With the No Child Left Behind Act up for revision, how to teach about evolution would not seem to be the most pressing school issue facing the next president. But so far, it’s been the most prominent education-related topic raised in debates among the Republican presidential contenders.
In two nationally televised GOP debates, moderators asked whether the candidates believe in the theory of evolution.
“It’s interesting that that question would even be asked of somebody running for president,” former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said at the June 5 debate in Manchester, N.H., televised on CNN.
“I’m not planning on writing the curriculum for an 8th grade science book,” said Mr. Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister. “I’m asking for the opportunity to be president of the United States.”
As for whether Earth was created in six days, as creationists believe, Mr. Huckabee said: “I don’t honestly know.”
Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas added: “I am fully convinced there’s a God of the universe that loves us very much and was involved in the process. How he did it, I don’t know.”
Asked by moderator Wolf Blitzer whether schools should teach creationism alongside evolution, Sen. John McCain of Arizona said he wouldn’t make that decision.
“I believe that that’s up to the school districts,” Sen. McCain said. “But I think that every American should be exposed to all theories.”
The Republicans’ discussion of teaching evolution was overshadowed by their debates about the war in Iraq, immigration, and abortion.
The only mention of the NCLB law was by Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, who said he has been “so disappointed” in President Bush on several issues, including immigration and “the No Child Left Behind.”
Two days earlier in Manchester, education didn’t come up until the end of the Democrats’ debate, also televised on CNN.
In a rushed response to a question from a teacher in the audience about the candidates’ agendas for their first 100 days in the White House, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said: “Nobody’s talked about your profession, education.”
Gov. Richardson quickly summarized his education platform—universal pre-K, full-day kindergarten, and a $40,000 “minimum wage” for teachers—as Mr. Blitzer reminded candidates that time was running out.
A version of this article appeared in the June 13, 2007 edition of Education Week