I had planned on writing about an interesting book I read a few weeks ago, recommended by a friend at work. Science of the mind, artificial intelligence… a lot of fascinating ideas.
But that will have to wait a week or two, because America’s unique brand of religiously motivated nuttiness keeps providing fresh material. A couple of months ago it was the Tennessee legislature passing a bill defending teaching creationism in public schools. Then just this week I learned that Louisiana fundamentalist schools are using the Loch Ness monster as evidence of present-day dinosaurs, contradicting the theory of evolution. Or something like that. From an Accelerated Christian Education biology textbook:
Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the “Loch Ness Monster” in Scotland? “Nessie” for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.
But wait, it gets better.
The Republican Party of Texas conveniently provides a write-up of their 2012 platform on their website. (Here is a direct link to their PDF.) One particular item seems to have caught particular interest in the media, and is relevant here:
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.
To be fair, note that the capitalization is intended and important. Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) is not just a generic concept, but an educational movement, whose validity and effectiveness is justifiably debatable.
But that’s about as far as the apologists can go. Apparently critical thinking and challenging fixed beliefs are unacceptable modes of thought for some Texans.
And it doesn’t stop there. I would quote more, but I don’t really have to. Just open it up yourself, flip to a random page, and start reading. I’m not kidding. Search for “Israel,” for example. Or “homosexuality.” Or just stick to the entire “Educating Our Children” section, from which the above quote is taken. There is plenty more where that came from: “Controversial Theories,” etc.
I think what I found shocking about this document is the lack of subtlety. To borrow from comedian Bill Burr, real bigotry is usually quiet, subtle. Behind closed doors. At the dinner table, or maybe over drinks with a close friend at the bar. But here, the filter has been removed. This is overt, out-in-public, we-don’t-care-anymore closed-mindedness.
I have family in Texas. With children in Texas schools. Those children will be the next generation of adults, taking our place, so to speak, applying what they have learned in school, from their parents, and from each other, to living their lives and understanding the world. What will that next generation be like, I wonder?