Texas GOP makes a critical error

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.

How unfortunate.

How sad.

How convenient.

11 replies »

  1. Lets be honest. This is the GOP agenda in it’s entirety. It ain’t just Texas.

    Why we let these people create our childrens textbooks is beyond me.

  2. @ Cthulhu: Unfortunately it’s a combination of democracy and capitalism that no one ever counted into the national education equation. Local control made sense when there might be 100 or 300 miles between settlements that were large enough to support a school. It no longer makes sense when we are so interconnected and a student from Texas can look for a job anywhere and needs to learn and compete that way.

  3. The saddest conclusion from this trend to fend off “critical thinking”, “science based education”, “anything that questions traditional beliefs” is that the true battle they waging is against Reality itself. See also the North Carolina legislators attempt to ban public evaluations of sea level rise that go beyond “traditional” increases so they won’t have to accept the implications of global warming. (

    But the pesky thing about reality is, it always wins out at the end. You can’t run through a brink wall by disbelieving it’s existence.

  4. Squatters in Eden!. I thought we were lost our innocence when we partook of the tree of knowledge (no it wasn’t just an apple). Our casting out was a recognition that we are now irrevocably dependent on the fruit of that tree- no more so in the last century or two. Texas wants the fruits of economic consequences, but not the responsibility.
    Traced back to its religious roots I can only say “thou shalt not take the Lords name in vain”.

  5. Judith, I couldn’t agree more. I’m outgrabed by the mome raths. If only today’s toves were so slithy.

  6. @ Djerrid: You’re right about reality and the brick wall. Unless you’re headed to Hogwarts and your destination is station 9 3/4.

  7. Retarded conservatives and religionists love a “War on X”. Now they bring us The War on Thinking and The War on Reality. It is lucky the United States isn’t 50 little counties, if it was the Biblically driven ones would be third world countries at (real) war with the secular, liberal, rich and success ones, living in their bubbles of self imposed and proud ignorance.

  8. Has anybody actually used critical reading skills on this one. I am not saying the Texas Republicans aren’t idiots, but I am sure better examples can be pulled up than this. It only takes a bit of reading in context and a very tiny amount of Googling to understand “critical thinking skills” is a technique of OBE and not “learning to think critically”. If we are to exercise critical thinking and not biased kool aid drinking, we have to get beyond seeking targets in people we dislike and start opposing ideas that are bad. That means we have to actually understand the quotes we are opposing. This serves two purposes: a) it brings out honest debate against ideas and b) it makes us look less like idiots.

    Perhaps I missed the point and merely firing at a supposedly easy target, and illustrating ignorance, was the point of this post?