AUSTIN, Texas – Parents of school children across Texas now are gaining access to a previously secret public school curriculum, according to an announcement from a state lawmaker.
The CSCOPE program, an online offering that until now has prohibited, under penalty of law, teachers from sharing the lessons with parents, stirred up controversy because of its various lessons – some that were taken offline after the questions arose.
Among those issues were that the curriculum at one point taught the Boston Tea Party was an act of terrorism and Christians were cannibals, and forced students to draw a socialist flag while imagining a new socialist country.
Teachers also would have been exposed to criminal penalties for sharing CSCOPE lesson content with parents, and educators were required to teach strictly from the CSCOPE lesson plan, without additions or changes.
But Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, whose Texas Senate Education Committee held a public hearing last week investigating CSCOPE, said there now have been “significant changes.”
The Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative, which owns CSCOPE, agreed to the following changes, effectively immediately, he said.
- All future meetings of the TESCCC governing board, beginning with the February meeting, will be public with all the respective notice requirements being met.
- The TESCCC will begin a joint review process of all CSCOPE lessons with the SBOE beginning with Social Studies.
- Clarifying that all teachers and districts may post any and all CSCOPE lessons that they deem necessary.
In addition to these immediate transparency and quality control changes, CSCOPE will also undergo structural, governance, and other changes, including ending the non-profit 501(c)3 arrangement that incorporates CSCOPE, posting lessons online, and creating a standing curriculum review panel comprised of parents, teachers, school administrators, members of the SBOE, and TESCCC board members.
The online courses no longer will be mandatory, either, the senator said.
“CSCOPE is notifying all participating school districts that lessons are not intended to be taught verbatim, and the governing board generally recommends that local districts utilize CSCOPE lessons solely as a resource. Until CSCOPE lessons can be reviewed through a collaborative process with the SBOE and TESCCC, districts are strongly encouraged to review all lessons at the local level, to ensure that lessons are appropriate for their students,” the senator’s announcement said.
Among the controversies was the curriculum’s treatment of Islam. Some highlights:
- “Non-Muslims in conqueror territory are allowed religious freedom (for an additional tax).”But in fact, many non-Muslims are killed in Islamic countries for exercising their faith. Almost one million Christians fled Iraq in the wake of the Iraq war because of the genocide there. Iran imprisons and executes Christians for sharing their faith.
- “Zakat (almsgiving): The duty to give away alms and to help the needy.”But numerous publications have exposed the “zakat” as a means of laundering money to terrorist organizations, with charities being fronts.
- “Allah is the Almighty God…Allah alone is the Creator, He alone deserves our devout love and worship.”This came from a section under the heading, “Who is Allah?” Some expressed concern that such verbiage lacks impartiality.
These and other curriculum content issues have now been placed under the scrutiny of the elected and bipartisan State Board of Education.
State Board of Education chair Barbara Cargill, who was part of the negotiations with CSCOPE and testified at last week’s hearing, said, “I appreciate CSCOPE’s willingness to address concerns brought to light recently. The State Board of Education looks forward to working with them to resolve these issues, so CSCOPE can remain a useful tool for participating school districts.”
Said Patrick, “I’m glad the CSCOPE Board realizes that immediate and long term changes must be made to address the serious issues raised by our committee, parents, and teachers. Our committee will be monitoring the situation closely to ensure they follow through with their commitments. We will also be looking at legislation to ensure these changes cannot be reversed in the future and that the SBOE continues in their role of oversight of CSCOPE content. The future of the program will depend on CSCOPE keeping the commitments they have made and gaining the trust of the legislature, teachers, and parents.”
Lawmakers earlier has proposed a change in state law that would rein in the program.
Most of the state’s classrooms, some 80 percent, are using the CSCOPE program that also has raised eyebrows because educators had refused to allow parents and others to see what being taught.
Twenty-five state representatives had signed onto a proposed oversight statute that would target CSCOPE, the online system that set up firewalls and passwords so that parents would not be able to see the curriculum.
WND previously reported the Obama administration’s Department of Education was expressing interest in CSCOPE.
A source in the Texas education system had told WND that Common Core operatives in the U.S. Department of Education are actively pursuing CSCOPE as a way around the Texas legislative process.
Texas is one of the few states still resisting implementation of Common Core, Obama’s national standards initiative, which many feel is a transparent attempt to nationalize education and progressively control classroom content with minimal parental oversight.
Implementation of Common Core is known to have been made a condition of school systems’ receipt of federal dollars under Obama’s “Race to the Top” program.
Colleen Vera, an educator and researcher, alerted committee members at the Jan. 31 hearing that another path to CSCOPE acquisition by Common Core proponents had been identified in TESCCC board minutes obtained by public information request. TESCCC meeting minutes dated Sept. 12, 2011, (page 5 -topic #8a), under the heading “CSCOPE Out of State Business Plan,” reveal a change in incorporation documents to say the federal government could gain control of CSCOPE if TESCCC is dissolved (Art VI #6). The Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) has been lobbying for federal “Race to the Top” funding, despite the state’s rejection of Common Core, and will use state tax dollars to attend a conference in California at which radical activist and documented Bill Ayers-associate Linda Darling-Hammond will be speaking. WND has learned this week that Linda Darling-Hammond is actually writing CSCOPE lessons, and not merely serving as a spokesperson.
Among other issues that have arisen: Sources within the Texas education system recently informed WND that Wicca, thought by many to be akin to witchcraft, was being taught in CSCOPE curriculum alongside Christianity, but was removed before the news media could access it, a fact which represents one of the biggest concerns for followers of CSCOPE.
In CSCOPE World History/Social Studies, Lesson 2, Unit 3 under the heading, “Classical Rome,” students are told that Christianity is a “cult,” and given a link to a BBC article saying the early Christians were “cannibals,” i.e. the Eucharist, which students are then led to conclude is the reason for Roman persecution.
This lesson has since been removed, but documentation in WND’s possession confirms that the lesson existed. Critics contend that this ability to change content on a whim to evade scrutiny or accountability is a persistent risk with a system like CSCOPE. An organic curriculum – if regulated – might be advantageous, but without transparency, these types of occurrences will likely be more frequent, critics say.