Texas GOP Comes Out Against Critical Thinking and "Challenging Students' Fixed Beliefs"

Well this plank of the official platform of Texas’s GOP (via Talking Points Memo)  makes the faith-based religious community’s hostility towards reason and fear of unfettered critical thinking explicit:

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.

It drives me nuts every time I characterize faith as the volitional decision to believe, independent of evidence  to the contrary and sometimes an outright refusal to even consider evidence to the contrary, and get told by atheist defenders of faith that “No, no! Faith is reasonable, it’s not anti-evidence!” But it is and religious believer after religious believer that you talk to confirms this explicitly as soon as you point out something transparently irrational that they believe. They usually have no compunction in not only admitting to their irrationalism and expressing their misology but celebrating these things as stemming from a virtue—the alleged virtue of faith.

So, here is yet another uncensored expression of the authoritarian, anti-rational religious mind. Students are to be presumed to have “fixed beliefs” determined for them by “parental authority” that should never be challenged by training in explicit critical thinking skills or discussion that forces students to undergo difficult values clarification for themselves.

But of course that does not mean these people’s faiths are irrational! How dare I suggest such a thing. It’s so prejudicial of me.

And why are they so against values clarification? Because the Social Darwinian caricature of it in the song “Lifeboat” (by the Christian satirical musical artist Steve Taylor) is all they think it could possibly entail to critically assess our values. They often think that if we actually reason honestly and irreligiously about values then we would destroy the weak and so we need dogmatic assertions of the dignity of persons to stave off such truthful assessments. And these supposed denials of common sense reality allegedly can only be derived from the Christian Bible (even though the book constantly shows no awareness of any such concept) and can only be maintained by deferential, unthinking obedience to religious authority. That’s how little confidence they have in either reason or in the rationally defensible truth of morality. (See more about this in my post Is It Too Risky to Debate Morality’s Foundations in the Public Square, in which I explicate and criticize the views of both the fundamentalists and the accommodationists who pander to them.)

(The video features the singer, Steve Taylor, performing satirically in drag, so I apologize if his performance has any dimensions offensive to transgendered people.)

Your Thoughts?


For more on faith, read any or all posts in my “Disambiguating Faith” series (listed below) which strike you as interesting or whose titles indicate they might answer your own questions, concerns, or objections having read the post above.  It is unnecessary to read all the posts below to understand any given one. They are written to each stand on their own but also contribute to a long sustained argument if read all together.

Faith in a Comprehensive Nutshell

How Faith Poisons Religion

What About The Good Things People Call “Faith”? (Or “Why I Take Such A Strong Semantic Stand Against The Word Faith”)

How Religious Beliefs Become Specifically *Faith* Beliefs

Faith There’s A God vs. Faith In God

Trustworthiness, Loyalty, And Honesty

Faith As Loyally Trusting Those Insufficiently Proven To Be Trustworthy

Faith As Tradition

Blind Faith: How Faith Traditions Turn Trust Without Warrant Into A Test Of Loyalty

Faith As Tradition’s Advocate And Enforcer, Which Actively Opposes Merely Provisional Forms Of Trust

The Threatening Abomination Of The Faithless

Rational Beliefs, Rational Actions, And When It Is Rational To Act On What You Don’t Think Is True

Faith As Guessing

Are True Gut Feelings And Epiphanies Beliefs Justified By Faith?

Faith Is Neither Brainstorming, Hypothesizing, Nor Simply Reasoning Counter-Intuitively

Faith In The Sub-, Pre-, Or Un-conscious

Can Rationality Overcome Faith?

Faith As A Form Of Rationalization Unique To Religion

Faith As Deliberate Commitment To Rationalization

Heart Over Reason

Faith As Corruption Of Children’s Intellectual Judgment

Faith As Subjectivity Which Claims Objectivity

Faith Is Preconditioned By Doubt, But Precludes Serious Doubting

Soul Searching With Clergy Guy

Faith As Admirable Infinite Commitment For Finite Reasons

Maximal Self-Realization In Self-Obliteration: The Existential Paradox of Heroic Self-Sacrifice

How A Lack Of Belief In God May Differ From Various Kinds Of Beliefs That Gods Do Not Exist

Why Faith Is Unethical (Or “In Defense Of The Ethical Obligation To Always Proportion Belief To Evidence”

Not All Beliefs Held Without Certainty Are Faith Beliefs

Defending My Definition Of Faith As “Belief Or Trust Beyond Rational Warrant”

Implicit Faith

Agnostics Or Apistics?

