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Opinion

Opinion

Texas GOP wages war on thinking

July 22, 2012

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Some recent headlines from the alternate universe of modern conservatism:

Rush Limbaugh claims the bad guy in the new Batman movie was named Bane to remind voters of Mitt Romney’s controversial tenure at Bain Capital.

Michelle Bachmann, citing zero credible evidence, accuses a Muslim-American aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio’s crack investigators announce that President Obama’s long-form birth certificate is a fake.

In other words, it’s just an average week down there in Crazy Town. And that lends a certain context to a tidbit brought to national attention last week by Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.” Meaning a plank from the 2012 platform of the Republican Party of Texas which, astonishingly enough, reads as follows: “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.”

Holy wow. That is, without a doubt, the most frightening sentence this side of a Stephen King novel.

The Texas GOP has set itself explicitly against teaching children to be critical thinkers. Never mind the creeping stupidization of this country, the growing dumbification of our children, our mounting rejection of, even contempt for, objective fact. Never mind educators who lament the inability of American children to think, to weigh conflicting paradigms, analyze competing arguments, to reason, ruminate, question and reach a thoughtful conclusion. Never mind that this promises the loss of our ability to compete in an ever more complex and technology-driven world.

Never mind. The Texas branch of one of our two major political parties opposes teaching critical thinking skills or anything that might challenge a child’s “fixed beliefs.” So presumably, if a child is of the “fixed belief” that Jesus was the first president of the United States or that 2+2 = apple trees or that Florida is an island in an ocean on the moon, educators ought not correct the little genius lest she (gasp!) change her “fixed belief,” thereby undermining mom and dad.

That’s just … just …

Holy wow.

For what it’s worth, the Texas GOP says that language was not supposed to be in the platform. Spokesman Chris Elam says its inclusion “was an oversight on the subcommittee’s part.”

If that explanation leaves you cold, join the club. That such an asinine position was even under consideration is hardly comforting. And the fact that something so neon stupid escaped notice of both the subcommittee and the full platform committee suggests the Texas GOP could use a little critical thinking instruction itself.

Remember when Republicans were grown-ups? Agree with them or not, you never thought of Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford, even Richard Nixon as less than serious, substantive adults, susceptible like all serious, substantive adults, to logic and reason.

The party has since devolved. A toxic stew of faith-based politics, biased “news,” and echo chamber punditry has reduced it to an anti-science, anti-reason, anti-intellect caricature of itself. Thoughtful conservatives — thoughtful Americans — ought to be alarmed.

How can you have a healthy democracy when a major party not only tolerates lunacy, but elevates it to positions of power? In what sane nation does someone like Rush Limbaugh have a mass audience, Michelle Bachmann an elected office, Joe Arpaio a badge?

Well, the Texas GOP just came out against critical thinking. That explains a lot.

— Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wedneday on www.MiamiHerald.com.

Comments

observant 2 years, 1 month ago

I thought that the Texas Constitution did not allow any thinking at all. After all, what else explains people like W, Delay, LBJ and governor Hair. Not to forget Rove and Uncle Dick.

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Kate Rogge 2 years, 1 month ago

I think LBJ was a great president on domestic issues. Kennedy would never have had the political and legislative experience, and clout, to get the civil rights legislation through Congress, and it took LBJ to accomplish it. Lumping LBJ in with the Texas GOP knuckle-draggers is just plain wrong, Observant.

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Getaroom 2 years, 1 month ago

Never has there been a more accurate description for what is going on right here in Kans-ass and the sheeples are just snoozing thru it. Perfect match for the GOP in total.

Thank you for that LP, Great article!

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Liberty275 2 years, 1 month ago

A liberal complaining about people waging war on thought is hilarious. They want to be as tyrannical as the right wishes it could be.

There is no war, Mr Pitts. You are just a weak minded coward cheerleading for the other group of liars.

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tomatogrower 2 years, 1 month ago

Critical thinking teaches people to discern between the provable and the unprovable and between fact and opinion. But it also allows people to decide for themselves what their beliefs are, not decided by a government or by their parents. With true critical thinking you learn about everything, including creationism (but not in a science class, it's not science) and decide for yourself what is right, even if that isn't the same thing your parents believe. Even if it's not the same thing conservatives or liberals want you to believe. Critical thinking skills mean that you question everything, and learn to discern fact and opinion.

I'm sorry that you want everyone to be just like you, Liberty and Cato. Liberals embrace diversity, unlike people like you. That's why they like multicultural education, not the white, straight Christian male's version of history and cultural. We understand that you want only that culture and that history, but liberals are much more open minded about other cultures. If it leads you to question your own values, or if it leads your children to question their values, then maybe you don't believe your values as strongly as you would lead us to understand.

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Orwell 2 years, 1 month ago

What a pithy, insightful rebuttal! You must have gained your critical thinking skills in Texas.

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Liberty275 2 years, 1 month ago

Critical thinking eh? Tell me, o critical thinker, what is the difference between fact and opinion? I'm waiting to hear.

"But it also allows people to decide for themselves what their beliefs are"

Nice libertarian viewpoint. I don't know why you screw it up

"not decided by a government or by their parents"

Your parents may teach you anything they wish until one of two things happen. You sound like a 16 year old boy that hates his parents. Get over it. We all did at 16. You are their ward and you do what they say. Government making those decisions? Not unless they have you in cuffs while they take your kids.

" including creationism (but not in a science class, it's not science)"

Forms of creationism such as life being transported by comets is just as scientifically acceptable as ooze getting hit by lightning. You have a limited viewpoint concerning creationism, and it is a limitation I don't regret not suffering.

"Critical thinking skills mean that you question everything, and learn to discern fact and opinion."

My version of critical thinking disallows us from knowing "facts" because every "fact" you think you know exists between neurons inside your brain. What you have been taught by rote is silly foolishness so you can be told what is right and what is wrong..

"I'm sorry that you want everyone to be just like you, Liberty"

You have a severe perception problem. I consistently hold different opinions than everyone on this board, yet you think I want people to be like me. Think again. I don't want to be like any of you (even those of you I respect).

"white, straight Christian male's version of history and cultural."

Either you are new, or illiterate and had mommy type something for you. First off, I'm beige, not white. I'm not a Christian and I don't care about atheism. I am a nihilist. Granted, I am a guy. Figure out who you are talking to.

" We understand that you want only that culture and that history"

I'd prefer asian culture, but I'm happy with my own.

"but liberals are much more open minded about other cultures"

What's your take on polygamous and strong paternal cultures that stone their women or female circumcision? Show us how open your mind is to other cultures.

You aren't even in the ball park. Go back to lurking.

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pijobi 2 years, 1 month ago

"Forms of creationism such as life being transported by comets is just as scientifically acceptable as ooze getting hit by lightning. You have a limited viewpoint concerning creationism, and it is a limitation I don't regret not suffering."

Interesting rebuttal, but seeing as the Merriam-Webster definition of creationism is "a doctrine or theory holding that matter, the various forms of life, and the world were created by God out of nothing and usually in the way described in Genesis" I'm not exactly sure where you're going with this.

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ThePilgrim 2 years, 1 month ago

Both the Right and Left are equally tyrannical. One wants to control your money, and the other wants to control your heart. And neither understands that freedom means "let people be free", despite the perceived "social injustice" or "sin" in the consequences.

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Icomiclast 2 years, 1 month ago

Your reply does not address the issues raised in this piece. Do you endorse the Texas proposal or not?

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cato_the_elder 2 years, 1 month ago

News flash to Mr. Pitts: Trying to teach what outcomes-based education apologists call "critical thinking skills" to any student who can't even read at his or her grade level or add, subtract, multiply or divide is one of the primary weaknesses within the public education system today. Pitts doesn't like what Texas is doing because Texas is a heavily Republican state, and Pitts doesn't like what that stands for.

If Pitts knew anything about public education, he would know that the implementation of programs "...which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority" is precisely what's been going on in public education systems in many parts of America for at least two decades.

"Outcomes-based education" is succinctly described as follows: We can teach anyone to dunk a basketball. All we have to do is lower the goal.

Parents, wake up.

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chootspa 2 years, 1 month ago

So what year was it that you completed your degree in curriculum and instruction?

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cato_the_elder 2 years, 1 month ago

Since an effective system of public education would abolish schools of education altogether and require all teachers to have liberal arts degrees, your comment is part of the problem, not the solution.

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voevoda 2 years, 1 month ago

cato_the_elder certainly wouldn't have liked the education in the real Cato the Elder's time. It was all about behavior modification. And about achieving outcomes.

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cato_the_elder 2 years, 1 month ago

And your comment is irrelevant, as usual.

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Cait McKnelly 2 years, 1 month ago

OBE is about as far from how you characterize it as a person can get. OBE is giving people (and children ARE people, Cato, not wind up dolls that are the possessions of their parents) skills to learn by induction as well as deduction. It teaches people how to make judgments and do research and learn by understanding and not rote memorization with no real comprehension when it's regurgitated back out.
I can understand how frightening that must seem to you. But take a deep breath and maybe have a popsicle. I'm sure your Fox overlords will give you some talking points soon that you can memorize and with which you can try and refute me.

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cato_the_elder 2 years, 1 month ago

Your comment demonstrates conclusively that you don't understand outcomes-based education. The most insidious form of outcomes-based education to date has been No Child Left Behind, which I'm sure you would be loath to admit that you support. That in and of itself betrays your ignorance on this subject.

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tomatogrower 2 years, 1 month ago

Children do not have "fixed beliefs. They have beliefs that are presented to them by their parents. Sometimes a child will go a different way. If a child grows up to be a Buddhist, even though the parents are evangelical Christians, then conservatives are up in arms. Conservatives would like everyone to believe and do exactly what they are told by conservatives politicians and preachers. No questioning. The trouble with that is you have a whole lot of people who are robots, not human.

