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: Local News
: Sisters High School biology teacher fired amid controversial curriculum
Sisters High School biology teacher fired amid controversial curriculum
by Alisha Wilson
Board member releases teacher’s powerpoint presentation; says it was a “calculated decision on his part to bend young minds”
Kris Helphinstine, a part-time biology teacher at Sisters High School was fired by the school board Monday night for deviating from the curriculum on the theory of evolution after only eight days on the job, four of which were spent teaching his own theories of evolution through a PowerPoint presentation that referenced Nazi Germany and Planned Parenthood.
When asked why Helphinstine was dismissed, school board chairman Mike Gould said, “He lacked judgment in departing from the district science curriculum in a very controversial subject area and this departure occurred without any consultation or without an appropriate supervisor. This is a sensitive area. When teachers teach in certain areas, they have to teach it straight down the line.”
Helphinstine’s PowerPoint presentation displayed the following quote from a leading British evolutionist who is commonly referenced by Creationists. “The theory of evolution (is) a theory universally accepted not because it can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.” (D.M.S. Watson, “Adaptation,” Nature, Vol. 123 [sic Vol. 124] (1929), p. 233).
|Helphinstine’s curriculum included two controversial powerpoint presentations. View the presentations "Eugenics" and "Human" - links are provided below.|
“He taught that evolution doesn’t exist,” said seven-year board member Glen Lasken. “Of course we want our students to think, but this went beyond that. He spent four days dismantling the theory of evolution for these kids. He was terminated for a gross error in judgment, without checking with the superintendent or principal. This was an extreme error in judgment.”
In a phone interview, 27-year old Helphinstine said that his whole purpose was to promote critical thinking. “Eugenics, the self directed evolution of mankind is an interesting subject. Every teacher brings in supplemental material. What is standard curriculum?” asked Helphinstine who has a master’s degree in science from Oregon State University.
The PowerPoint presentation included photos of dead bodies taken during the Holocaust and referenced a 1941 article printed in The Journal of American Psychiatric Association calling for the killing of mentally retarded children, referred to as “natures mistakes”.
“He was trying to make the point that not only is evolution wrong; he suggested that evolution is used for bad purposes. Evolution was used as an experimental basis in Nazi Germany. He said the founding fathers of Planned Parenthood are Nazis. His PowerPoint presentation of the Holocaust is pretty revolting stuff. What is most discouraging is that he says he was trying to encourage critical thinking. This was a calculated decision on his part to bend young minds,” says Lasken.
Board members met with Helphinstine in private for approximately 90 minutes before a public meeting on the matter, though the teacher did not stay for the public forum.
“Mr. Helphinstine was dismissed for failing to teach science in a freshman biology class. He didn’t expressly teach Creationism but provided significant messages from advocacy groups in his presentation. The materials he submitted were not age appropriate,” said board member Jeff Smith.
>View Helpinstine's powerpoint presentation named 'Eugenics'
>View the presentation named 'Human'
(Both links will open in a new browser window.)
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- I am a junior at La Pine High School. Mr. Helphinstein was a substitute for one of my classes so i've had the chance to meet him. I recently finished learning about evolution and intelligent design and I only understood bits and pieces of it. It does involve critical thinking. It's not something you can just pick up. I was sad to hear that he was fired after teaching for only eight days. I think whoever decided to have freshman be taught creationism and evolution is crazy. It is hard enough for Juniors and Seniors. Freshman should have to wait to learn that. I looked at part of the first presentation. I didn't see any problem with the way he did things but thats just me. Sometimes you need photos that aren't so pleasant to look at to get the material into the students head. I don't know if he new the boundaries of what he could and could not teach but he was just trying to get his students to think. There is no harm in that! Hopefully he will teach at another school because i'm sure he has a lot to offer students just not the ones at Sisters High School. (Posted on May 14, 2007, 7:31 pm Brandi Carvell)
- Sorry Elliott, he was promoting religious beliefs in a public school and that's a no-no. The fact that he thought he could get away with it just means that he's dumber than dirt...or thought that the school board was. And anyone that stupid should not be teaching children. (Posted on May 6, 2007, 11:15 pm GalapagosPete)
- I am a Junior at North Bend High School. I feel that Mr. Helphinstein was fired for unjust reasons. It sounds like he did not veer grossly from the curriculum. I reviewed both presentations and found both insightful and openminded. Who's to say that he is wrong about evolution. By the sounds of your curriculum anyone could be hired and teach word for word from the book. He adequietly supplemented what the students were studying. If you don't encourage openmindedness then the kids will only see one version of the story. They will not be able to accurately see evolution if they only see the side you want them to see. (Posted on April 26, 2007, 6:55 am Elliot Adams)
- I am a parent of seven children. Lorinda is a freshman in HS. She is very bright and does know how to open her mind to other ideas. The firing of this teacher tells me that some school systems have lower standards for their students than others. I say let the minds begin to open.
