Obviously, since I named my blog the Critical Thinker Blog, I value critical thinking skills and believe that teaching and learning thinking skills is more important than just about anything we currently cover in primary and even higher education institutions. After all, we live in the information age. A previously unfathomable quantity of information is at the tip of our finger and available to us at any time and place. What seems to not aways be available is the thinking skills required to put that information to good use.
More often than not, throughout my educational career, thinking skills were taught (or learned) more by accident than by a conscious piece of curriculum. I was lucky enough to get to go to college where I was formally introduced to all sorts of things like psychology, philosophy, other world religions, calculus and physics. My engineering degree admittedly challenged me to the very limit of my own intellect, and beyond. I am now gratefully learning to quiet my mind and gain further control and perspective through a practice of meditation. But looking back, the real value of the education and the time I have spent sitting on a cushion has nothing to do with any information anyone presented to me, it was simply learning to think and reason logically. Once that creative problem solver, troubleshooter, critical thinking area of the brain gets activated, there is no stopping it.
But what about someone that has no engineering degree, higher education, or critical thinking background whatsoever? How are we teaching these important skills to our youth? I was very impressed to hear my educator wife talk about the fact that many schools are actually teaching higher order thinking or critical thinking as part of a primary education curriculum! Now what a novel idea that is! Instead of mindlessly memorizing spelling lists, multiplication tables, and Judeo-Christian history maybe we are finally getting somewhere in this country!
Well apparently not if the Texas GOP has anything to say about it. This is an actual excerpt from the official platform of the Texas State GOP in June of 2012.
“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.”
How do you even begin to teach science and physics if you are limited to what would not undermine a Texan’s fixed beliefs? I guess if the Texas GOP has its way, you don’t. I hate to put too much emphasis on the importance of a political party’s platform from a state that I am not a resident, but clearly the GOP of the state of Texas does have an influence on the politics of the world, and clearly they have lost it altogether. Look no further than our former Texas GOP president if you need a reminder of what happens when we elect politicians that prefer to suppress critical thinking in favor of “fixed beliefs”.
I understand what is driving the sentiment. They believe that critical thinking will plant the seed of doubt and question in the minds of children that should instead be learning the information their parents, political and religious leaders want them to learn.
But why exactly? What is the incentive? Why is it so important for some people to stay so detrimentally unable to think for themselves, to question, and to reason logically? Like so many other things in life, the answer is that some things are desirable not because they work or because they are right, but because they are easy.
It is easier to scarf down a cheeseburger in your car than it is to prepare a homemade meal at home, it is easier to pop a pill than exercise to get your numbers down, it is easier to hook up than plan a family, it is easier to despise or reject someone from a different culture than it is to learn from them, it is easier to believe climate change is a hoax than to ride a bike, it is easier to believe mythology than it is to contemplate higher truth, it is easier to keep the television locked on Fox News than it is to read real news from credible sources, it is easier to cower in fear than to stand up with bravery, and most importantly, it is easier to go along with the popular opinion of those around you than it is to question, challenge or take the unpopular opinion. That is, unless you already are a critical thinker. Then those types of previously easy decisions become hard, and the hard decisions become, not necessarily easy, but the only possible decision.
The answer to so many of our society’s problems could be solved if people just stopped a minute to think critically before taking the easy and popular opinion. The GOP in the state of Texas and increasingly across the nation has a vested interest in the vast majority of the country not gaining critical thinking skills. A great deal of their remaining platform crumbles if they fail in this one particular area and they are very accutely aware of “Joe Six Pack’s” strong preference for the easy and popular choice.
How else would Romney be able to claim Obamacare is radical socialism when it was modeled after his own state’s exact program and almost exactly what millions in this country already rely on in the forms of Medicare and Medicaid? How else would they be able to cry for freedom of religion under the constitution and then call for a constitutional ban on same sex marriage based on a single religion? How else do they clamor for the “right” of a company to sell a 64 oz. soda to a child while throwing another person in prison for smoking a joint to relieve the nausea of chemotherapy?How else do you insist upon the absolute cruciality of paying a corporate executive millions in order to “attract talent”, while demanding public school teachers are drastically over compensated? How about crying about the religious persecution of Christians while actively working to persecute Muslims? How else would you get away with demonizing the unemployed working class for taking a government handout while lining your own pockets with tax sheltered money, tax loopholes, and profit from outsourced slave labor? What about creating government mandates on public school performance, and then slashing funding and resources from the very schools that are determined to need the most help? What about lowering taxes, deregulating the financial system to the brink of collapse, and then bailing out the very people responsible for the collapse? What about starting two oil wars? What about being responsible for all of that, but still pointing the finger at the next guy for the unbalanced budget, recession, and complete mess in foreign and energy policy because he hasn’t fixed all of these problems fast enough for your liking? How else would a presidential candidate that has the EXACT SAME platform, political party, and set of ideals as George W. Bush get even a single vote in a primary in this country? Obviously, a critical thinking electorate is not in the best interest of the GOP and this doctrine is the black and white proof.
Luckily more of the country is wising up, and the nuts on the right, including past presidents and current governers, are doing a pretty good job providing examples of what happens when a person has “fixed beliefs” that cannot be changed. Hopefully the momentum is swinging far enough and the reign of influence by the Texas GOP will finally come to an end in this country and around the world. To those that have kids in the Texas public school system that is run by the GOP and this doctrine; Do your kids a favor and move out of the state!