What Would Molly Ivins Say?

Oh, boy howdy! This article by Laura Hibbard, “Texas Republican Party Calls For Abstinence Only Sex Ed, Corporal Punishment In Schools” nearly made me choke on my cuppa tea. She described just a few of the details the 2012 Republican Party of Texas wants for their state schools. (The article also includes a nicely scrollable copy of their entire Platform Report.)

You know me, I’m a science person, with keen interests in education and social justice.  And I was flabbergasted. It’s like a car crash — you can’t help but gawp in horrified fascination. Well, I had the day off work, so after a house-painting break, scanned through most of the document. It’s one thing to hear soundbites on the radio or in video, but quite another to actually be able to read an entire position. For one thing, it gives a person the chance to notice internal inconsistencies, and look things up.

In addition to the aforementioned items listed in the title of Hibbard’s article, the Texas GOP’s document lists a lot more in their “Educating Our Children” section. For example, they also want to eliminate preschool and kindergarten, and require daily pledges of allegiance to the US & Texas flags (because that somehow makes one patriotic).

Ooh, get this:

“Classroom Expenditures for Staff – We support having 80% of school district payroll expenses of professional staff of a school district be full-time classroom teachers.”

You realize that means giving the ability to hire a number of part-time classroom teachers (and paraprofessionals if they opt to include some) who can be paid WAY less, which will keep a district’s budget way down. “Fiscal responsibility” as a loophole for loading up on part-time staff. Who of course often don’t get benefits — unfortunately, a common practice in education and other industries. (Yes, I’m calling education an industry.)

And of course, this next incredible ::head-desk:: concept that (for me) underpins a great deal of their platform:

“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.”

Because you know, mastering the subject material and learning how to think critically will undermine the GOP’s fixed beliefs and enable challenging authority. Any challenges to authority will be dealt with accordingly:

“Classroom Discipline –We recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. Corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas.”

Under the “Promoting Individual Freedom and Personal Safety” section, this concept continues as,

“Child Abuse – We recognize the family as a sovereign authority over which the state has no right to intervene, unless a parent or legal guardian has committed criminal abuse. Child abusers should be severely prosecuted. We oppose actions of social agencies to classify traditional methods of discipline, including corporal punishment, as child abuse. As a condition of funding, publicly funded agencies are to report all instances of abuse.”

I guess that means starving or raping your children is still criminal, but beating them up is just fine.

As noted in a previous section, “Strengthening Families, Protecting Life And Promoting Health” the Texas GOP wants to eliminate the need for anyone to be vaccinated unless they or their parents want them to be. Yeup, reducing herd immunity through vaccination is great for protecting people’s lives and promoting health. [/snark] And naturally, they oppose sex education, except in the form of abstinence until marriage (because that’s SO helpful at preventing those unwanted pregnancies).

Here’s a kicker; they also assert,

“Health care decisions should be between a patient and health care professional and should be protected from government intrusion.”

Er, except earlier when it says,

“We insist that the U.S. Department of Justice needs to prosecute hospitals or abortion clinics for committing induced labor (live birth) abortion.”

Let’s get back to the school stuff, how about that topic dear to me, science? Yeah, no surprise there:

“Controversial Theories – We support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories. We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. Teachers and students should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly and without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind.”

Hmn, does that mean the teacher can say, “Creationism is a load of nonsense and isn’t science any more than other creation myths”?

Speaking of religion:

“Religious Freedom in Public Schools – We urge school administrators and officials to inform Texas school students specifically of their First Amendment rights to pray and engage in religious speech, individually or in groups, on school property without government interference. We urge the Legislature to end censorship of discussion of religion in our founding documents and encourage discussing those documents.”

(Praying in school is not banned; millions of students to it daily, especially when faced with an exam for which they did not study. What’s banned is requiring everyone to participate in the same prayers and religious observances. You want to “say grace” before eating lunch? Fine. But don’t make everyone in the cafeteria stop and observe the same.)

A few paragraphs later religion in public schools is explained to *really* mean:

“Traditional Principles in Education – We support school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded and which form the basis of America’s legal, political and economic systems. We support curricula that are heavily weighted on original founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and Founders’ writings.”

Except maybe Thomas Jefferson’s version of the Bible that left out Jesus’ miracles and resurrection, as well as other inconvenient points of view by likewise famous figures.

Back in that “Promoting Individual Freedom and Personal Safety” it says,

“We pledge our influence toward a return to the original intent of the First Amendment and toward dispelling the myth of separation of church and state.”

But, that Constitution thing? It says (emphasis mine):

“Article. VI.

… Clause 3: The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

And that First Amendment of the ten original that compose the Bill of Rights, written by *ahem* Founder James Madison and ratified in 1791:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Yeup, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” — that’s your separation of church and state.

Of course, originally the Bill of Rights was about the rights of  White Men, not women, or African-Americans.  Surely they don’t mean that when they say, “We pledge our influence toward a return to the original intent of the First Amendment”? Umm…

Whoops, I wandered off school stuff again.  But then, the whole thing is rife with religion, a particularly narrow sort that seeks to squelch critical thinking, fill student’s heads with pseudoscience, and create a theocratic state and nation.

Cartoon by Stanfill.
A Democrat donkey and Republican elephant are each standing on ladders engraving their respective monoliths with quotes.

1 Comment

  1. Julie Ali said,

    12 July 2012 at 4:36

    Wow, I thought Alberta, Canada was the only lake of fire places around but I guess there are a great many other wacky places with dinosaur educational systems around than I ever imagined.

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