Funny how R rated HOLLYWOOD movies are viewed as educational and yet real live photos of the holoculst are deemed inapropriate?
I will call for this teacher to come teach at my childs school any day.... (Posted on April 18, 2007, 11:27 am rosie navarro)
- Eyedunno, it seems that you do not know much about what was the Nazi Ideology or anything about genetics. I am sure, that if you would meet Mr Helphinstine, you would learn a lot of things. But the issue is that you will never go to meeet him because you wouldn't like to get such education, and this is only because you are ignorant about the subject! And you are so ignorant about it that you do not want your kids to hear bout it! This is how ignorance is feeding ignorance. And this is happening in America. This is the kind of regression that is happening only in america: if the teaching to poeple is decided by the nation, how do you want the whole nation to progress? This is the US' trick to stop the evolution ;-) So, my advice: please accept that you children are tought something you do not completely understand, otherwise you will be stuck in a kind of perpetual sillyness... Well I do not say you are silly, I say you are not keen on critical thinking.. maybe... Am I wrong? (Posted on April 18, 2007, 8:19 am Bruno)
- This teacher really needs to think of where he is teaching. This is not Eugene, this is not Portland!
This teacher wanted the kids to think for themselves, not here you don't!
This area you think what you are told to think. The presentations this teacher said was to get the kids to think. "Now…share your reaction to one, or both, of the presentations." Did ANY of you get this far?
As well as the poster said up there, the teacher probably had something to go with this. Woops I forgot where we are talking here, this is small town Oregon!!
Read my thoughts about this article here;
(Posted on April 9, 2007, 7:53 pm MrsRoadRunner)
- I looked at both presentations and found them sickening, not for the holocaust depictions, which cover a subject that should not be avoided in a high school (my own biology teacher covered the holocaust in a limited way with regard to what physically happens when a person is skinned alive and so on, and the subject should be absolutely MANDATORY in say, a world history class), but for the irrelevence of the material and the poor reasoning contained therein. First off, what was he trying to prove with the eugenics thing? Was he trying to brand Mendelian genetics immoral or something? It cetainly had nothing to do with Darwinism, as artificial selection is by definition not the same as natural selection and, on the other hand, inheritance of physical characteristics is not disputed by even the most fervent creationists. And the "human" presentation made me cringe even harder, as (after a couple of pages of real science) the bulk of it seemed to be centered around an argument like "Look at these pictures/models! Doesn't it look like they're actually humans/chimps, rather than ancestors of homo sapiens?!" The fact is that when looking at a skeleton which to the uneducated eye looks chimp-like, other factors come into play, like what its hips were like (whether it likely walked upright), and, for our later distant cousins, more discrete measurements are necessary, and a casual glance at a computer model (rigged in terms of posture!) is worth exactly nothing. Also, the pig heart valve thing was just stupid - I can't be polite there. After all, how many chimpanzees have we been breeding for ANY purpose lately? I feel sorry when jobs are lost, and part of me hopes he comes out of this okay, but the school board made the right decision. (Posted on April 4, 2007, 7:29 am Eyedunno)
- Several commenters here have noted that the slides don't mention creationism. People who have followed the trumped up "controversy" about evolution recognize the language and tactics used in the slides ... and in the teacher's own comments.
"Critical thinking" is the latest buzz word, which follows on "teach the controversy." Both are code for intelligent design/creationism. Someone else already noted use of the word "evolutionist." Whether this young man is a dupe of the anti-science crowd or an eager accolyte, he was pushing forward on their agenda to undermine the teaching of real science by sowing doubt in the minds of his students.
