Months after the controversial curriculum CSCOPE, which compared the Boston Tea Party to an act of terrorism and called Islamic radicals “freedom fighters,” was pronounced dead by Texas state legislators, some school districts are refusing to stop using it.
A few state officials even are encouraging educators to disregard the law banning CSCOPE lessons from classrooms.
Critics say that use of CSCOPE is illegal, since the organization that owns CSCOPE has ordered all districts with contractual access to CSCOPE materials and software to stop using CSCOPE lessons and class activities. Proponents of continued use contend that CSCOPE lessons are now “public domain” and can be used without permission from state authorities.
In several places, restraining orders have been obtained preventing districts from using the lesson content, which as been described as “anti-American” and “pro-Islam.”
Thomas Ratliff, a member of the Texas State Board of Education, is encouraging the continued use of CSCOPE lessons.
He previously told the Texas Observer:
“Throughout my life, I have never tolerated bullies. And if you’ve seen my physical structure, you know that’s been a dangerous place for me to be, because I’ve got a pretty big mouth, but I don’t have a very big body to defend my mouth when I open it. … This issue to me really isn’t about CSCOPE. It’s about standing up to a bully that wants to micromanage our schools from Austin at the same time as he rails against government overreach.
“If you polled public education parents and asked them what CSCOPE is, or asked them if they thought their kids were being taught to hate America or convert to Islam, they’d laugh in your face.”
Ratliff also is a registered lobbyist with Microsoft Corp., according to the Texas Ethics Commission, which backs Common Core Standards and is thought by many to represent an attempt by the Obama administration to nationalize education standards.
That leaves critics debating the status of Ratliff’s seat on the SBOE, since the Texas attorney general says it’s illegal for a lobbyist to be on the state board.
The issue remains complicated, however, as Attorney General Greg Abbott’s policy division claims that Ratliff is not a lobbyist for Microsoft.
The program has faced many problems and criticisms, including from State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who threatened to subpoena CSCOPE financial records.
The criticism of the program has been that it has academic deficiencies in the areas of math, science and English, as well as what many critics believe is an agenda-driven bias in social studies content that promotes a negative view of America.
WND has reported on lessons claiming the Boston Tea Party was a terrorist act, and lessons requiring students to design flags for a new communist country. The latter lesson was created in October 2012.
Teachers also have told WND:
- Lessons are not matched to grade level; a ninth-grade lesson asks students to circle capital letters in a sentence.
- One social studies lesson teaches that capitalism is obsolete and communism is the best economic system, using a diagram that shows a man climbing a ladder towards communism.
- A third-grade lesson defines American “equality” as “fair share.” Competing definitions that include “equality under the law” or “equal opportunity” are not discussed.
- Muhammad is portrayed as a social justice crusader. There is no mention of his marriage to a young girl or his beheading of indigenous population groups.
- Political parties are taught from what critics claim is a subjective and left-leaning perspective, e.g. Democrats “benefit each individual” while Republicans “favor big business.”
Lessons on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights also teach students that “medicine” and “food” are “rights,” and not a matter of personal responsibility.
It was after Patrick obtained CSCOPE records, an audit was announced.
In a letter addressed to Texas State Auditor John Keel, Patrick wrote,
“While my initial concerns with CSCOPE focused on the content of their lesson plans, further review revealed that CSCOPE had potential underlying legal issues that need to be addressed.
“In light of these issues, I am writing to ask you to exercise your authority as state auditor and determine if the Education Services Centers acted appropriately under state law when they paid NER to produce the CSCOPE materials without a bidding process and without the protections of a legally binding contract,” he said.
“Texans deserve an open and transparent state government and that is particularly true of our public education system,” said Patrick. “The curriculum in our classrooms must be open to public scrutiny as well as the contracts to publish them.”
The Tea Parties of Texas PAC then raised several questions, including what happened to about $10.2 million the Education Service Centers collected under the program, but did not forward to CSCOPE.
They also ask if it was a conflict for ESC executive directors to form the Texas Education Service Centers and appoint themselves to serve of the group’s boards when millions of tax collars flowed between the two.
Efforts by some educators and education officials to continue using CSCOPE have met with new legislation filed by Patrick.
It would make it a criminal offense to use CSCOPE content. While there was support, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst did not allow the bill to come up for a vote before the end of the third special session.
Patrick, who is challenging Dewhurst in the race for lieutenant governor, contends that Dewhurst blocked the legislation in spite of having plenty of time and the needed votes.
Said Patrick, “The downside of the close of the 3rd special session last night after just a few days was the LOST OPPORTUNITY [sic] we had to pass legislation our voters have wanted to pass for years. As I said in my video last week there were no excuses not to pass key conservative legislation…on CSCOPE in the special session.
“There was no need to wait until 2015 to pass this legislation. The lieutenant governor has said give him two more years to pass these bills after he has had the opportunity to pass most of them for years…We only needed 16 votes from 19 Republicans instead of the usual 21, which requires every R and 2 D votes.”
Dewhurst has refused to respond to repeated requests for comment.
Education researcher Colleen Vera, operator of the widely read education blog “Texas Trash Talk,” also has come forward with additional information linking CSCOPE to new digital curriculum initiatives in Texas.
The new curriculum system has been pronounced clean by Sen. Patrick’s Education Committee, the same committee that had reviewed the CSCOPE content that ignited months of investigation and media frenzy.
But while a new digital learning platform called the Texas Virtual School Network is being developed, sources also contend that CSCOPE lessons are being integrated into it.
Patrick recently discussed the problem: