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Texas GOP wages war on thinking

Posted: July 24, 2012 - 2:35am

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.

• Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald.

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