The XX Factor

The Texas GOP Platform’s Horror Show for Children

Texas schoolchildren.
Young students attend the American Heart Association’s Teaching Garden Plant Day at Moss Haven Elementary School on March 23, 2012 in Dallas, Texas

Photograph by Peter Larsen/Getty Images For The American Heart Association.

It’s that time of year again, when the Texas Republican Party continues its grim, unwilling march toward the 17th century by updating its party platform. It’s the usual gathering of heavy-duty God talk, racist paranoia, Victorian-era attitudes toward marriage, crippling homophobia, and that bit of Texas right-wing weirdness that I’ve always been fond of, the abject fear that your child might learn that there are other ways of viewing the world other than holing up in a house with a gun in case today’s the day that reparations-seekers descend from black helicopters to kick down your door and confiscate your Bible. The obsession with giving total control over the minds and bodies of minors to their parents blows past creepy and right into Flowers in the Attic territory.

It’s hard to know where to begin with the carnival of anti-child horrors in the document, but things really start to get weird in the “Protecting Our Children” section, where not only is the U.N. Treaty on the Rights of the Child denounced vigorously, but a rather troubling demand is made for a slate of “parental rights” to be granted that are clearly aimed at giving extremists the right to shield their children from the existence of the outside world. You’d think conservatives would support the U.N. Treaty, as it’s very supportive of the idea that children should have a relationship with both biological parents, but apparently, the U.N.’s belief that you shouldn’t beat your children or emotionally abuse them into terrified silence is just a step too far for the Texas GOP. Being able to beat children is explicitly mentioned in their defense of corporal punishment in foster care and in schools. (In case anyone wants to claim I’m denouncing a light pat on the bottom, my Texas school used corporal punishment, and it involved having a grown adult beat your ass with a paddle, so no, this isn’t about light pats.)

As you imagine, schools loom large in the Texas Republican imagination as a place where your child-property might learn about things outside of what you want them to know, which in turn will cause them to start asking questions and generally behaving like they’re something other than a flesh-bound conduit for your beliefs and ideas, no matter how nonfactual. There’s the predictable support for teaching creationism in the classroom, of course, but this was a particularly amusing item on the platform: “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.” Which is a nice way of saying that they strongly object to schools teaching students things like “thinking” or “dealing with challenges.” Children are to be seen as parent-owned computer programs that regurgitate what is fed into them, and certainly not individuals with a right to think for themselves. (Unless “think for yourself” is a cover story for creationism.)

Of course, the concern that parents have an absolute right to pass down not just their culture and beliefs without ever having outside influences touch their children only applies to some parents. The Texas GOP specifically denounces teaching “multicultural” courses, demanding instead that everyone in the classroom look only to “our common American identity”, which seems like it’s in direct conflict with the inviolable right to pass your beliefs to your children. I suppose that might seem confusing. Is yours one of the families whose beliefs and culture are so sacred that a school can’t ever expose a child to a challenge, no matter how fact-based? Or is your family one whose beliefs and culture are “divisive” to the point where they can’t even be acknowledged in the classroom? If you struggle to answer this question, just ask yourself if you’re white and Christian, and after settling on some answers, whether or not your culture and beliefs are inviolable or unmentionable should be easy enough to figure out.