And while you might think that title is a bit of hyperbole on my part, you'd be mistaken. It is, in fact, an explicit part of the 2012 platform of the Republican Party of Texas. Seriously:
"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."
So, the Republicans of Texas are directly and literally saying, we do NOT want to teach our children to think for themselves. We, instead, want them to just believe the same shit they believed before and to cling to their "fixed beliefs"... whatever those happen to be.* As someone who has been an educator for quite a few years now, it's a little bit difficult for me to wrap my head around an entire group of people who think that deliberate ignorance is not just an acceptable choice, but a viable campaign position. And yet, this isn't even the only absurdist nightmare in the platform. If you're curious, you can get a look at the platform in its entirety
, which produces some other interesting bits, although in the interest of brevity** I'll limit my attention to the education section. My favorite bit is probably the section on "controversial theories":
"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."
It's hard not to love that section since it only makes sense if you want to teach students to consider all sides of an issue or, in other words, to THINK CRITICALLY. Sadly, however, the Texas Republican Party is explicitly opposed to critical thinking, so it's a little difficult not to view this provision as sort of an orphan. Okay, yeah, what I said isn't totally true- these two clauses together make it pretty clear that Texan Republicans are for critical examination of views they disagree with, and slavish obedience to views they do agree with. So much more charming, eh? We also find the section on patriotism:
"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."
Which basically gives the finger to the melting pot ideal of everyone coming together in favor of the "screw you and assimilate" perspective. And you just have to adore that bit about the pledge of allegiance instilling patriotism- I said the pledge every damned day of my primary schooling and it never made me feel more patriotic. No, it made me feel bored. Unless Texans want us to be bored by citizenship, this is probably a silly platform position. There's the classroom discipline section:
"Classroom Discipline –We recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. Corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas."
So, to recap, critical thinking = bad, hitting children = good. Stay classy, guys! There's the bit on young kids:
"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. "
Which wouldn't be so bad, except it wants Congress to repeal all programs that "deal with early childhood development". So, in other words, government support for non-mandatory programs to help disadvantaged populations are also out the window. Who needed class mobility anyways, amiright? Then there's the inevitable section on naughty bits:
"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. "
So, to recap again, hitting kids is fine, but telling them how to control their fertility and avoid STDs is bad. Or, to make that more concrete, they're fine with a teacher hitting a child but they better watch out if that teacher dares to mention the word "condom". Am I in fucking bizarro world here? Wait, we're talking about Texas, so yes. Then there's the bit on homeschooling:
"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. "
Okay, so apparently if you keep your kids home you can teach them whatever the fuck you want and the state can't say anything about it. Good to know. There's the religious "freedom" section:
"Religious Freedom in Public Schools – We urge school administrators and officials to inform Texas school students specifically of their First Amendment rights to pray and engage in religious speech, individually or in groups, on school property without government interference. We urge the Legislature to end censorship of discussion of religion in our founding documents and encourage discussing those documents. "
From having grown up in the south, believe me when I say that encouragement is not necessary here- your classmates will badger you about religion no matter what you do. It's just especially difficult when they have formal sanction to do so. And finally, there's the indoctrination clause:
"Traditional Principles in Education – We support school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded and which form the basis of America’s legal, political and economic systems. We support curricula that are heavily weighted on original founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and Founders’ writings. "
So, not only are kids encouraged to proselytize, but we're going to make religion an official part of the curriculum. It's hard to know what to say to that.
Anyway, take a look at the platform and be sure to post your favorite bits in the comments. I would hope that this would help lose the Republicans the election but, sadly, I think this just emphasizes how crazy some folks have become.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go weep for the future. Which is to say, cry because I can't bequeath a better world to JezLil.
* Of course, this being Texas, we can be fairly sure that "fixed beliefs" is nudge-nudge, wink-wink, for "Wacky version of Christianity".
** Yeah, that's a lie. It's mostly in the interest of "I'm really busy and lazy".