It has to be challenging to be a presidential candidate. After all, you are expected to dispense wisdom (or at least comments) on almost everything under the sun, and you never know what question is going to come up next. Still, some questions should be easier to anticipate than others. For example, it has become pretty typical for candidates (especially Republican ones) to be grilled at some point about their views on evolution. So Governor Rick Perry shouldn’t have been surprised when asked earlier today about his own views on evolution, especially given all the controversy over the topic in his home state of Texas. What was a surprise was Perry’s answer. According to the New York Times, Perry claimed: “In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools.”
That’s news to me. In fact, Texas public schools do not teach creationism, at least not anywhere in the approved curriculum. But under science standards adopted in 2009, Texas students are asked to “analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations… including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.” This sort of critical inquiry is supposed to apply to the discussion of Darwinian theory, and Texas students are also expected to “analyze and evaluate” the evidence for Darwinian claims about natural selection, mutations, cellular complexity, the fossil record, and more.
Alas, most Texas schools probably don’t engage in this sort of scientific weighing of the merits of Darwinian theory — due in large part to Perry’s own education appointees! Earlier this summer, Perry’s education commissioner recommended for use supplementary science curricula that fail to offer any critical analysis of Darwinian claims, contrary to the state’s own science standards. At the same time, Perry’s education commissioner allowed his staff to spike the one proposed curriculum that did try to follow the Texas science standards.
Perry will likely be excoriated for his comments by those on the left who think Perry is somehow a proponent of creationism. Ironically, the Texas Education Agency that Perry oversees has done its best to scuttle even a scientific discussion of the limits of Darwinian claims.
He’s not as good as Michele Bachmann on this education issue. I think that Bachmann would push control down to the state and local level, and abolish the federal Department of Education. She has had personal conflicts with the public school system – she’s hostile to them. She had conflicts with the school board, she homeschooled her own children, she started a charter school. I think she has had it with educational bureaucrats, and she would do more radical things to put control of children’s education in the hands of parents. She would be more likely to emphasize choice and competition, which is proven to lower costs and raise quality. She is more of a radical, and Perry isn’t radical enough.