Guest Post: Right Gone Wrong (Thoughts on the 2012 Texas Republican Platform)

I’m excited to have a guest blogger here today and I’m interested to see the responses to this post. While today’s post is critical of the one political party, I assure you that this blog is non-partisan and that in the future both parties will be called out for their shortcomings. In fact, I’d love to point out the other side of this coin which was addressed beautifully on a post I read earlier this week here. Also, as politics tend to bring out passionate responses, it’s probably a good time to remind you of my comments policy which is outlined here. That’s all. Enjoy!  -Shane

 

I would venture to say that many of us have that one well-intentioned but embarrassing relative, don’t we?  The one who we love because they are family and because they treated us so well when we were young, but who, during our teenage years, we began to realize was not too bright, and frankly kind of a big racist. Maybe it’s just me and it pains me to say it but these days that’s how I feel sometimes about the Republican Party—or at least the branch of the party that tends to be loudest and proudest. Though I have always appreciated many traditionally liberal philosophies, for most of my life I have also found myself equally in agreement with conservatives on things like abortion and absolute truth and how delightful the south is. It was almost exclusively conservative, straight-ticket Republicans who taught me about Jesus, and loving my neighbor as myself, and judging not and seeking first to understand and then to be understood. So,  I can never quite disavow the Republican Party the way some of my more liberal counterparts might like me to, but it sure is getting hard to see any of myself in a group who puts out platforms that say things like this:

American Identity Patriotism and Loyalty – We believe the current teaching of a multicultural curriculum is divisive. We favor strengthening our common American identity and loyalty instead of political correctness that nurtures alienation among racial and ethnic groups. Students should pledge allegiance to the American and Texas flags daily to instill patriotism.

Multicultural education threatens unity in our country? I thought multiculturalism was the crux of our country. No, I’m sorry, but multicultural education only threatens individuals who are victims of internalized superiority and who believe that only the contributions of White Anglo Saxon Protestants can truly be characterized as real American history. Otherwise, why isn’t anyone suggesting that learning state history is divisive? Because the party agrees that all 50 states are truly and equally a part of America even despite their individual identities—I just don’t know that they feel the same certainty about the African American, Latinos, Native American or Asian American populations. The really divisive thing is to teach what is presumed to be a “unified” history almost exclusively from the vantage point of Anglo-American men when 61% of Texas students identify as something other than White and then to expect everyone to feel fine about that.

Even worse the Texas Republican platform goes on to say this:

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.

 

Now to be fair, some of the platform creators have indicated that “critical thinking” was an oversight and not intended to be included in the list of prohibited educational methods, but Higher Order Thinking Skills such as synthesizing, evaluating and creating, as well as comparative activities such as Values Clarification exercises are really just another way of saying “critical thinking” so call it whatever you want, but the party is opposing critical thought. I guess now I understand why the “garbage in, garbage out” mentality is such a big deal to so many conservatives—because at least according to this platform, they are fundamentally opposed to teaching kids the assessment tools necessary to evaluate materials and ideas and would prefer instead to just have students memorize and regurgitate—processes which allow for “fixed” rather than evolving beliefs. I assume the parental authority and values which are being assaulted through the weapon of Bloom’s Taxonomy are of a religious, specifically Christian nature.  As a born-again Christian myself I have never understood fears of this variety. Doesn’t my refusal to allow any divergent perspective into my brain betray my own insecurities regarding the depth and validity of what I purport to believe is absolute truth? If Christianity is the truth, absolutely–if Jesus is strong like a lion, whom shall I fear? I need not defend a lion, at least that’s what C.S. Lewis and Charles Spurgeon seemed to think.

I believe it is, in part, this fear of deep and uncomfortable consideration that leads to simple and even more dangerous propositions like “the immediate repeal of the hate crimes act” in the Texas Republican platform. Are these really the traits that we as followers of Jesus want to be characterized by? Anti-thought and pro-hate?  If not, how do we reconcile, challenge or change an organization that so often feels compelled to introduce itself as Christianity’s spokesperson?  Or maybe I’m the only one annoyed with this strange drunk-uncle-ish policy-making regime. Tell me your thoughts—unless such an activity is against your religion.

 

Kerri Fisher is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Assistant Professor of Social Work at Hardin Simmons University in Abilene, TX.  Ms. Fisher is passionate about cultural humility, empowerment, responsible politics and Jesus.  She journals thoughts on these and similarly uncomfortable dinner-table conversation topics at www.mixed-company.blogspot.com .

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.