A critical update to the Texas GOP platform

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The Texas Republican Party held its state convention June 7-9 in Fort Worth to elect delegates and vote on a new party platform.

One portion of the education section made some surprising changes from the previous platform.

In 2010, the Knowledge-Based Education plank stated teaching critical thinking skills were the primary purpose of public schools, along with “reading, writing, arithmetic, phonics, history, science, and character as well as knowledge-based education.”

The new platform takes a different stance on critical thinking, and states:

“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).”

Outcome-based education is a system of teaching usually associated with grading on a scale instead of a curve, block scheduling, standardized testing and developing curricula to specify desired outcomes for students. The Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (and offspring) and No Child Left Behind are typical examples of OBE. 

Both GOP platforms support knowledge-based education, which is “learning that revolves around both the knowledge that the student already has, and the understanding that they are going to achieve by doing work.”

KBE supporters advocate a “back-to-basics” approach to education that revolves around teaching facts and knowledge directly to students, rather than encouraging them to arrive at knowledge through critical thinking. KBE focuses little attention to social development and does not take an integrated approach to individual subjects.

While the 2010 platform places some value on critical thinking skills, the updated version clearly opposes them because they focus on “behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

Along with removing the support for critical thinking, the platform also removed a policy that outlined an expected outcome for students. In 2010 it favored teaching entrepreneurial and investment skills, as opposed to teaching “children to be employees or perhaps at best managers for employers.” There is no mention of the entrepreneurial goal in 2012.

The 2012 Texas Democratic Party platform also outlines a preferred teaching philosophy, which seems to share both KBE and OBE characteristics. This section of the platform has not changed since 2010.

“...we believe the state should: replace high-­stakes tests, used to punish students and schools, with measures that restore the original intent of the state  assessment system: improving instruction to help students think critically, be creative and succeed.”