Most of the stances that party takes concern values or the interpretation of law, and science is obviously silent on those matters. But there are some positions taken for which scientific findings are relevant.
So for all of you Texas republicans, here's some science for you, if you're interested.
Below I reproduce the section of the Texas GOP platform that concerns education. For the sake of completeness I've copied the whole thing, although I comment on just a few of the statements. My comments are in red.
EDUCATING OUR CHILDREN
American Identity Patriotism and Loyalty – We believe the current teaching of a multicultural curriculum is divisive. We favor strengthening our common American identity and loyalty instead of political correctness that nurtures alienation among racial and ethnic groups. Students should pledge allegiance to the American and Texas flags daily to instill patriotism.
Basic Standards – We favor improving the quality of education for all students, including those with special needs. We support a return to the traditional basics of reading, writing, arithmetic, and citizenship with sufficient discipline to ensure learning and quality educational assessment.
Bilingual Education – We encourage non-English speaking students to transition to English within three years. This might be ok for some, but ESL students are heterogeneous: significant variables include grade level and starting proficiency. Suggested reading: The education of English language learners. By Genesee, Fred; Lindholm-Leary, Kathryn Harris, Karen R. (Ed); Graham, Steve (Ed); Urdan, Tim (Ed); Bus, Adriana G. (Ed); Major, Sonya (Ed); Swanson, H. Lee (Ed), (2012). APA educational psychology handbook, Vol 3: Application to teaching and learning., (pp. 499-526). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association
Career and Technology Education (Vocational Education) – We support reinstatement of voluntary career and technology education, including adjusting the 4x4 requirements as needed, without detracting from non-vocational program requirements.
Classroom Discipline –We recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. Corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas. It’s effective for immediate compliance, but corporal punishment has been linked to aggression, violence in intimate relationships in adulthood, and depression. Suggested reading: Corporal punishment in America today: Spare the rod, spoil the child? A systematic review of the literature. By Hicks-Pass, Stephanie Best Practices in Mental Health: An International Journal, 5(2), Jul 2009, 71-88.
Classroom Expenditures for Staff – We support having 80% of school district payroll expenses of professional staff of a school district be full-time classroom teachers.
College Tuition – We recommend three levels of college tuition: In-state requiring proof of Texas legal citizenship, out-of-state requiring proof of US citizenship, and nonresident legal alien. Non-US citizens should not be eligible for state or federal grants, or loans.
Controversial Theories – We support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories. We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. Teachers and students should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly and without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind. “Subject to change as new data [are] produced” is how science works (“data” is plural, btw) so no one would argue with that. The question is “how good does a theory have to be before it merits study by students?” Intelligent design is a terrible theory, no better than the Flying Spaghetti Monster theory. Suggested reading: Newton-Smith, W. H. (2001) A Companion to the Philosophy of Science. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Also read Sober, E. (2007) What is wrong with intelligent design? The Quarterly Review of Biology, 82, 3-8.
Early Childhood Development – We believe that parents are best suited to train their children in their early development and oppose mandatory pre-school and Kindergarten. We urge Congress to repeal government-sponsored programs that deal with early childhood development. OK, but you should note that you’re making a lot of things harder on yourself and on teachers. Good preschool experiences are associated with better economic and behavioral outcomes for the kids, and for society at large. Suggested reading: Heckman, J. J. & Masterov, D. V. (2007). The productivity argument for investing in young children. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, 29, 446-493.
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. You’re mixing a few different ideas. Values clarification does focus on personal values, and could be seen as impinging on a domain that ought to be exclusively that of parents. Critical thinking skills(as the term is typically used) doesn’t have anything to do with that. Behavior modification is the use of conditioning techniques (usually operant, sometimes classical) to increase behaviors deemed desirable and decrease undesirable. As for “challenging fixed beliefs” I think you mean matters that concern values. Students come to school with lots of beliefs--e.g., that a vacuum sucks things towards it--that are inaccurate and ought to be challenged. Suggested reading: pick any introductory educational psychology textbook.
Educational Entitlement – We encourage legislation that prohibits enrollment in free public schools of non-citizens unlawfully present in the United States.
Funding of Education – We urge the Legislature to direct expenditures to academics as the first priority.
Higher Education – We support merit-based admissions for all college and university applicants to public institutions. We further support the repeal of the 1997 Texas legislative act commonly known as the Top Ten Percent Rule. All Texas students should be given acceptance priority over out-of-state or foreign students.
Juvenile Daytime Curfew - We strongly oppose Juvenile Daytime Curfews. Additionally, we oppose any official entity from detaining, questioning and/or disciplining our children without the consent of a child’s parent. Sorry, this isn’t a scientific point, but does this call for clarification. Given that you favor corporal punishment, does this point imply that it should be implemented only with parental consent?
