This week the Texas Republican Party “accidentally” included opposition to critical thinking in its education platform that will be in effect until 2014. Under the topic of “Educating Our Children” is this plank:
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 undermining parental authority. (2012 Platform)
Then, after the platform was approved and released, the GOP spokesman clarified:
“[The chairman of the Education Subcommittee] indicated that it was an oversight of the committee, that the plank should not have included ‘critical thinking skills’ after ‘values clarification,’” (Texas Freedom Network)
Oh, that makes it so much better. Tossing out Bloom’s taxonomy and the basis for standards-based education and testing–that’s okay. The real demon that the GOP is trying to exorcise is “values clarification.” They’ve been chasing that monster for almost four decades.
The condemnation of values clarification dates to the 1970s and was a target of Mel and Norma Gabler, Texas school reformers about whom I’ve written before. It was in the same league as secular humanism, sex education, and other un-American subjects. The problem with values clarification is that it introduced a variety of perspectives and required students to evaluate and synthesize them, or in the language of the Texas GOP, “have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs.”
The assumption is, of course, that students come into the school with the proper set of beliefs inculcated by their parents: patriotism, virtue, chastity, faith, etc., all of which will be corrupted by their enemies: the public school teachers. Their goal for the past 40 years has been to “undermin[e] parental authority.”
And so values clarification is opposed along with the education of illegal aliens, multiculturalism, sex education, and compulsory early childhood education. There is a great deal of emphasis on parental rights and prerogatives: school choice, program choice, service choice. There is support for local districts to decide curriculum, including whether to teach about “Controversial Theories” such as evolution or climate disruption. And there’s a proposal to have education funding be linked solely to individual students, not schools or districts.
There’s an irony in this, of course, that’s probably lost on Texas Republicans. They were early backers–and still staunch proponents–of standard testing (called “quality educational assessment” in the platform). Standardized tests are one of the worst manifestations of Outcomes Based Education, opposed by the GOP. Texas has a highly politicized statewide curriculum paired with statewide textbook adoption–limiting local choice within the state and around the country (because of the need for textbook publishers to meet Texas standards).
We have to assume that the rights of minority, immigrant, or non-Judeo-Christian parents don’t count for much. Or the rights of parents who want a rigorous education grounded in the latest science and knowledge for their children Or liberal parents–since their children will be constantly asked required to clarify their values.
And one more irony: Texas Republicans made their one acknowledged error in the statement labeled “Knowledge Based Education.” This leads one to wonder what the party based their “knowledge” on and who was doing their proofreading. Because the “mistake” wasn’t discovered until after the final vote, the “mistake” can’t be fixed–Texas Republicans are officially opposed to critical thinking skills until 2014.