Well, at least they're finally admitting it. In an effort to ensure that Texas' next generation of leaders have ideas as bad as theirs, the Texas Republican Party has included in this year's version of the party platform a gem almost too outrageous to be true:
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.
It might be funny if so many of the people supporting this platform wouldn't be elected to public office this year, or if Texas had a stellar track record on education that couldn't be compromised by a few partisan blowhards. But as it is, Texas ranks consistently in the bottom half of states on numerous education indicators, and in many of these areas is declining.
Take education spending, for instance. According to the Dallas Morning News' Education Front blog:
Texas schools are spending $8,908 per student in the current school year, well under the national average of $11,463… Preliminary NEA figures show that per pupil spending in the state actually dropped $538 from the 2010-11 school year, when Texas ranked 41st among the states with an average expenditure of $9,446… Nationwide, the average went up slightly, about $158 per pupil, as other states also dealt with tough economic circumstances.
And then there are school rankings. When the Texas Education Agency implemented tougher academic standards in 2011, hundreds of schools couldn't pass the test: “the number of Exemplary schools – the state's highest rating – fell from 2,637 last year to 1,224 in 2011. The number of Unacceptable schools rose from 104 to 569 this year, the agency reported.”
Or take at SAT scores: “Nationally, Texas students rank 49th in the nation on the verbal portion and 46th on the math section of the SAT college preparatory exam.” And student-teacher ratio: over 8,000 Texas classrooms exceed state class size limits. The list goes on.
So while it may be a blessing that the Republican Party's hostility to critical thinking is now documented, it's a sad reminder of just how much is at stake in this year's election.