I don't know whether the Texas GOP is objecting to the program of political indoctrination or the deprecation of knowledge, both of which are labeled "critical thinking" by progressives to give themselves political cover, but either way, I'm with the GOP on this one.
On arrival, our school district's new "science specialist" sent a letter home to parents in which she claimed to be specially trained in "progressive education" and "constructivist learning," whose goal for our science classes was, "to instill in students a commitment to defending the environment."
The notion of "critical thinking" was central to her mission, and I happened to see one of her classroom critical thinking tests. It asked, "How many of the following human activities cause global warming? (check all that apply)". Not "are claimed by some to cause" but "cause." Critical thinking apparently consists in regurgitating the approved answers, not pondering the questions, when the answers are provided by a sage who's progressive. The options were such things as "driving cars", "consuming non-local foods", "non-sustainable manufacturing", etc. The right answer from a "critical thinking" perspective was, of course, all of the above.
I wondered at what point knowledge of physics, chemistry, or biology might play a role in the class. Mere knowledge was "fine," but engaging in environmental activism was worth extra credit toward your grade. What about chemistry experiments at home or go see the meteor collection at a museum? Good activities but not relevant to your science grade. What IS applicable to your science grade? Get involved in environmental activism, find examples of non-green behaviors among your neighbors and complain, or participate in an Earth Day activity.
At the end of the year, the top science prize awarded by her was not to the kid who knew the most about physics or chemistry but to the "Most Green" student. The prize was a coffee mug. Just what a 10-yr-old girl needs most, a coffee mug, right? Well, not just any coffee mug. The "science specialist" and expert on "critical thinking" told us from the podium that this mug displayed a very important map of the world that showed "which parts of the world will be under water in 2050." Wow. We already have the map showing where in Appalachia to buy your future beachfront property. It's right there in the shaking hands of the little green girl with the latte. I wonder how many critical thinkers are buying.
And my brother-in-law, a Life Flight helicopter paramedic for years, wanted to get a nursing degree so he could spend more time at home raising his kids. California required nursing students to pass a "critical thinking" class to get their degree. Sounds like a good idea. And who best to teach our nurses to think critically? Dr. House-style clinical pathologists? Physicists? Experts in statistical analysis? No, when mistakes may cost lives, we turn to--the English Department.
So, he took the class from one of the staff marxists and made the mistake of challenging some of her claims. He thought the point of critical thinking was to engage in back-and-forth discussions, reasoning about an issue from various perspectives. BIG mistake.
The critical thinking instructor graded assignments on "insight," which is to say, how much evidence for leftist dogma the student managed to "discover" during an assignment. I begged my brother-in-law to stop analyzing and pretend to experience leftist religious conversion. For the final assignment, which was, inevitably, "to analyze from a marxist-feminist perspective," he did as I suggested, and got an A in the class.
But not just an A, but a gushing letter from the instructor about how utterly inspiring it was to see the light of understanding finally dawning in his formerly benighted middle-aged, white, male brain. In the end, her urging him to "think more critically" had enabled him to see the "class contradictions" and "injustice inherent in" blah, blah, and he had given her hope for the future.
So this is what state-enforced "critical thinking" means in California: deprecation of factual knowledge and promotion of various progressive theories.
The NY Times is counting on a lack of actual critical thinking skills by its fan base. They label a collection of bad ideas "critical thinking," then label anyone who opposes those ideas opponents of critical thinking. Ha, ha, those Texan rubes. What's the point in even arguing with people like that? (So now, in Orwellian fashion, we don't have to.)
I'm quite sure I would part company with the Texas GOP over other issues, but on this one, they're right. Real critical thinkers should be saying no to phony critical thinking.
Saturday, June 30, 2012