Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fixing Beliefs - Texas GOP Promotes Ignorance in Their Platform

I was raised to be intellectually curious.  My family encouraged me to investigate, explore and learn both with their guidance and on my own.  As some of you know, my father was a research scientist, microbiologist and hematologist, so I spent a lot of time hanging around laboratories growing up.  Asking “why” was a natural to me as breathing.

Most of my friends when I was a child also shared some of that intellectual curiosity; it was taught to us in school and at home.  Critical thinking skills were as important as learning facts and figures. It is what an education is all about, teaching children not just to recite their ABC’s but to actually reason and think on their own.

That is why this clause in the GOP platform struck me as uniquely bone headed and inconceivable.
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.
Read that gobbledygook again and let the meaning really sink in. 

The idea that challenging students “fixed beliefs” is something bad really floors me.  I believe it was Socrates who taught his students by asking questions.  Questioning their “fixed beliefs”.  That is a technique that worked very well over 2000 years ago and seems to have been the foundation for science, philosophy and even theology for lo these many years.  That’s why when the great State of Texas GOP want to toss out the entire purpose of scholarship I get a little testy.

If we abandon critical thinking, we might as well stop innovating and doing any research and development at all.  Why question the “fixed beliefs” of anyone?  Some people believe the Earth is flat, I suppose the school system under the GOP platform would stop teaching the fact that the Earth is round, to avoid the behavior modification of having a student understand that they will not fall off the edge of the earth if they travel too far east or west.

What is this plank in the otherwise wacko platform really about?  Well it is a concession to the folks who are convinced that schools are trying to teach kids all manner of un-biblical facts like the Earth was not created in just 6 “literal” days.  Or that all humankind did not descend from Adam and Eve!

What’s worse is that the folks who wrote this tripe most likely have kids that will never attend a public school.  Their kids will go to private academies where they are protected from minorities and other undesirable rabble. And that brings me to the real reason for this plank.

For years the GOP has been actively trying to gut the public education system in our state.  Their continued call for “vouchers” points to this.  They believe in a two tiered education system, though they will never come out and say it that clearly.  One tier is private education for the privileged kids who will become the leaders and the other is the public system for the kids who will most likely grow up to be serviceable workers in society.  Now before you go calling me a socialist or worse, hear me out.

In South Africa during apartheid, they had a very well organized two tier education system.  For whites, a good public education will all the bells and whistles and for blacks and “coloreds” they had the “Bantu Education System”.  This appalling system was designed to give its students only enough education to make them useful as low paid workers and underlings.  It was one of the most reprehensible components of the apartheid system yet was very effective for its evil purpose.

Transpose that to today, and you see the same mentality being woven into the GOP platform for public education.  It is insidious and potentially devastating for our education system which used to be one of the best in the world.  Now it is but a shell of that and a large part of it is due to changes imposed by politicians in the guise of “improving accountability” and the latest ploy, preventing the education system from challenging “fixed beliefs”.

You will be hard pressed to find any politician who will admit to this systematic dismantling of public education, but if you look at the facts it is undeniable.  Of course that is unless you are already a product of a system that doesn’t challenge your “fixed beliefs”, in which case you most likely never finished this blog.

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