I used to work with 2 brothers who were raised in a strict Christian home. One never strayed from his family or church philosophies. Always the good little unquestioning non critical thinker. It was hard to talk to him about anything, because you weren't a member of his church, so you didn't count. He had no social skills at all. The other brother questioned and left his church for awhile. He came back on his own when he decided he did agree with his religion. You could talk to him about his religion and he wasn't judgmental about your religion. He didn't talk down to you, because you didn't belong to his church.

Everyone should question the beliefs from which they were raised at some time. If not you are brain washed, not a believer. Chances are people will return to most or even all of their roots, but willingly on their own, not because they were forced to, or because they were kept ignorant of other beliefs.

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Liberty275 2 years, 1 month ago

" It was hard to talk to him about anything, because you weren't a member of his church, so you didn't count."

Do you have a problem with freedom of association? Maybe he just didn't like you.

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ThePilgrim 2 years, 1 month ago

Rush Limbaugh is no less a comedian than Bill Maher. If you listen to him for ten minutes you realize that he doesn't take himself seriously. And he is constanty amused by himself, while others, unfortunately, take him very seriously. After all, this is the guy who gave us "Operation Chaos", with Republicans registering in the 2008 primaries as Democrats to vote for Obama and against Hillary Clinton. Republicans thought that Clinton had the Dem nomination wrapped up, and who would vote for an inexperienced black man anyway? This actually started as a "joke" in his mind, but took on a life of its own. Well we saw how that turned out. And Rush and crew were arguably instrumental in it. Yet Repubs don't hold it against him. I don't see how anyone takes him seriously, even Pitts in this article.

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verity 2 years, 1 month ago

Mr Limbaugh knows how much influence he has and, yes, he is laughing all the way to the bank. However, to not take the influence he has seriously would be a serious mistake. He may not believe what he says, but a whole lot of other people do.

Limbaugh encourages stupidity and misinformation and apparently has a large audience who follows what he says---and that is dangerous.

I won't defend Bill Maher. Sometimes he's funny and sometimes he's just vulgar and ideological, but he has very little influence. He isn't at all in the same category as Limbaugh.

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tomatogrower 2 years, 1 month ago

Because so many take him seriously. That's why he spoke at the convention. That's why the Republican chairman had to apologize to him. Don't tell me he is just an entertainer. http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/02/rnc-chairman-apologizes-to-limbaugh-in-flap-over-his-role/

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chootspa 2 years, 1 month ago

You're slightly confused. He asked people to vote for Hillary because Obama nearly had the thing tied up. I seriously doubt it was a joke. It's pretty common opposition tactics. Democrats voted for Santorum in open primaries during this election season.

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jaywalker 2 years, 1 month ago

"The party has since devolved. A toxic stew of faith-based politics, biased “news,” and echo chamber punditry has reduced it to an anti-science, anti-reason, anti-intellect caricature of itself."

True dat!

Couldn't agree more w/ Pitts on this one. Implementing such a platform is the height of idiocy. Printing it out is irretrievably stupid and pretending it was an oops and was 'sposed to be a secret leaves me incredulous. There seems to be some unbelievably stupid story or event that pops up every week in our news cycles. But they're usually perpetrated by one or two morons. Here we have an elected party of 'em, our supposed...........leaders?! I don't see how I could vote for Romney if he's these fools head. Scary scary times.

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Cait McKnelly 2 years, 1 month ago

It's on page 12 (forgot to add that to the original post).

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beatrice 2 years, 1 month ago

This isn't about critical thinking as much as it is religion. A certain percentage of the Republican party want to replace the Constitution with the Bible. This is just their way of going about it.

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Cait McKnelly 2 years, 1 month ago

"There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."" ---Isaac Asimov

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Cait McKnelly 2 years, 1 month ago

Understand that these are the same people whose BOE outlawed the teaching of Enlightenment philosophy in the state's curriculum, thereby banning the writings of almost every person instrumental in the founding of this nation. This was done to shore up the false assertion that "America was founded on Christian principles" and give support to ongoing efforts to tear down "the wall of separation between church and state".

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booyalab 2 years, 1 month ago

“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 should be blindingly obvious to anyone who read this quote that they are making an assertion that there is something else going on behind the programs that are touted as teaching "thinking skills". They are not saying "we oppose logic", they are saying "what you call logic is really something else". That is not to say that their point isn't debatable, but is it so hard to address someone's actual point and not a simplistic but wrong interpretation of it.

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Orwell 2 years, 1 month ago

Characterize it however you like; the reality is that Texas leaders oppose anything that could cause anyone to question their absolutism. Given the blatant falsehoods on which extreme conservative dogma is based, it doesn't take much independent critical thinking capability to recognize cow patties.

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booyalab 2 years, 1 month ago

It would be nice if a liberal would talk using actual data, instead of presenting me with a list of assumptions that makes me wonder if I'm actually being addressed....or just a tool for impressing your friends.

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yourworstnightmare 2 years, 1 month ago

Embarrassing. No doubt the foolish Kansas GOP will have this in their platform soon.

How embarrassing.

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