• Politics

Scott Walker’s High-School Science Teacher: ‘Man Up’

2 minute read

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker—a leader in the 2016 Republican presidential sweepstakes—prompted some stateside head-scratching this week when he dodged a British journalist’s question about evolution.

Walker said, “I’m going to punt on that one… That’s a question that a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or another.” He was in London on a trade mission.

Among those who questioned Walker: the chair of his high school science department, Ann Serpe, 73. “Answer the question when they ask you!” Serpe said in an interview. “He could have manned up a bit. That’s what I would tell him.”

Serpe, who taught chemistry and chaired the math and science department at Delavan-Darien High School in Delavan, Wis., before her retirement in 1998, now lives in nearby Elkhorn. She recalls that Walker, her pupil and an advisee in student government, was a bright, committed participant in class. Walker graduated in 1986.

What would Walker have learned in high school? “We taught the theory of evolution, and human evolution, as a prerequisite to understanding biological classification. I went out and looked at my biology textbook just to make sure.”

Serpe says, “I don’t know the dogma of the Baptist church where Scott’s father was the minister, as it concerns evolution. But I do recall that Scott was very accepting of everything in science class. He had a good sense of it.”

Walker’s onetime teacher has seen him a few times since his high-school days. She even attended one of Walker’s fundraisers in Milwaukee. Darwin, though, hasn’t come up in their conversations.

She says she hopes he—”as an intelligent young man”—would understand the importance of scientific thought, that evolution and creation are not mutually exclusive. Walker, who may be two decades removed from Serpe’s classroom, said on Twitter that science still informs his worldview.

10 Vetoes That Shaped Recent Political History

Presidential Vetoes
Universal Child Care, Nixon, 1971 America came close to a system of universal, federally financed day care. But after the Comprehensive Child Development Act passed Congress on a bipartisan vote in 1971, President Nixon vetoed it, arguing it would weaken families with "communal approaches to child rearing." The idea then faded from American politics. (Photo: University of Denver nursery, Oct. 13, 1971.) John Preito—Denver Post/Getty Images
Presidential Vetoes
Freedom of Information Act, Ford, 1974 President Ford vetoed the Freedom of Information Act, which would make many classified records public, out of concern that it would endanger national security. But with the memory of the Watergate scandal still fresh, Congress voted overwhelmingly to override the veto. (Photo: Donald Rumsfeld and President Ford on Marine One in 1974.) David Hume Kennerly—Getty Images
Presidential Vetoes
Apartheid Sanctions, Reagan, 1986 President Reagan vetoed a bill that would have imposed sanctions on the pro-apartheid South African government, calling it "economic warfare." But Congress overrode him and imposed the sanctions anyway, and Reagan's chief of staff later said the president regretted his veto. (Photo: People protesting the Apartheid government at Kwanobuhle stadium in South Africa.) William F. Campbell—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Presidential Vetoes
Clean Water Act, Reagan, 1986 President Reagan pocket-vetoed the Clean Water Act of 1986 over concerns about its cost, despite the $20 billion bill passing both houses of Congress unanimously. The bill would have provided funding to clean up the nation's bodies of water over the next eight years. (Photo: A sewage plant in the Hudson River t in New York City, 1978.)Ted Spiegel—National Geographic/Getty Images
Presidential Vetoes
Civil Rights Act of 1990, Bush, Sr. After the Supreme Court limited the ability of workers to sue for employment discrimination, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1990 to strengthen those laws. President George H.W. Bush vetoed the bill, arguing it would lead to "quotas" then signed a less expansive version of the bill the following year. (Photo: Jesse Jackson and other civil rights figures lead marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the recreation of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march in Selma, Ala. on March 4, 1990.) Jamie Sturtevant—AP
Presidential Vetoes
Partial-birth Abortion, Clinton, 1996 President Clinton drew the ire of religious and anti-abortion groups in 1996 when he vetoed the "partial-birth abortion bill"’ which outlawed certain abortion procedures even when they would save the life of the mother. Clinton called the measure "potentially life-saving, certainly health-saving." The bill was later signed into law by President George W. Bush. (Photo: Anti-abortion supporters in Washington on Jan. 22,1997.)Denis Paquin—AP
Presidential Vetoes
Estate Tax, Clinton, 1999 When President Clinton vetoed a $792 billion tax cut in 1999, Congressional Republicans began trying to pass it piece-by-piece the following year. But Clinton vetoed those too, including their repeal of the federal estate tax. Clinton said repealing the estate tax was “wrong on the grounds of fairness and it is wrong on the grounds of fiscal priorities.”Shawn Thew—AFP/Getty Images
Presidential Vetoes
Stem Cell Research, Bush, 2006 President Bush used his first veto on an emotional and divisive issue, even within political parties: stem cell research. In 2006 Congress passed a bill that would lift funding restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research, but Bush said the measure “would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others.” (Photo: Bush announces his veto in a room with mothers and babies born from frozen embryos). MCT/Getty Images
Presidential Vetoes
Iraq Withdrawal, Bush, 2007 President George W. Bush vetoed a war-spending bill in 2007 that called for the withdrawal of all military troops by the following year. “It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing,” the president said. U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011 under President Obama. (Photo: Soldiers return to Combat Outpost Casino after a mission in the Gazaliyah neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq on Feb. 16, 2007.)Chris Hondros—Getty Images
Presidential Vetoes
Interstate Recognition of Notarizations, Obama, 2010 President Obama used his first veto on a relatively unglamorous bill: the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act of 2010. The bill aimed to promote interstate commerce by requiring states to accept notarizations from any state. Obama vetoed the bill because he worried it would facilitate foreclosure fraud.Olivier Douliery—Pool/Getty Images

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Write to Jack Dickey at jack.dickey@time.com