired a teacher for peddling creationist bunkum.
During his eight days as a part-time high school biology teacher, Kris Helphinstine included Biblical references in material he provided to students and gave a PowerPoint presentation that made links between evolution, Nazi Germany and Planned Parenthood.
That was enough for the Sisters School Board, which fired the teacher Monday night for deviating from the curriculum on the theory of evolution.
“I think his performance was not just a little bit over the line,” board member Jeff Smith said. “It was a severe contradiction of what we trust teachers to do in our classrooms.”
Helphinstine, 27, said in a phone interview with The Bulletin newspaper of Bend that he included the supplemental material to teach students about bias in sources, and his only agenda was to teach critical thinking.
“Critical thinking is vital to scientific inquiry,” said Helphinstine, who has a master’s degree in science from Oregon State. “My whole purpose was to give accurate information and to get them thinking.”
Helphinstine said he did not teach the idea that God created the world. “I never taught creationism,” he said. “I know what it is, and I went out of my way not to teach it.”
The bad news is that teachers have more than enough crap to deal with, and having one camp yelling, “Don’t teach this!” and another yelling “Don’t teach that!” can end up with the teachers just throwing up their hands and giving up on teaching any of it, which is the common state of affairs right now. On the other hand, I’m impressed with the Sisters School Board—they came right out and are supporting good science teaching. That’s important, that administrators are getting the message that creationism is not an appropriate subject for a science class.
As for Helphinstine…who does he think he’s kidding? That “links between evolution, Nazi Germany and Planned Parenthood” nonsense is straight out of creationism 101; the Discovery Institute and old-school “scientific” creationism have been pushing that silly idea for years. It’s a dead giveaway that Helphinstine is steeped in that creationist strategy of ignoring the evidence and doing nothing but sow doubt, especially where there is none.