Science is full of questions and controversy that excite practioners. The material he was presenting reflects a fake controversy being promoted by clever PR. (Posted on April 1, 2007, 1:57 pm Gerry L)
- I've always found it fascinating that science must be an all or nothing proposition. I am not a creationist nor do I take everything found in evolution to be true without question. As a Christian, I've always found my self on the side of defending evolution as a viable theory, and now looking at Mr. Helphinstine's powerpoints and of course without hearing the lectures, I find that the opposite can be just as true. Our society can get just as fanatical to the other extreme as well. I believe Mr. Helphinstine, although maybe young and inexperienced in the ways of dealing with public education, still heads in the right direction. Make students think. Make them examine their values and decide for themselves, look at how things such as the principles of Eugenics based on systematic evolution can be used to monger hate and atrocity. Just as creationism can foster a narrow view of science despite overwhelming facts to the contrary. To me, this is the Scopes trial in reverse and the Sisters schoolboard is the William Jennings Bryant of the day. Firing Kris Helphinstine places critical thinking back centuries again. (Posted on March 31, 2007, 7:21 pm GG)
- Perhaps Mr Helphinstine should be made Secretary of Education. (Posted on March 31, 2007, 7:21 pm Bob)
- When I think of eugenics, the first thing that springs to mind is scanning a fetus for genetic defects. Then I think of Nazi concentration camps. (Posted on March 28, 2007, 11:43 am Ryan)
- Eugenics, a good idea all around. (Posted on March 27, 2007, 8:02 am Greg)
- I think Mr. Helphinstine was purposely trying to provoke the issue with the school district. He probably had an agenda that he wanted to force to the forefront. I wouldn't be surprised if the ACLU and lawsuits were to follow. (Posted on March 26, 2007, 12:25 pm bend_hacker)
- It's strange to me that some people, after viewing these presentations, still can assert that Helphinstine wasn't teaching creationism. Go through the second presentation again, starting with Slide 11. That's a creationist "argument", starting with the use of the term "evolutionist", which is used almost exclusively in creationist circles to try to make the theory of evolution just one amongst many equally-valid scientific "beliefs". (Posted on March 24, 2007, 7:12 pm b!X)
- I went through both powerpoint presentations. Nowhere did I see any biblical references. I did see notes that seemed to refer to other material handouts. And I saw that NONE of the material backed up the theory of evolution - it only haddozens of quotes from 'scientists' saying the theory is flawed. All this only leads me to believe that the teacher passed out other written material to which we're not privy. And of course we didn't hear anything the teacher said over his 4 or 8 days teaching this stuff. So we're not seeing the whole picture, and I'm going to put my vote with the school board - who obviously did a thorough investigation and talked to the guy for an hour and a half. I believe the district is better off without him. (Posted on March 24, 2007, 4:08 pm Anonymous)
- Perhaps he should be teaching a class on Mythology- or better yet, Propaganda. I commend the Sisters school board for taking the only logical and reasonable option available in this case. (Posted on March 24, 2007, 9:56 am Eric Metzger)
- I call it Bullsh*t-Science.... The supposed science of eugenics was widely discredited even in Nazi times. It was simply an excuse to perpetrate a massive atrocity by the most brutal regime in history. (Posted on March 24, 2007, 8:33 am Frank)
- I think his presentation was a bit inappropriate for a freshman biology class. (Posted on March 24, 2007, 7:41 am Linda Hart)
- Who's to say he's wrong? (Posted on March 23, 2007, 7:37 pm TAD-BEND)
- I'm a parent of a teen - although not in the Sisters school district. I went through both powerpoint presentations, and I have to say that I'm confused. I don't believe the teacher was teaching creationism, but I certainly question what he WAS teaching. His presentations were hard to follow, although I'm sure he had a lecture planned to go with it that would make it more easily understood. I am disturbed by the nazi references and images, and don't see how he clearly connects evolution, nazis, planned parenthood, biblical references, etc. I will say that while I believe my daughter is a level-headed young woman, there are many other high school-aged teens who are NOT mature enough to view or understand this material, and how it may be objectionable to many. Although this young teacher is well educated with a masters degree, I believe he shouldn't have taken it upon himself to present this material to his students without first checking with his new employer. I wonder if this was his first teaching job? If so, it is sad that his very poor judgment may end his teaching career before it even begins. (Posted on March 23, 2007, 4:38 pm Parent of a teenager)