Local Control for Education – We support school choice and believe that quality education is best achieved by encouraging parental involvement, protecting parental rights, and maximizing local independent school district control. District superintendents and their employees should be made solely accountable to their locally elected boards. We support sensible consolidation of local school districts. We encourage local ISDs to consider carefully the advantages and disadvantages of accepting federal education money.
No Taxpayer Paid Lobbyists – We support the prohibition of any paid public school employee or contractor to lobby the legislature or the SBOE, unless on an unpaid basis and in an unofficial capacity. No registered lobbyist should be allowed to run for SBOE.
Parental Rights in Education – We believe the right of parents to raise and educate their children is fundamental. Parents have the right to withdraw their child from any specialized program. We urge the Legislature to enact penalties for violation of parental rights.
Sex Education – We recognize parental responsibility and authority regarding sex education. We believe that parents must be given an opportunity to review the material prior to giving their consent. We oppose any sex education other than abstinence until marriage. Question: What do you call students who have been through an abstinence-only sex ed program? Answer: Parents. More seriously, I understand that this is a values stance. I’m assuming you know that the outcomes of abstinence-only programs have typically not been good, and that more explicit programs are known to reduce incidence of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, but that this trade-off is worth it to you. Suggested reading: Poobalan, A. S. (2009). Characteristics of effective interventions in improving young people’s sexual health: A review of reviews. Sex Education, 9, 39-336.
Parental School Choice – We encourage the Governor and the Texas Legislature to enact child-centered school funding options which fund the student, not schools or districts, to allow maximum freedom of choice in public, private, or parochial education for all children.
Permanent School Fund – We believe that because the Permanent School Fund is not paid by taxpayers that the principle balance should be safeguarded and not viewed as a source of additional funding for our state budget.
Political Community Organizing in Texas Schools - We believe neither Texas public schools should be used nor their students should be instructed by groups such as SEIU or other community organizers as instruments to promote political agenda during the instructional school day.
Private Education – We believe that parents and legal guardians may choose to educate their children in private schools to include, but not limited to, home schools and parochial schools without government interference, through definition, regulation, accreditation, licensing, or testing.
Religious Freedom in Public Schools – We urge school administrators and officials to inform Texas school students specifically of their First Amendment rights to pray and engage in religious speech, individually or in groups, on school property without government interference. We urge the Legislature to end censorship of discussion of religion in our founding documents and encourage discussing those documents.
School Surveys and Testing – Public schools should be required to obtain written parental consent for student participation in any test or questionnaire that surveys beliefs, feelings, or opinions. Parental rights, including viewing course materials prior to giving consent, should not be infringed.
State Board of Education (SBOE) – We believe that the SBOE should continue to be an elected body consisting of fifteen members. Their responsibilities must include:
· Appointing the Commissioner of Education
· Maintaining constitutional authority over the Permanent School Fund
· Maintaining sole authority over all curricula content and the state adoption of all educational materials. This process must include public hearings.
The SBOE should be minimally staffed out of general revenue.
Textbook Review – Until such time as all texts are required to be approved by the SBOE, each ISD that uses non-SBOE approved instructional materials must verify them as factually and historically correct. Also the ISD board must hold a public hearing on such materials, protect citizen’s right of petition and require compliance with TEC and legislative intent. Local ISD boards must maintain the same standards as the SBOE.
Supporting Military Families in Education – Existing truancy laws conflict with troop deployments. We believe that truancy laws should be amended to allow 5 day absence prior to deployments and R&R. Military dependents by definition will be Texas residents for education purposes.
Traditional Principles in Education – We support school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded and which form the basis of America’s legal, political and economic systems. We support curricula that are heavily weighted on original founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and Founders’ writings.
School Health Care – We urge legislators to prohibit reproductive health care services, including counseling, referrals, and distribution of condoms and contraception through public schools. We support the parents’ right to choose, without penalty, which medications are administered to their minor children. We oppose medical clinics on school property except higher education and health care for students without parental consent.
U.S. Department of Education – Since education is not an enumerated power of the federal government, we believe the Department of Education (DOE) should be abolished.
Zero Tolerance – We believe that zero tolerance policies in schools should specify those items that will not be tolerated at schools. The policy should be posted on ISD websites.
Transparency – We support legislation requiring all school districts to post their expenditures online or made readily available to the public.
Foreign Culture Charter Schools in Texas – We oppose public funding of charter schools which receive money from foreign entities. We demand that these Charter Schools have accountability and transparency to local parents, taxpayers, the State of Texas, as do current public schools, including U.S. citizenship of public school trustees.