This week, the Republican Party of Texas released its official 2012 platform, with provisions including the repeal of the Voting Rights Act, recommendations for the use of corporal punishment in classrooms, and opposition to the teaching of “higher order thinking skills.”
It’s almost too easy a target to even pick on, and most of the claims are too outrageous to be taken seriously. However, Texas has a long-standing record of extreme fringe control over what and how its students are learning.
This recent platform rollout is reminiscent of the debate that was conducted in 2010 over the content of Texas’ textbooks, which gives the current situation more context. Because of the large population of Texas, they have an enormous amount of buying power in the textbook industry, purchasing 48 million textbooks annually. Therefore, the very conservative Texas Board of Education has more clout in deciding the content of the nation's textbooks than almost any other Board across the country.
A curriculum with a distinct conservative color was passed in a series of amendments that characterize America as a “Christian Nation,” downplaying the role of Thomas Jefferson, excluding most Hispanic Americans, and “including a plank to ensure that students learn about ‘the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Shlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.’”
What is breathtaking about these amendments is their power to actually rewrite history for millions of students due to the whims of a few Board members. Compounding this is the recent release of the Texas GOP’s platform; the most offensive and authoritarian aspects of it concerned--surprise, surprise--education.
An educated population is absolutely integral in any society. Instead of empowering future voters, the GOP seeks to prime them for the same kind of group-think that has befallen their party.
The platform states its opposition to the teaching of “critical thinking skills” as it holds “the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.” The assumption that a child’s beliefs are fixed in middle or even high school is absurd to begin with, along with the affirmation of a parent’s absolute authority over those beliefs.
In the same authoritarian vein, the GOP recommends “that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems” and that “corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas.” The “current multicultural curriculum is divisive” in their minds, and “nurtures alienation among racial and ethnic groups.”
For a party that prides itself on protecting liberty, this is an extraordinary breach of basic exercises of freedom. They are doing their state and its children a disservice by not equipping them with the tools to thinking critically and seek out information in order to make rational and empathetic decisions in the future. It speaks volumes to the insularity that is now required for the GOP to succeed; in other words, keep them stupid and we’ll win.