The Texas GOP is Afraid

“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.”  Texas GOP Platform

Why don’t they just come out and say it?  “If we doesn’t keep God in our schools, the Atheists are gonna brainwash yer kids”.  The document released this past week is insulting.  The United States is slipping down the list of rankings for Math and Science among industrialized nations, and rather than promote “Higher Order Thinking” we want our children to go home and ask their parents what to think?  

The statement doesn’t appear to be written with education in mind.  I don’t believe that the intent of the Texas GOP is to have students go home and ask their dad with the high school diploma how to do Calculus or AP Biology.  The crux of the issue is in the last statement “challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority”.  The statement is fear based.  They are afraid of the moral decline of society if parents aren’t able to enforce a strict system of beliefs on their children.  But is that what’s best for children?  Is that what’s best for religion?

When I reached middle school I was faced with the decision to play basketball.  I took a look at the schedule and there was a conflict with the game schedule and my religious/church commitments.  When I went to my dad to talk about what to do his response was simple “What do you think is the right choice”.  My father realized that I was at an age where my mind needed to process some of those decisions.  Starting at age 13 I began a journey to discover what I believe for myself and why I believe it.  A journey that is still ongoing today.

If I felt that the Texas GOP was trying to encourage that same attitude of beliefs as a growing journey, I would be okay with the statement.  It’s better for a parent who knows and understand their child to help guide them as they seek answers to the many questions that are in their head.  But that’s a pipe dream.  I’ve been in youth ministry for 7 years and I get questions about faith and religion that students don’t feel comfortable asking parents (or even Bible teachers).  Many parents don’t know how to answer them.  They want to take a Texas GOP stance and say “This is what we believe, just accept it”.  And that approach is out of fear, because many of those people haven’t taken the time to think about those questions for themselves and fear what the consequences might be.

Sadly enough this is the stance of many pastors and churches as well.  “This is what we believe, accept it” is too often the response.  There’s no questioning or critical thinking.  There’s no permission to ask the how’s and why’s of God and religion.  The result is people becoming blindly irrational in their beliefs to the point that they teach their 4 year old son to sing “Ain’t no homo’s gonna go to heaven” or they become so dissolutioned with the church they leave entirely never to return.

The Texas GOP and many conservative Evangelicals are afraid of what a  system that encourages students to question everything might result in.    They see questions as undermining authority and straining the family unit.  I appreciate the concern.  My preference wouldn’t be for someone else to teach my children what and how to believe.  But is teenage angst and rebellion a new thing?  Are Higher Order Thinking Skills to blame for all the Goth and Punk kids out there?  What parent of a teenager actually feels like they have any authority anyway?  My kids are 4 and 6 and I often don’t feel like I have any authority over them.

In the absence of parents who are willing or able to help their children grow, what is the alternative?  Would the preference be for more parents to exude the control over their children that “Tiger Mom” does?  Many people criticized her for her authoritative approach to manage her children’s lives and beliefs.  Is that what the Texas GOP is aiming for?

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