Local Option Error: N.J. Gov. Says School Boards Can Promote Creationism

If it were left up to Gov. Chris Christie, public education in New Jersey would be a free-for-all.

At a town hall in Manalapan, N.J., last week, Christie said he believes public school districts should get to determine whether to teach creationism in science classes because that’s a decision that should be made “at the local level.”

When asked at a press conference yesterday about this issue again, Christie reiterated his stance.

“Evolution is required teaching,” Christie said. “If there’s a certain school district that also wants to teach creationism, that’s not something we should decide in Trenton.”

So if the public school district in Manalapan wants to teach 2 +2 = 5, I guess that would be okay with Christie, too. After all, who cares about what’s accurate, so long as school districts have the autonomy to teach whatever they fancy.

All I can say is that if I lived in Jersey, I wouldn’t want a dime of my tax money paying for a school that teaches inaccurate arithmetic. And I definitely wouldn’t want my taxes to fund religious education as part of science class, either.

I think most Americans feel the same way. (I just answered this poll about the issue on NJ.com, and an overwhelming 89 percent of voters agree that New Jersey public schools should not be allowed to teach creationism.)

I guess Christie misread the public on that one, as well as decades of legal precedent.

The U.S. Supreme Court, on more than one occasion, has ruled that creationism is a religious concept and does not belong in the public school science curriculum. The Religious Right and its lawmaker allies may not like it, but our Constitution prevents public schools from indoctrinating children in religious concepts, period.

It’s foolish of Christie to suggest that school officials and boards should have the right to inject religion into science education. We have seen this doesn’t go over well.

Texas has been a prime example. Last year, the far-right bloc on the elected state board of education voted to weaken science education and opened the door for religious concepts to be introduced as part of the Texas science curriculum.

Who knows how far back this will set Texas students – and state taxpayers, who will end up paying for costly litigation if school officials adopt an unconstitutional curriculum.  Does Christie want that to happen in New Jersey, too?

Instead of encouraging local school boards to violate the Constitution, governors should be supporting sound science education and a strong public school system.