Texas GOP opposes ‘critical thinking’ skills in our schools
As a certified Texas school teacher and former administrator, I’ve seen some crazy things in Texas education. From the Texas State Board of Education debacle over textbooks to the the SBOE Chair Don McLeroy (a dentist in charge of the entire state’s educational system) embarrassing himself on The Colbert Report, I’ve witnessed the religious right in Texas try to overhaul the educational system, but this last attempt, set forth in writing by the Texas GOP is 2012, might be the boldest yet.
Here is the Republican Party of Texas 2012 platform as part of the section on education:
Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
Yes, you read that right. The Texas GOP doesn’t want public school teachers to help students think for themselves. Because that might encourage original thought. It might encourage them to question those in authority, such as parents or politicians. It might help them master difficult subjects, but we wouldn’t want that if it undermines “parental authority.”
As a parent of children in Texas public schools this not only infuriates me, it’s offensive. Texas politicians actually think that MY parental authority can be undermined by my children THINKING? I’m not sure what type of parents they had (I can only imagine), but teaching children to be responsible, productive members of society is that JOB. The parent’s job is not to just keep them happy and in line with the state legislature. We are not raising robots. Or sheep. But apparently, that’s what Texas want us to raise.
As if rejecting critical thinking skills wasn’t enough, the Texas GOP opposes early childhood education, sex education, and multicultural education, but supports “school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded.”
Here’s some of the rest of the education section of the Texas GOP’s 2012 platform (italized) with my commentary following:
More Restrictions on What We Teach our Children
American Identity Patriotism and Loyalty – We believe the current teaching of a multicultural curriculum is divisive. We favor strengthening our common American identity and loyalty instead of political correctness that nurtures alienation among racial and ethnic groups. Students should pledge allegiance to the American and Texas flags daily to instill patriotism.
Because if you aren’t like the rest of us, you need to pledge your loyalty before we trust you. And what exactly is “our Common American identity?” The United States is a great, diverse nation and pretending that it’s not, pretending that studying different cultures divides us and alienates “racial or ethnic groups” is holding us back. Do you know what alienates racial and ethnic groups? Pretending that they don’t exist.
Bilingual Education – We encourage non-English speaking students to transition to English within three years.
And then we require all high school students to take two years of a foreign language. It’s discouraged upon entry to Texas schools, but required later. Yeah, that makes sense. More of the same: fall in line.
Controversial Theories – We support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories. We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. Teachers and students should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly and without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind.
So critical thinking skills are out, students can’t question anything or anyone, but we are going to teach them that climate change (which the majority of scientific experts have agreed upon) and evolution are “challengeable”. Who exactly is going to challenge these theories? We know the children can’t because they won’t have any higher order thinking skills. The Texas GOP is actually suggesting sending children to college who think that evolution, climate change, heck, probably even gravity are all “up in the air”.
How We Treat Children Before and After K-12 Education
Early Childhood Development – We believe that parents are best suited to train their children in their early development and oppose mandatory pre-school and Kindergarten. We urge Congress to repeal government-sponsored programs that deal with early childhood development.
Study after study has proven that early childhood education is effective. People with critical thinking skills understand that children who are exposed to learning at younger ages soak it up more quickly and easily.
On a side note, does anyone else notice their use of the word TRAIN here? Parents aren’t teaching their children, they’re training them?
College Tuition – We recommend three levels of college tuition: In-state requiring proof of Texas legal citizenship, out-of-state requiring proof of US citizenship, and nonresident legal alien. Non-US citizens should not be eligible for state or federal grants, or loans.
Nothing quite says class warfare and racial segregation that making “three levels” to separate people based on where they were born. What happens to these children who were brought to the U.S. at a young age, through no fault of their own? Texas has already covered their K-12 public school education, so no we are comfortable just preventing them access to a higher education? We are comfortable confining them to poverty with minimum wage jobs? We are comfortable knowing that some of them could be doctors, scientists, scholars, or inventors, but can’t be because the Texas GOP isn’t ready for that?
School Choice Which Really Isn’t a Choice At All
Local Control for Education – We support school choice and believe that quality education is best achieved by encouraging parental involvement, protecting parental rights, and maximizing local independent school district control. District superintendents and their employees should be made solely accountable to their locally elected boards. We support sensible consolidation of local school districts. We encourage local ISDs to consider carefully the advantages and disadvantages of accepting federal education money.
Parental School Choice – We encourage the Governor and the Texas Legislature to enact child-centered school funding options which fund the student, not schools or districts, to allow maximum freedom of choice in public, private, or parochial education for all children.
Private Education – We believe that parents and legal guardians may choose to educate their children in private schools to include, but not limited to, home schools and parochial schools without government interference, through definition, regulation, accreditation, licensing, or testing.
This one is tricky. “School choice” sounds great. I actually support some school choice and voucher programs, but what Texas GOP is trying to do is funnel taxpayer money into private schools and private donors’ hands. The ‘vouchers’ won’t be enough to cover the whole private school tuition. Therefore, the kids who really need ‘school choice’ out of low-income and poor-performing public schools are usually also from financially-disadvantaged families. Does anyone think poor families are going to be able to pay the difference in the tuition and also cover the transportation to their school of their choice? NO. So this provision only helps kids who can already afford private schools, and it gives money back to rich families already paying for private schools.
It also doesn’t hold those private schools accountable to the standards that public schools are held to. How will the public or parents know if the schools are performing better than the public schools losing money? We won’t.
Teaching Kids Responsible Habits for their Future? Not Allowed
Sex Education – We recognize parental responsibility and authority regarding sex education. We believe that parents must be given an opportunity to review the material prior to giving their consent. We oppose any sex education other than abstinence until marriage.
School Health Care – We urge legislators to prohibit reproductive health care services, including counseling, referrals, and distribution of condoms and contraception through public schools. We support the parents’ right to choose, without penalty, which medications are administered to their minor children. We oppose medical clinics on school property except higher education and health care for students without parental consent.
We all recognize parental responsibility, but people should also realize that abstinence only programs are not effective. These programs have been proven not only to not have an effect on teenage sexual activity rates, but the programs increase the number of teenage pregnancies and diseases. Not teaching children how to be responsible is sending a horrible message. Saying it’s the “parent’s job” when we know that some parents just aren’t doing it, is just passing the buck.
Hypocrisy At Its Finest
Funding of Education – We urge the Legislature to direct expenditures to academics as the first priority.
But they won’t give enough of those expenditures to go around to all fulfill all academic needs. And remember, the GOP thinks “academics are first priority” unless the kids are 4 years old, or the students are thinking for themselves, those are not priorities.
Juvenile Daytime Curfew – We strongly oppose Juvenile Daytime Curfews. Additionally, we oppose any official entity from detaining, questioning and/or disciplining our children without the consent of a child’s parent.
Because 13 year old kids walking around on a Thursday at noon shouldn’t be stopped and asked why they aren’t in school…um, what? Why not? This provision would actually prevent a police officer from even ASKING a child why they weren’t in school.
School Surveys and Testing – Public schools should be required to obtain written parental consent for student participation in any test or questionnaire that surveys beliefs, feelings, or opinions. Parental rights, including viewing course materials prior to giving consent, should not be infringed.
Every single teacher that asks a classroom about their feelings or beliefs on a subject would have to get written parental consent first? Why? Was this even an actual complaint or issue from parents?
You can see Stephen Colbert’s hilarious take on this episode by clicking here.
Learn more about this author, Jolyn Brand, here.