Lone star state v thinking

No thinking please we’re Texas, says the Republican Party of Texas. It says it in its party platform.

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.

Not only no thinking. Worse than that. No thinking because no challenging of beliefs. Thus no learning, no changing of mind, no change, no progress, no education.

The Texas Republican party has come out in favor of stagnation and ignorance and dogmatic, fixed beliefs.

Boy, there’s a program. Less curiosity and progress and cumulative knowledge, more disease and crop failure and technological backwardness. Booya!

No worries, some farmer will find some kind of valuable grease or jewel or medicine under the pasture and Texas will have another boom like the oil boom. God will see to it…provided nobody ever thinks.


  1. smrnda says

    No ‘critical’ thinking basically means no thinking, since in order to really think you have to be open to the possibility of new knowledge that is better than what you previously had.

    An odd possibility for a paradox though; let’s say that you have kids with intelligent parents who teach them that they need to critically examine their own beliefs and study a variety of perspectives rather than just uncritically accepting ‘common sense’ or tradition. Would the state therefore be obliged to provide a real education to these kids since it would be consistent with the values of their parents? What do they do with kids whose parents tell them *not* to accept their own opinions as ‘fixed beliefs’ to be transmitted unchanged from one generation to the next?

  2. Billy Clyde Tuggle says

    These statements are clearly aimed anything that challenges a childs “inherited” religious beliefs. My interpretation of their message is – “We are raising our children to be good obedient God fearing Christians, and we don’t want any sort of curriculum that challenges those beliefs as that could lead them toward godless liberalism and eternal damnation”.

    When I worked in the South I ran into a number of very good engineers who were also cool-aid drinking adherents to evangelical Christianity. The Texas GOP no doubt wants to promote an education curriculum that produces skilled technical practitioners while simultaneous avoiding anything that challenges the evangelical worldview.

  3. Jean says

    No worries, some farmer will find some kind of valuable grease or jewel or medicine under the pasture and Texas will have another boom like the oil boom. God will see to it…provided nobody ever thinks.

    Wouldn’t medicine be too close to usurping God’s powers?

  4. says

    No, not if they just find it by accident in the pasture instead of making it with chemistry n shit. If they find it that means God put it there for them to find.

  5. Ken Pidcock says

    If you do not wish for your child an education having the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority, then you are not a good parent. And that goes for secular parents who think the MMR vaccine causes autism as well as for evangelicals.

    I’m not surprised to find it there. That’s Rick Santorum’s beef with higher education, right? Students lose their precious fixed beliefs.

  6. abusedbypenguins says

    How much longer before texas is just like saudi arabia? They are both quite primitive and barbaric but the saudis are totally crazy. 2 places I never want to go.

  7. Gwynnyd says

    To be scrupulously fair, the “Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS)” and “Outcome-Based Education (OBE)” that are specifically mentioned in the plank are formal teaching methods. This is not just teaching “critical thinking skills” to the students – as I was reminded by a friend who very much dislikes the HOTS and OBE programs but insisted she homeschooled her children in actual “critical thinking skills” just not by those particular methods, which (according to Wikipedia) teach how to “solve problems and learn, sometimes deliberately omitting direct instruction of traditional methods, facts, or knowledge.” The methods are more Socratic than Scholastic, which is hard to do well. It’s also difficult to test this sort of knowledge with multiple choice, computer scored assessment tests.

    Done well, the kids get a fabulous education. Done poorly, the kids might end up knowing nothing at all. Still, if I had a choice, I’d prefer my kids to be taught how to broadly apply knowledge and skills well outside of a small range of allowed and specifically taught activities. Texan Republicans? Apparently not. Good ol’ rote larnin’ is good enough for them.

  8. Dave says

    One can easily see how catch-phrase education gimmicks can turn, in a pressurised classroom, into trite gibberish, to which any sensible person would be opposed. But let us remind ourselves if the grounds for the opposition here – not because it might be done badly, but because it might WORK.

  9. Freodin says

    I have to agree with Gwynnyd #10: the republican critique is aimed at specific teaching method, not literally against “critical thinking” per se.

    Literally. They would have done better and not blown their cover, had they sad something like “we are all for critical thinking, but not this falsely labeled version of it”, instead of “don’t challenge fixed beliefs and the word of God, err, the elders”.

    I would like to see how they would defend teaching creationism, even as an “alternative theory”, when it so clearly challenges my fixed beliefs and the authority of an atheist parents!

  10. Steve says

    Note that the Texas Republicans’ prescription is for the public schools. The People Who Count don’t send their children to the public schools.

  11. says

    I think that within the framework of the Jewish orthodoxy of his time, Joshua bar Joseph (aka Jesus Christ) was a critical thinker. That is, if the the New Testament provides an accurate account.

    But perhaps the Texas GOP would dispute even that.

  12. Lyanna says

    It also makes you an “elitist,” Ken Pidcock.

    Where “elitist” means “someone equipped to see through Rick Santorum’s claims.”

  13. rrede says

    I am just completing my 19th year teaching at a small university in rural Texas–my areas are creative writing, critical theory (specifically, feminist, gender, critical race–more recently, intersectional, stylistics), and digital humanities/new media studies–I do teach some literature courses (women writers, African American literature, science fiction, Tolkien) but am not primarily a literature teacher (small university, I wear lots of hats).

    The stuation here in Texas is more both more complex and worse than the specific language of the platform says (apparently the current platform also includes a call to return to the gold standard, copied verbatim from the 1932 platform).

