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Sorting Out Truth And Fiction In The CSCOPE Controversy

Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (TESCCC)

Is CSCOPE an education resource designed to help struggling school districts? Or is it a vast anti-American conspiracy that uses Texas classrooms to convert children to Islam and communism?

CSCOPE is an online curriculum management resource developed by the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (TESCCC), a group made up of the 20 education service centers in the state. The group develops their curriculum framework through several sources.

  • State Board of Education changes to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards
  • Teacher submissions through the CSCOPE Website
  • A school district advisory committee made up of representatives from participating regions of the state

Lumberton, Texas is about 10 miles north of Beaumont and last month there was a tense school board meeting over the curriculum content of a particular social studies lesson where the girls in the class were photographed wearing burquas.
The stated objective of the lesson was to teach about other cultures and religions, but many of the parents did not see it that way. They recognized this as another example of how CSCOPE is being used to indoctrinate school children to be anti-American and pro-Islam.

Even though the burqua lesson is not part of CSCOPE, it has become the poster child case for the controversial state bank of online lesson plans.

Since then the Texas Education Agency launched an investigation into the Burqua incident, and there’s been a growing drum beat from Texas conservative bloggers about CSCOPE, which is used by 80 percent of Texas school districts.

The State Board of Education is also reviewing it, State Attorney General Greg Abbott is investigating it, and Texas Senate Education Committee Chair Dan Patrick has appeared on the Glen Beck program denouncing it.

All this fuss over an education tool

Dan Quinn is the Communications Director for the Texas Freedom Network. He is calling the CSCOPE mania that has hit Texas a witch hunt. Quinn says CSCOPE is a valuable education tool.

"Many of the lessons or the examples that they (critics) have used to portray these as pro-Marxist or pro-Islamic, when you really look at the lessons, are anything but. Perfect example was that they claim that a lesson on early Christianity portrays Christians as cannibals and members of a cult. They claim this because there's links in the lesson to documents and books that actually talk about this, but in fact what those books talk about is: That's how the early Romans saw the early Christians. They saw people talking about eating the body and blood of Christ and thought, 'These are cannibals.' They saw this small religious sect coming out of the Middle East and thought, 'This looks like a cult.' That's the way they tried to discredit Christianity from the very beginning. CSCOPE is not calling Christianity 'cannibalism' or a 'cult,' they are talking about how early Romans saw Christianity. In those kinds of ways you've seen lessons distorted by a lot of CSCOPE critics."

A concerned parent:

The battles over CSCOPE are being fought in the PTA meetings and school board meetings across Texas, and parents are leading the charge. Parents like Eileen Levy, who is a stay-at-home mom in Wichita Falls and calls herself a concerned parent – concerned about CSCOPE.

"I definitely think that there is an anti-American slant to it, and that does bother me that bothers me a great deal. The anti-Christianity slant, that bothers me. Those things are what lured me into the research, but as I started to research I started noticing that - for instance - locally, our test scores have declined steadily since CSCOPE has been introduced to the Wichita Falls ISD and that was in 2009."

Also in this show: Marriage Equality and Texas

This was a historic week for gay rights, the Supreme Court heard two landmark cases regarding same sex marriage, but if the high court rules in favor of marriage equality, what would it mean for Texas?

Amy Stone is a professor of Sociology at Trinity University in San Antonio. She is an expert on the gay rights movement and the author of "Gay Rights at the Ballot Box

," which focuses on how activists in political campaigns fight anti-gay initiatives.

"Texas has in its state constitution, it has a same-sex marriage ban that was proposed by the legislature and passed by voters a couple years ago. In Texas, the state doesn't recognize same-sex marriages, so you can't get married in Texas, but you also can't go to California or Washington or Maine - or someplace where it is legal -  and come back to Texas and have it be recognized. So I think in many ways DOMA will not affect Texas. They were very clear when they were asking questions that they were talking about individuals in states where same-sex marriage is recognized."

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi