Saturday, June 21, 2008

I Assure You, the Crazy Happened After I Left

Although I claim Akron as the city I grew up in, I spent 7 fairly formative years of my youth in a tiny little town called Mt. Vernon, in central Ohio. We were pretty much in the middle of nowhere (Mt. Vernon was the largest town in the county, coming in at a whopping 15,000 people, and we had to drive an hour south to Columbus to do any decent shopping). Mt. Vernon is so small, it's one of those places that had to boast of who was famous from there in order to prove it's worth (and for what it's worth, the two claims to fame it had were doozies: birthplace of Dan Emmett, the author of Dixie, and birthplace of Paul Lynde). It's like hundreds of small towns in the U.S. - it stays out of the news for the most part.

However, Mt. Vernon is making its claim for national recognition, as John Freshwater, a science teacher at Mt. Vernon Middle School, is facing firing for burning a cross into a student's arm with "an electrostatic device." This isn't Freshwater's first brush with crazy, either, as he apparently "was also reprimanded several times for refusing to move his Bible from his classroom desk and teaching creationism alongside evolution, according to the 15-page independent report. The report also cites evidence that Mr. Freshwater told his students that "science is wrong because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin and so anyone who is gay chooses to be gay and is therefore a sinner."

But I speak from experience in saying that the crazy must have set in relatively recently, maybe in the last 10 years or so. Why would I think this? Well, I actually had John Freshwater as my science teacher 14 years ago. Given what he's done to his students and his stances, he absolutely should lose his job. Funny thing is, none of that happened when I had him as a teacher (in what must have been his 7th or 8th year of what are now 21 years of teaching "experience"). There was no creationism (a fact that might have been aided by the fact that, in 1994, we were still using science books from 1981). No Bible. No rantings on homosexuals. And certainly no branding of religious symbols. Yet here it is, 14 years later, and "Freshwater," as we called him, has clearly gone off the deep end, with national news picking it up.

Definitely a great day for Mt. Vernon, OH. And it definitely gives me one more reason I'm actually glad to claim Akron as the place I "grew up."