Tuesday, June 26, 2012

At least they're being explicit about it.

The Texas Republican Party platform for 2012 is out (pdf).  I've complained about previous incarnations before.  This time they include this gem: 
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.  [Emphasis mine - DN]
Wow.   They explicitly oppose teaching students to think critically, because that might be a threat to their fixed beliefs.  Wow.  And somehow these people keep winning statewide office.  Boggles the mind.  As a bonus, they also say:
We support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories. We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. Teachers and students should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly and without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind.
So, they like the idea of challenging scientific theories with new data, but they don't like critical thinking.  Right.


David Brown said...

“In the frontier of science, sometimes there is no difference between science and religion. People have their beliefs, and they will tell you that their prophet is better than your prophet.” — Dan Shechtman
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oa1GMwXuBwo “The Discovery of Quasicrystals – Dan Shechtman - YouTube”

Douglas Natelson said...

Scientists and engineers are human beings. They're subject to the same tendencies toward bias and subjectivity as anyone. The point of science as an endeavor, though, is that critical thinking and putting ideas to the test take primacy over our preferences for how we'd like reality to be. Flat out saying that critical thinking is bad because it causes people to question their previous beliefs is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered, how widespread are the Texas Republican Party's believes? Is it just some nutcases? Or does the whole of Texas believe this?

Phil said...

Well, though I am a friend of critical thinking I oftentimes can understand people critisize critical thinking. Why? Because at least here in Germany some people are claiming to be critical without actually being it. Thus they will embrace almost every idea which fits their critical agenda without a moment of hesitation. And without (and here comes the interesting part!) any moment of critical self-analysis. The most funny thing about it is when positions which were once critical positions become mainstream ideas - but thats another topic.

What imho children should really already learn in school are some basics about scientific theory. A primer in falsifiability works wonders against populism spread out by the different political parties, it works wonders against this aforementioned embracement of "anything which is critical". People would learn that being skeptical against something would not be a value in itself but only a chance for a step forward if the scapticism is nourished by correct questions.

So, yes, I agree with you, people should learn to think critical, but at least here in germany which people learn under the banner of critical thinking is not critical at all.