The GOP undermines education every chance it gets.


Busy for the last few decades living the merry life of a child-free adult, I sure have missed some interesting developments in education. What a surprise to discover that “critical thinking” – essentially, thinking for yourself – is now such a lost art that schools have to have classes devoted to it. Shouldn’t it go without saying that critical thinking is a part of all studies? the naïve adult asks himself. Maybe, but in these nouveau-medieval times, it evidently isn’t.

While some entrepreneurial souls are making a buck off this failure of our parental/educational system, other, less civilized ones like the Texas Republican Party are gung-ho to “shut down that whole thing” on the grounds that teaching critical thinking skills is actually code for “challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

Yes, you read that right. The last thing schooling should do is challenge anyone’s “fixed beliefs.”

On another front, and more than a thousand miles northwest of Dallas, the Coeur D’Alene, Idaho school district has booted the rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) option from its high school menu because of conspiracy theories. One opponent objects that IB is loaded with “concepts that are politically charged, such as social justice, sustainability. These are code terms.” Critics of IB, reported the Spokesman-Review of nearby Spokane, WA, have “attacked its lessons for promoting what they see as a liberal or socialist agenda influenced by the United Nations.”

Ooh, the United Nations. So effective. So dangerous.

I bring this up during the Republican convention because these fearmongers aren’t fringe eccentrics. The anti-thinking plank came from the Texas Republican Party’s platform, and while Coeur D’Alene is a much smaller stage (population about 44,000, actually a pretty big city by Idaho standards), its school board vote was unanimous and the decision stands.

And just so we know where the national GOP stands, we note that the “Education: A Chance for Every Child” section of its platform begins straightforwardly thus: “Parents are responsible for the education of their children.” Not schools or teachers? Just parents? Farther down, when the platform does recognize teachers – those rotten, unionized loafers – it’s to assert their right to hit students, though, of course, not in so many words: “We applaud America’s great teachers, who should be protected against frivolous litigation and should be able to take reasonable actions to maintain discipline and order in the classroom.”

Kid control and tort reform at the same time. Genius!