11/11/2011 11:38 am ET | Updated Jan 11, 2012

Perry's Gaffe Represents Poor Texan and U.S. Educational Performance; Civics Lesson Needed

Rick Perry's inability to recall three US government agencies is indicative of this country's equivocal commitment to "high levels of education", one of eight factors essential to a stable and peaceful society, as reported recently by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). Without a strong American commitment to a quality education, it is no surprise that Perry, a son of this education system, cannot recall government agencies.

Civics courses, after all, are only a small part of the high school curriculum. In my international work, I have found it remarkable that students in the Middle East and Asia often know more about American history and America's political system that students here stateside.

Texas is one of the worst performing states when it comes to education. According to IEP's 2011 US Peace Index, Texas ranks the lowest among all 50 states when it comes to the percentage of the population holding a high school diploma.

But Texas is not alone. With the US continuing to perform poorly on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Programme for International Student Assessment, outperformed in math, science, and reading by Asian and EU states, it is a clear indication of how little education is a priority for this country and a clear sign that our economic competitiveness is under threat.

If Governor Perry returns to Texas at some point to resume his political career, it would behoove him to focus on improving his state's educational opportunity and achievement because it is directly relates to Texas's rates of violence, which are also some of the worse in the country. Texas ranks near the bottom of the US Peace Index, at 45th, only to be outdone by five more violent states: Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Nevada, and Louisiana.

On this note, perhaps Perry would benefit from a read of the US Peace Index, which methodically ranks American states by their peacefulness and identifies potential drivers of peace. The aim of the USPI is to further the understanding (in Perry's mind and the public's minds) of the types of environments that are associated with peace and to help quantify the economic benefits that could result from increases in peace.

Education is one critical component of the Index and Perry's gaffe shows well how much work has yet to be done on that front.

Michael Shank is US Vice President at the Institute for Economics and Peace. Follow Michael on Twitter. Follow the Institute for Economics and Peace on Twitter and Facebook.