Platform of GOP in Texas: Take "Critical Thinking" Out of Educational Curriculum

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No better evidence of theocratic takeover of the GOP in Texas could be imagined than a provision in the GOP platform calling for a ban on "critical thinking" in American classrooms.  This, of course, is the opposite of freethinker-agnostic-atheist-humanist views of what already is most lacking in American education.  One thinks of the gold cross-wearing TV pundit Laura Ingraham, cutting off a pro-Choice Christian religious person because he disagreed with her.  Think of Galileo, trying to tell the Pope that he was wrong: the sun did not revolve around the earth.  Think of our forefathers thinking that taxation without representation was wrong, then criticizing King George for imposing it.  Had there been no critical thinking, there would have been no progress in any of man's most important pursuits, and especially science, math, and work involving reasoning.

As an attorney, I sometimes see the absence of critical thinking in colleagues.  At the risk of being snarked up for mashing sour grapes, I will tell a story about a case I lost on a motion for judgment during a bench trial.  At issue was what we lawyers call a "condition precedent."  Basically, if your contract to buy real estate has an addendum saying that the purchase is dependent on your being able to get financing, should you fail to get the financing after reasonable expenditure of effort (i.e. applying for credit), then you may back out of the contract.  We contested every element of the condition precedent in the previous sentence and especially objected to the so-called "evidence": a hand-written note on an envelope saying that the borrowers never claimed their loan package (our side) and a former employee, a loan officer, saying that the bank had denied credit to the couple (their side).  (We were suing for "specific performance": you must buy the house whether you like it or not, or whether you can obtain a loan or not.)

On cross-examination the loan officer admitted that she really did not know if the bank denied the loan.  However, she assumed that they were denied the loan because the bank processed the application.  Oh, no, not the second application, but the one the couple filled out when they applied for interim financing for the project about nine months before.  When I presented her with the envelope showing that the couple never claimed the letter with the second application, she said she was positive the loan was denied because she would not have been told to process the documents unless it had.

Now, how many fallacies and other evidence of non-critical thinking would you see in the above paragraph were you a critical thinker searching for a speck of proof that the buyers had expended a reasonable effort to obtain financing (which, incidentally, was not limited to the bank where the loan officer worked).  At a minimum, post hoc and circular reasoning. Yet the trial judge, saying the condition precedent had not occurred, granted the judgment that we take nothing. The court of appeals affirmed.  This sort of non-critical thinking will be exactly what some groups want, in particular religious right wingnuts.  What is assumed is not proved.  We should have been given a new trial. 

OK, so it's sour grapes.  But you can see the potentially disastrous effects of making critical thinking verboten in American education. The simple fact is, we are about 17th in math and science today.  Critical thinking should be taught much earlier.  In English classes, alongside Chaucer and Shakespeare, there should be courses on the logical fallacies: not only how to avoid use of them in English construction, but in watching TV news and news commentary; in listening to presidential debates, and in reading anything in print or online.  Lack of critical thinking will leave us in the dust bin of history. Other nations will laugh at us as they introduce all the new technological innovations and, presumably, simultaneously jettisoning history's relics: in the main, religious beliefs. Dogma in general.

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Replies to This Discussion

How much more blatant can they get?  The theists-in-charge don't want their sheep to learn how to THINK.  If their followers don't think, they can be led in whatever direction the shepherds want to take them ... and anyone in any kind of authority will find him or herself in the catbird seat.

The pants need to be pulled down on this document NOW, and the authors of this document should have their noses rubbed in their presumption until they get the magnitude of their error.

That was my feeling, Loren. If people understood the implications of implementing such a curriculum, they would vote for Justin Bieber over Mitt Romney, their standard bearer, who hasn't as yet distanced himself from the theocratic/autocratic aspects of the platform.  I would love Obama or the moderators of the debates to bring this up and get their widely different answers.

I agree with you James students aren't taught to think critically anymore. I see evidence of that myself in my students.

Good post!

Thanks, Steph and Teach.  I don't think anything has annoyed me or roused my indignation quite like the anti-critical bunch putting their two cents into the political platform of a major party.  If that judge who decided the Kitzmiller v. Dover case had not been trained in critical thinking, the State of Pennsylvania might now be implementing a bifurcated public school biology course where Creationism (I.D.) is taught alongside Darwinian evolution, the instructors required to advise students that both are equally worthy of acceptance.  And, incidentally, credit where due: The Hon. John E Jones III was a conservative Republican appointed by G.W. Bush (Bush II).  He anticipated in Dover the opinion of another Bush-appointed judge named John: the one who decided the A.H.A. controversy.  The Tao says no one is all bad nor all good.  Shakespeare says nothing's good nor bad but thinking makes it so.  See Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al. (400 F. Supp. 2d 707, Docket no. 4cv2688). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District

This compelling evidence of lack of critical thinking represents the great hazard of our nation. When people don't know that they don't know, yet believe they use reasoning to solve complex problems, we are in real trouble. The dumbing down of USA, for whatever reason actually exists and many seem proud of being uninformed and unreasonable. Even talking slowly, or breaking a problem down into manageable parts does not help. Even enlarging problems to illustrate a fallacy doesn't work. I am virtually hopeless that the general public can realize the difference between just and unjust, decent and indecent, ethical and unethical. 

When the church teaches and preaches supremacy of one race over another, one sexual orientation over another, and fails to use critical thinking in ethical and moral values, and furthermore, bans critical thinking in schools, we are in real trouble. 

You said it!

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