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CASEY: The (satirical) case for physical education over science

CASEY: The (satirical) case for physical education over science

A science educator has sued Roanoke County schools, claiming she deserves to be paid as much as a male colleague whose field is phy ed.


Did you hear about the sex discrimination lawsuit against Roanoke County schools? This one’s a doozy. God only knows how it ever got to federal court.

Erin Barnett is the school division’s supervisor of science education. According to court filings, she earns $258.45 per day. She began complaining when she learned that a friend and colleague earns $284.55 per day. His name is Kevin Burcham. He’s the school system’s supervisor of physical education, and he used to coach varsity basketball.

She taught at Cave Spring High and he taught at Hidden Valley High and they have similar educational backgrounds, although Barnett’s complaint alleges she has more teaching experience than Burcham. In the lawsuit, she argues the only difference between them is gender.

Barnett’s has asked the court to rectify the salary disparity. Not only is she seeking equal pay, she’s also demanding back pay, future pay, interest and attorney’s fees. She believes she’s being discriminated against because she’s a woman.


This has left Roanoke County taxpayers in an unfair and untenable position. Why should they be forced to underwrite $500-an-hour attorneys to even defend this absurdity? Even though my experience in law school lasted only three hours, and that was 42 years ago, I could beat this case with a four-minute argument in court.

That would go something like this:

Good morning, your honor, I’m representing Roanoke County in this complaint. Unfortunately, it’s fatally flawed in myriad ways. I hope you’ll allow me a few minutes to outline those.

My client fully acknowledges paying less to Ms. Barnett. But that in no way was based on sex. We were discriminating based solely on subject matter. And that is totally kosher. Congress has not outlawed it, yet.

The problem, your honor, is that Ms. Barnett oversees the teaching of science, a subject vastly inferior to phys ed and athletics. Rightly or wrongly, our society values the latter much more.

The proof is everywhere, judge. Consider taxpayer-supported Virginia Tech. Timothy Sands, the university’s president, Timothy earned $775,000 in 2018. While, that’s a nice chunk of change, football coach Justin Fuente got $4 million in the same year.

Obviously, society has prioritized Tech athletics five times higher than the university’s other mission, educating scientists.

The same is true in professional sports. Star athletes can earn millions and millions per year. Are star scientists ever compensated like that? About the best they can hope for is a Nobel Prize in their field. That’s worth $1 million — and it’s once in a lifetime.

All the above is easily understandable. Have you ever seen a throng of 60,000 people surrounding a Virginia Tech science lab? Most autumns, that occurs every other weekend in Lane Stadium. Has science ever produced anything grander than a Hokie victory?

Science’s problem is that it’s full of theories and abstractions. It’s a search for knowledge based on bald hunches by eggheaded daydreamers and assorted weirdos. They waste their time testing “hypotheses,” even though most prove to be utter dead ends. From the few that aren’t they develop cockamamie conclusions, which sometimes are totally wrong.

In the field of medical science alone, this has led to unimaginable tragedies. One was the 1799 death of George Washington, father of our country. He perished from physician-directed bloodletting during a treatment for the flu. Oops, the doc was wrong. Why do you think some people call them “croakers?”

That scientist got away with his perfidy. But not all of them do.

When Galileo pushed the crackpot theory that Earth revolved the sun, rather than the other way around, the Pope righteously had him locked up for life because it contradicted the Holy Bible. We can’t allow scientists to run around spouting heresy.

You might think today’s so-called scientists would have learned a lesson or two from that. But no — they’re still pushing “theories,” such as man-caused global warming. Often they get away with it. Only occasionally do authorities try to remind and correct them.

Remember when former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli investigated former UVa climate scientist Michael Mann for research fraud? That was pretty cool. Alas, Mann got off due to a a minor technicality — lack of evidence. Let’s hope he got the message anyway, huh?

On the other hand, physical education and athletics are practical. People pay to get in high school football and basketball games. Has anyone ever seen a pep rally the night before a science fair? Do those feature marching bands? Pshaw!

Athletic contests always end with a concrete outcome. By the time a game’s over, things are settled neatly, with a winner and loser. Does science ever conclude that way? Heck no. It never ends.

For all those reasons, your honor, I’m asking you to dismiss Ms. Barnett’s case.

Her claims are as crazy as Galileo’s silly notion the Earth revolves around the sun.

Contact metro columnist Dan Casey at 981-3423 or Follow him on Twitter: @dancaseysblog.

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Dan Casey knows a little bit about a lot of things but not a heck of a lot about most things. That doesn't keep him from writing about them, however. So keep him honest!

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