Teach students higher order or critical thinking skills? Not if the Texas Republicans have their way.

Republican Party of Texas Logo

The Republican Party of Texas states in its official 2012 political platform:

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.

This is astounding since most everyone else in America seems to understand that our educational graduates and our employees need greater, not less, development of critical and higher-order thinking skills in order to be effective citizens, learners, and workers in our hyperconnected, hypercompetitive global information society. This political platform item is an absolutely stunning example of educational and economic cluelessness and is a surefire recipe for complete irrelevance in the 21st century.

In recent years, I don’t believe I’ve heard of any other groups officially opposed to teaching students critical thinking or higher-order thinking. Have you? Other thoughts?

Hat tip: Slate

16 Responses to “Teach students higher order or critical thinking skills? Not if the Texas Republicans have their way.”

  1. Thank you for bring up this topic. I have never taught in Texas, but I have read a great deal about their “education” system. The focus (obsession) with testing and data is ridiculous, not to mention what passes as “valid” content. They have taken a similar approach to the teaching of history. The scary thing is that textbooks are written primarily for Texas and California, due to the large market. While I don’t use a textbook, many teachers still do. This is a great topic and very worthy of the ink you spilled… well written too!

  2. This statement reminds me of those joke essays where the student mixes up important concepts and creates a jumbled up mess.

    I say we assign the R-POTs some HW:

    1) What is Bloom’s Taxonomy (Revised)?

    2) Define guided practice. Give examples of the benefit of practicing well.

    3) Revise your original statement with these new understandings.

    It’s funny that the Republicans of Texas would benefit from the very interventions they’re criticizing, without any threat to their political platform.

    Unless, of course, they’re implying that once kids can think for themselves, they wouldn’t be stupid enough to vote Republican.

    • Andy, I think you’re exactly right. They blatantly say they want to stop “challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority”. What beliefs? Probably those pertaining to politics, religious, maybe multiculturalism…

      What does that say about these beliefs they want to hang on to? Can simply thinking critically about them burn through the logic, leaving them empty. My suspicion is yes.

      This reminds me of one of my all time favorite silly quotes: It makes sense, if you don’t think about it.

  3. I have known one of the Texas State Board of Education members, who is a Republican, most of my life, although we have not been close since high school (1978). While I would be inclined to give this person the benefit of the doubt, I would first like to know what alternatives the Texas Republican Party has proposed in its platform, and what your comments are. I prefer to know all sides of an issue. Thanks!

    • Laura, the link to the official platform is in the blog post. Take a look and see what you think!

    • Laura, I am a Texas educator. And until recently a life-long Republican supporter. The quote in the blog post above is all that is in the platform regarding HOTS (I went and read it myself and agree with Scott that all interested parties should do the same rather than just listening to media soundbites). There is no “alternative” proposed that I can see in the platform.

      If the SBOE member you are speaking of is the person I think it is, I do not think they would support this mess of a platform, especially in regards to education. What we need here in Texas is thinking people like them to stand up and help us pull the GOP back from the cliff it is about to go over before it takes our state right along with it.

  4. Here is the Texas Democrat’s official platform:

    (Hat tip: Rob Scordino)

    Interesting that the education section is in direct and open opposition to that of the Texas Republicans…

  5. Texan chiming in here — this is based on religious beliefs… Not sure why they are using this particular language (about critical thinking skills), but look at the very last line:

    “…the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

    This means that they oppose students being exposed to:

    — education on evolution (they want creationism only)
    — education on any safe sex practices other than abstinence (abstinence only — because as long as we teach that, then kids won’t have sex)
    — education on alternative lifestyles or any school acceptance of alternative lifestyles (acceptance of LGBT students or families, because the Bible tells us that this is wrong)
    — education that uses the term “capitalism” or “free market” rather than “free enterprise” (because “capitalism” and “free market” have a negative connotation and “free enterprise” does not)

    I could go on and on…

    All of those things would require that students think for themselves rather than believe what their pastors, priests, and parents tell them. And we can’t have that, can we?

    • Stephanie–As I commented on Doug Johnson’s Blue Skunk Blog this morning, the Texas GOP opposes teaching young people HOW to think, insisting instead on teaching people WHAT to think–blindly and in concert with the established thought of those around them. How else would the GOP continue to dominate TX politics as they do?

      Thank you Scott for bringing this topic to your global audience!

  6. My name is Angelia Gafford and I’m a student at the University of South Alabama. I am taking a class this summer EDM310. Check out the blog Class Blog
    I would like to think we want to make sure our students are developing critical and higher-order thinking skills. As a future educator, I want my students to embrace learning and become as my professor Dr. Strange would say, “Life Long Learners”. This is very shocking to find out. Thanks for posting.

  7. So let me get this straight…the state of texas has required all students to take TAKS and now the STAAR….which is considerably more rigorous than the TAKS….MILLIONS of dollars are being spent to make schools give these tests….curriculum is built upon the standards of these tests…which are all about HOTS and critical thinking skills….nice republican party…nice..let’s face it…you are shutting down the brains of future voters…the smarter they are the more they will see your stupidity.

  8. Wow. Jaw-dropping stupidity.

  9. This issue, along with many others, is the reason I am rethinking my educational and career choice. I am a senior at Texas State University and am beginning to feel like the officials in charge of education in my dear state are more interested in money and elections than actually educating the precious resource of our children. I am most sincerely disenfranchised. 🙁

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