The Evidence-Impervious Agnostic Theists

Faith Which Exploits Infinitesimal Probabilities As Openings For Strong Affirmations

Why You Cannot Prove Inductive Reasoning Is Faith-Based Reasoning But Instead Only Assert That By Faith

How Just Opposing Faith, In Principle, Means You Actually Don’t Have Faith, In Practice

Naturalism, Materialism, Empiricism, And Wrong, Weak, And Unsupported Beliefs Are All Not Necessarily Faith Positions

ISIS’s Iconoclasm, The Bible, and The Problem With Taking Literalism Literally
The Moral Imperative Not To Dehumanize When We Criticize #MuslimLivesMatter
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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • David Hart

    Misology – now there’s a useful word I hadn’t heard of before.

    • Brian F

      Me either. Had to look it up;

      Misology is defined as the hatred of reasoning; the revulsion or distrust of logical debate, argumentation, or the Socratic .

      Then I had to look up “elenchus” (refutation of an argument by proving the contrary of its conclusion) :)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I aim to educate. I added a link to the wikipedia article on misology to the post.

  • smrnda

    Opposing the teaching of higher-order critical thinking skills? You might as well just say that you oppose thinking period, but this sounds about typical for what would pass as ‘education’ in a place like Texas.

    The basic idea seems to be that parents get to program their children like computers, and that in no way are schools to interfere with this – this version of ‘family values’ seems to make children the property of their parents, and rather than ‘freedom’ it seems to be designed to produce an inbred tribalism because nobody will ever have their ‘fixed beliefs’ examined critically nor will they ever be asked to examine anyone else’s perspectives.

    The belief that without God, the only logical way to live is “me for myself and screw you” is pretty stupid. None of us want to be treated like garbage, and let’s face it, each individual human being isn’t exactly a powerhouse, so the only way to make sure that you won’t be treated like rubbish is to make sure that nobody ever is. Since we all have vulnerabilities, the only way to survive is by encouraging a non-predatory society. If you don’t want to be oppressed, don’t oppress others and make sure nobody is oppressed.

  • thisisaturingtest

    I’ve read some of the other planks in that platform. You gotta give these folks credit for practicing what they preach- absolutely no critical thinking skills evident there. Not to mention the horrible writing skills- they can barely even express just how stupid they are.

  • efrique

    One of your best.

  • Sarah

    Despite the stereotypes you see on TV most Texans are not the inbred, toothless, shotgun-toting hicks you’d like them to be.
    I lived in Dallas for 5 years and I have to say that they’re just as bright as anyone else… In the more urban areas anyhow but that’s kind of a general thing.

    Anyway. When I started high school I had a teacher who would point out bias in text books and cirruculum. She would go out of her way to recommend books and movies on all subjects to help us avoid it. When I really started to pay attention to the crazies running the Texas Board of Education (and really the whole damn state itself) I was horrified. I vowed to move away. Thankfully I arrived back home to Chicago on the first day of January 2011. I came back an ardent athiest.

  • paul.alden2013

    hey dummy, parents are in charge of teaching values not the school

    • 3lemenope

      That guarantees the perpetuation of racism, misogyny, etc. in places where they are endemic.

      As much as you might like to think otherwise, values come from many sources. Parents have privileged access and authority over their children, so it isn’t surprising that they’d have a big impact on a kid’s eventual chosen values. However, peers and friends have an equal if not larger measure of influence, and parents (despite extremely common delusions to the contrary) don’t have much control, under most circumstances, in the type of influence that peers will have. The media they are exposed to, both with and without parental guidance, also inculcates values.

      Schools are tasked with teaching behavioral rules and are often the first sustained large-scale social experience that kids will have. Learning how to navigate social situations, and learning their rules, is a large part of what happens in school, and those rules and embedded values really can’t be taught beyond the broad strokes except by direct experience.