Dumbing Down

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Non Sequitur by Wiley
Non Sequitur by Wiley

The debating site PolicyMic writes:

The Republican Party of Texas released its official 2012 platform, with provisions including the repeal of the Voting Rights Act, recommendations for the use of corporal punishment in classrooms, and opposition to the teaching of “higher order thinking skills.”…

Thinking separates man from machine. Critical thinking uses that unique, precious ability to help choose ethical and moral paths. Critical thinking sometimes asks difficult questions that make us squirm, attacks our most hallowed beliefs, makes us angry or sad or excited, and most importantly, leads to more thinking.…

[This] platform rollout is reminiscent of the debate that was conducted in 2010 over the content of Texas’ textbooks, which gives the current situation more context. Because of the large population of Texas, they have an enormous amount of buying power in the textbook industry, purchasing 48 million textbooks annually. Therefore, the very conservative Texas Board of Education has more clout in deciding the content of the nation’s textbooks than almost any other Board across the country.11

High school graduates

Gail Collins describes how Texas inflicts bad textbooks on us:

“What happens in Texas doesn’t stay in Texas when it comes to textbooks,” said Dan Quinn, who worked as an editor of social studies textbooks before joining the Texas Freedom Network, which was founded by Governor Ann Richards’s daughter, Cecile, to counter the religious right.

As a market, the state was so big and influential that national publishers tended to gear their books toward whatever it wanted. Back in 1994, the board requested four hundred revisions in five health textbooks it was considering. The publisher Holt, Rinehart and Winston was the target for the most changes, including the deletion of toll-free numbers for gay and lesbian groups and teenage suicide prevention groups. Holt announced that it would pull its book out of the Texas market rather than comply. (A decade later Holt was back with a new book that eliminated the gay people.)12

“The [Texas] State Board of Education imposed tighter rules Friday [31 January 2014] on the citizen review panels that scrutinize proposed textbooks,” reports Dallas News:

The move could soften fights over evolution, religion’s role in U.S. history and other ideological debates.… Critics complain that a few activists with religious or political objections have too much power to shape what the state’s more than 5 million public school students are taught. And the Texas textbook market is so large that changes can affect the industry nationwide.13

“But scientists have too often failed to counter creationist efforts at the local level, preferring to remain in their ivory towers,” notes Chris Mooney in The Republican War on Science. “Moreover, while scientific societies have battled antievolutionists of decades, they must bring their activist senses up to date, and also battle the spread of misinformation in sex education courses and other areas.” 14

Conservative logic
Virgin toothbrush

“Sex education is not mandated in Texas,” reports The Huffington Post. “And when it is taught, it is not required to be medically accurate, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit reproductive rights research group. As of 2011, Texas had the fifth-highest teen birthrate in the country.” 15

A class instruction manual pictured here uses consumer products to push its abstinence only program:

Virgin – originally a geographical term meaning “place where no one has gone before.” Today, virgin means not having participated in any sexual activity of any kind. Toothbrush or stick of gum demonstration can be used here to show the difference in used versus new. Encourage students to stay like a new toothbrush, wrapped up and unused. People want to marry a virgin, just like they want a virgin toothbrush or stick of gum.16

Speaking to one of countless questionable policies radiating from Texas leading up to the 2016 presidential elections, community activist Quanell X notes that, “something is absolutely wrong in the state of Texas, and it needs to be corrected.” 17

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vi The Texas Board of Education’s responsibilities including establishing the state’s public school curriculum, approving textbooks and managing the state’s permanent school fund.… Six incumbents on the Texas Board of Education will retain their spots on the panel that has drawn attention in years past for ideological battles including over evolution.… An intense fight over how evolution is taught in science curriculum put a national spotlight on the board in 2009. The board ultimately decided that Texas schools would no longer have to teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution. Teachers would still be encouraged to consider “all sides” of scientific theories. The board did see a shift more toward the center after the defeat in 2010 of social conservative Republican Don McLeroy, the former board chairman who believed the Earth was only 6,000 years old and that the Christian influences of the founding fathers are important to studying American history.
– Jamie Stengle, “6 incumbents return to Texas Board of Education,” Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, 6 November 2012, at http://lubbockonline.com/filed-online/2012-11-06/6-incumbents-return-texas-board-education (retrieved: 7 November 2012).

11 Megan Malloy, “Texas Republicans 2012 Platform Opposes Critical Thinking and Supports Corporal Punishment,” PolicyMic, 1 July 2012, at http://www.policymic.com/articles/10551/texas-republicans-2012-platform-opposes-critical-thinking-and-supports-corporal-punishment (retrieved: 6 July 2012).

12 Gail Collins, “How Texas Inflicts Bad Textbooks on Us,” The New York Review of Books, 21 June 2012, at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2012/06/21/how-texas-inflicts-bad-textbooks-on-us/ (retrieved: 30 October 2016).

13 “UPDATE: Rules on citizen review panels,” Dallas News, 31 January 2014, at http://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/headlines/20140131-texas-education-board-overhauls-graduation-requirements.ece (retrieved: 1 February 2014).

14 Chris Mooney, The Republican War on Science (New York: NY: Basic Books, 2005), p. 255.

15 Rebecca Klein, “Texas School District Sex Education Compares Non-Virgins To Chewed Gum,” The Huffington Post, 8 November 2013, at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/08/texas-virgins-chewed-gum_n_4241610.html (retrieved: 9 November 2013).

16 Ibid. Klein, “Texas School District Sex Education”; See also “Texas Adolescent Reproductive Health Facts,” U.S. Department of Health andHuman Services, 2001, at http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/reproductive-health/states/tx.html (retrieved: 9 November 2013).

17 Transcription of video at Randy Wallace, “Father gets 6 months in jail for paying child support late,” myFox Houston, 22 January 2014, at http://www.myfoxhouston.com/story/24514990/father-gets-6-months-in-jail-for-paying-child-support-late (retrieved: 22 January 2014).

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