Planks

A platform is as strong as its weakest plank. From Ref. 4.

I can’t believe that I forgot to blog about this until now. About a month ago, the Texas Republican Party met for its state convention. Besides deciding whom they support for the Republican presidential bid, they also decided on their platform for the next two years. As expected, the Texas Republican Party Platform document [2] contained the usual list of social issues. But there was a real gem in there that escaped most people’s attention at first. It appears on page 20 of the DOCX version of the platform document:

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.

It is often that we assume that political parties intend to abandon the basic principles of reason and knowledge; it’s rare that they simply come out and admit it. Yes . . . that is correct (you read it right!): the Texas Republican Party wants to do away with critical thinking because it challenges fixed beliefs. Here are some once-fixed beliefs that were threatened by critical thinking:

  1. The world is flat
  2. The earth is at the center of the universe and all heavenly bodies orbit around it
  3. Disease is caused by miasmas; or the spleen; or microscopic spinal mis-alignments; or evil spirits
  4. Skin color is a good way to decide whether someone is better than someone else
  5. Women are inferior to men
  6. Children should be forced to labor regardless of their age; if they can walk, they can certainly operate a steam press
  7. Slavery is acceptable, and even encouraged by an omnipotent superbeing
  8. The world was birthed from an azure egg; or, it sits on the back of a great turtle; or, it was created in 6 days by an omnipotent superbeing; or any of a thousand other cultural creation stories, some of which happen to have fallen out of favor because their proponents were killed off (which, I guess, invalidates their creation myth…).
  9. The surface of the earth is fixed and unchanging
  10. All life as it exists now is exactly as it was when the world came into being

I gotta say, that after going over just that short list of fixed beliefs that have been shown to be wrong by the use of critical thinking (and, more importantly, the scientific method), I am just as scared of critical thinking as Texas Republicans appear to be. These are fixed beliefs worth preserving, by gum.

So . . . how did this little plank make it into the platform?

According to Republican Party Spokesman [3], it was an oops . . . a mistake . . . an oversight. As written in Ref. 3,

“[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,’” Elam said. “And it was not the intent of the subcommittee to present a plank that would have indicated that the RPT in any way opposed the development of critical thinking skills.” [TPM, June 29, Ref. 3]

Certainly, as many pundits pointed out, the fact that this plank survived as written is an excellent example of a total lack of critical thinking.

 

[1] http://www.texasgop.org/

[2] http://s3.amazonaws.com/texasgop_pre/assets/original/2012Platform_Final.pdf

[3] http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/06/texas_gops_2012_platform_accidentally_opposes_teaching_of_critical_thinking_skills.php?ref=fpb

[4] http://www.flickr.com/photos/voiceofid/3467809356/

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