    When Bush was governor, he tried out his “no child left behind” here–and the move to standardized testing has had horrific results (the more recent version I gather is slightly improved, but multiple choice with a fairly rote essay throughout the past two decades have left their mark).

    The lack of funding on education (concurrent with funding for corporate welfare and prisons) has had an effect as well–as has the control over textbooks (the State Board of Education evaluates all textbooks, and if a school does not choose from the list, they get no state money for textbooks–if you haven’t read about the bizarre world of an elected board with NO educators (I think one got elected recently) and nearly a majority of christian fundamentalists vis a vis creationism and removing radicals from history and literature, it’s easily found via Google (http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index3.aspx?id=1156).

    We’re in the Buckle of the Bible Belt–and despite the fundamentalist claims of Biblical inerrancy, I find that most of my students have never read the Bible (they go by what their minister tells them–and the only qualification for being a minister is Jesus calling them).

    The area I teach in is desperately poor, with few social service resources — and I see the effect of the Texas Republican dismantling of the education system every day in my students (also the results of lack of access to health care–the cancer rates among my students’ families are horrifying–the school I teach it is in a town that is one of the polluted areas identified by the Superfund–about the time it ran out of money).

    Many of our students face family opposition when they attend college (most are non-traditional age, first-generation; not only are a high percentage of them on financial aid, and have children, they are even higher than national average for eldercare responsibilities). And many of the women, especially, are discouraged (in a few cases by physical violence) from gettng an education (beyond the basic teaching degree to help support their families).

    Their churches, their families, all distrust any degree that isn’t basically vocational: they face horrific challenges in all areas of life (Texas turns back a shitload of federal monies because Rick Perry wants to be independent).

    I can tell story after story about the impact of this culture on students (one of my partner’s students dropped her World HIstory course, which started with the Big Bang, because his family and church told him he was going to hell if he listened to that stuff; a student of mine in creative writing told me she could not read any depiction of sex because she would no longer be a virgin).

    It’s easy to dismiss the state–lots of people online say good riddance, let them go back to being a nation. I can understand the frustration, especially when I listen to my students who have suffered from the corruption and “big bidness” attitude in Texas support the Tea Party/Republicans/Ron Paul.

    Not quite sure where I’m going other than to say, this is nothing new; it’s been building for decades (it probably goes back to Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act (1964). And these attitudes are widespread across the South, Southwest (the legislative attacks on the Mexican Studies program in Tucson are more than Orwellian and make F451 look like a prophecy), and much of the Midwest.

    There has been a developing plan for standardized testing of college students–it’s hard to explain how much the hatred/distrust of teachers operates in this state.

    The anti-intellectualism here focuses especially on those academic disciplines teaching critical thinking (in the broader sense of the word–especially in the humanities), and the right to work, top down hierarchy of Texas higher education, and the extent to which the corporatization of higher education is moving fast here (it happens elsewhere as well) is something I’ve been watching for decades.

    We retire in 7 years–and are leaving Texas.

  14. rrede says

    Oops, I don’t think I’ve delurked here yet–have been reading over at FTB for a while (starting with Pharyngula, then reading more blogs, and B&W is one of my favorites. The epic thread over at PZ’s place made me decided to start posting!

    So, um, HI!

  15. rrede says

    @Ian #14: I think that within the framework of the Jewish orthodoxy of his time, Joshua bar Joseph (aka Jesus Christ) was a critical thinker. That is, if the the New Testament provides an accurate account.

    But perhaps the Texas GOP would dispute even that.

    I once taught William Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper” (http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/poem/2010/09/a_perfect_discomfit.html)in an Introduction to LIterature course.

    I was shocked when the students all mostly insisted that the chimney sweets were evil–because they were “black” (even after I explained what a chimney sweep did, and SOOT!).

    Then in a later meeting with a student to conference on her paper, she kept trying to make that her argument; in despair, given the Angel and all, I asked her what Jesus had said about little children……or what some of his most important ideas were in Sermon on the Mount.

    Long pause, much difficulty, and she finally answered, “behave or you’re going to hell.”

    That’s what she’d been taught.

    A senior colleague of mine once told me the most radical thing he’d done was assign the Bible in some of his courses (since a whole shitload of canonical literature alludes to the Bible, there is even a good rational pedagogical reason for it, but that wasn’t why he did it).

  16. fmcp says

    rrede, I’m also (mostly) a lurker (hi!) but I wanted to tell you I’m so sorry you have to deal with that crap. I teach in Ontario, and I think my colleagues and I often take for granted how lucky we are. Even though I’m in a high needs school, with lots of conservative religious kids of various faiths, we just don’t have those kinds of fights. Your work is incredibly important on so many levels.

  17. says


    “Because I’m telling you to.”

    1/10 for critical thinking.

    “Because if you don’t you’ll go to Hell.”
    “How do you know that?”
    “Because it says so in the Bible.”

    2/10 for critical thinking.

    Thus slowly, and ratchet tooth by ratchet tooth, we make our way out of darkness.

    The fundamentalist preacher who argues that ‘thou shalt not kill’ does not mean ‘thou shalt never kill’, and that ‘sell all thou hast and give it all to the poor’ does not apply to those with oil wells and mansions is also in a way, practicing critical thinking.

    Keep up the good work.

  18. rrede says

    Billy Clyde Tuggle: I’d say so. Lots of emphasis on STEM fields, and technology, lots of attacks on humanities.

    Don’t even get me started on the growth of “Business” schools in four year universities, HULK SMASH.

    The ideal is factual material that can be measured with standardized, computerized tests.


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