Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Those Darned Defense Witnesses

The ACLU-PA blog has a report on yet another defense witness in the Dover case contradicting their sworn deposition under cross examination. But there’s another aspect of this that I find really interesting and that is the type of people we tend to put on school boards. The ignorance of the Dover school board is staggering, and they apparently just didn’t think it mattered much whether what they did was justified or not. Here’s the report on school board member Heather Geesey’s testimony:

Ms. Geesey followed the reporters on the stand. Parts of her testimony bore a strikingly similarity to that of Supt. Nilsen the previous week. Both admitted that their sole sources of knowledge about intelligent design – including their belief that it is “scientific” – were board members William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell. They also chose to believe these board members – who both witnesses admit have “no science background” – over the school district’s own biology teachers. Neither found it necessary to do any research on their own about the proposed addition to the curriculum.

Ms. Geesey also recounted her rather rocky relationship with one of her fellow board members, Casey Brown. When Ms. Geesey first joined the board in December of 2003, Ms. Brown had been her mentor. However, the
two had a disagreement, and according to Ms. Geesey, Ms. Brown stopped returning her calls and refused to give her advice. (Bear with me – I promise this ties in later.)

Ms. Geesey defended her decision to vote in favor of the intelligent design textbook Of Panda and People – which she said never read – by stating she was merely relying on the decision of the Curriculum Committee. The Curriculum Committee was made up of board members William Buckingham, Alan Bonsell, and… Casey Brown. Our attorney pointed out that Ms. Brown had actually adamantly opposed the teaching of intelligent design, and the committee was not unified. When asked why she had disregarded Ms. Brown’s opposition, she replied, “She was
ignoring me.”

These are the people running this school district? A superintendant (with a doctorate, no less) goes along with this major change in policy to put ID into science classrooms, a change that came with warnings from virtually everyone including the Discovery Institute that they were courting a major lawsuit, based on the word of Buckingham and Bonsell, neither of which has the first clue whether ID is legitimate or not? They let petty personal squabbles stand in the way of even a minimal effort to find out if this policy was a good idea? Unfortunately, in my experience, this is not the exception but the rule. And that should be frightening to anyone who cares about our children getting a good education.

Comments

  1. #1 spyder
    October 31, 2005

    If i wasn’t sitting here trying to finish my notes for the seminar session i am moderating in a couple of hours here in Vegas (on what really it really means to drink too much Kool-Aid), i would flesh out my comments more clearly. The last one i posted wasn’t so well written i fear. But: I wholeheartedly agree with you regarding school boards. My more than 30 years experience arguing curriculum and teacher preparation with them shows that even boards that are composed of highly paid and subsidized elected officials are just as ignorant and lame about what constitutes the best possible education for children as are boards composed of volunteer local community members. The movement in the late 1980′s and early 1990′s to flood school boards with Christian coalition members, while inordinately successful in gaining control, seriously jeopardized the day to day learning in classrooms. These people were elected because of their religious affiliations and not their competence at leading school districts. Well meaning, mis-guided, incompetent leadership is a very dangerous sort of policy for preparing future generations.

  2. #2 mark
    November 1, 2005

    It’s not uncommon in York County for the school board elections to be more hotly contested and have higher participation than the other elections. Much arguing, little understanding.

  3. #3 Dave S.
    November 1, 2005

    And it just keeps getting worse.

    First, there is the little problem concerning legal liability. Seems that since the Dover School Board declined to go with an approved firm, their insurer forfeited their $100,000 in coverage. In addition, they may have to pony up the cash for the plaintiffs too should they lose, another $1 million plus. Something for the taxpayers to look forward too I guess.

    Second, looks like ,yet another school board official, Alan Bonsell is having veracity problems on the stand. The judge was most upset.

    Finally, seems people are starting to wonder just why the school board went with Thomas More, seeing how it’s dedication to defending the Christian religion would not make it a natural choice when you want to emphasize that what you’re doing is in no way based on religion. I love the quote by Thomas More lawyer Patrick Gillan, “Outside court, Gillen said he objected to the questions because “no amount of rhetoric on our part should be held against our client.” This coming from the same firm that tried to smear the ACLU and by extension witnesses like Dr Forrest at every opportunity. What hypocrisy.

  4. #4 Dave S.
    November 1, 2005

    And it just keeps getting worse.

    First, there is the little problem concerning legal liability. Seems that since the Dover School Board declined to go with an approved firm, their insurer forfeited their $100,000 in coverage. In addition, they may have to pony up the cash for the plaintiffs too should they lose, another $1 million plus. Something for the taxpayers to look forward too I guess.

    Second, looks like ,yet another school board official, Alan Bonsell is having veracity problems on the stand. The judge was most upset.

    Finally, seems people are starting to wonder just why the school board went with Thomas More, seeing how it’s dedication to defending the Christian religion would not make it a natural choice when you want to emphasize that what you’re doing is in no way based on religion. I love the quote by Thomas More lawyer Patrick Gillan, “Outside court, Gillen said he objected to the questions because “no amount of rhetoric on our part should be held against our client.” This coming from the same firm that tried to smear the ACLU and by extension witnesses like Dr Forrest at every opportunity.

    What hypocrisy.

  5. #5 Ginger Yellow
    November 1, 2005

    Are school board members personally liable for things like this? I don’t know how these things work in America, but in the UK city and district councillors, and members of local education authorities (the closest thing to school boards, albeit with almost no control over curricula) can be given “surcharges” when they cost the taxpayers money through criminal or incompetent behaviour. Famously one councillor, Dame Shirley Porter, was given a £30m surcharge after a homes-for-votes/gerrymandering scandal.

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