Texas education has come under fire in recent months for introducing what has become the most controversial curriculum in the country to public school children. Known as CSCOPE, this “instructional material” has become the source of much debate in Texas and nationwide. Is CSCOPE, as some proponents assert, simply a way for state schools to ensure full instruction of the educational standards for Texas? Or is it something more sinister – propaganda to indoctrinate Texas youth in the ways of Muslimism, communism and terrorism? The answer to those questions may depend on which side of the political aisle you seek your answers.
What is CSCOPE?
According to the website, CSCOPE is “a comprehensive online curriculum management system.” It was developed by the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (TESCCC). TESCCC is comprised of all 20 education service centers in the state, which oversee a particular region of the state. The curriculum framework is designed to align with the standards for all academic areas in accordance with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).
CSCOPE was first implemented into Texas classrooms during the 2006-2007 school year. At that time, there were 182 active districts using the CSCOPE system. As of last fall, 875 school districts are using CSCOPE in their classrooms. The extensive use of the system throughout the state has also resulted in additional scrutiny from Texas parents, educators and lawmakers, as well as interested parties across the country.
No school district in Texas is required to use CSCOPE. However, many have chosen the system to remain on track in meeting the state-mandated standards of TEKS. The program provides a timeline and framework for ensuring all standards are met in a consecutive, consistent manner throughout all participating school districts. The advantage to more districts utilizing CSCOPE is that when a student moves from one Texas district to another, there is less likelihood that the student will miss out on any important concepts in the classroom.
CSCOPE Fears Stem from Conservative Base
Although it seemingly launched as nothing more than a curriculum management system for Texas public schools, CSCOPE has erupted into a political hot potato that has both sides of the aisle putting up their fists. On the conservative side, fears about CSCOPE primarily revolve around the perceived secrecy of the information and specific lessons that students have reported learning in the classroom. Some of those lessons, according to The Daily Caller, include:
Studies on Islam
Students participate in open-ended discussions on Islam, including why many Muslim women wear the face and body coverings known as the hijab. However, the Daily Caller notes information on the mistreatment of women in Muslim countries is not brought up. The publication also asserts the study glorifies Mohammad, the founder of Islam.
Studies on Christianity
By the same token, the Daily Caller reports that CSCOPE lesson plans portray Christianity as a cult, paralleling the death and resurrection of the Egyptian god of the dead, Osiris. The lessons also point out early Christians were accused of horrific crimes, including cannibalism and incest.
Studies on Communism
The Daily Caller also states the CSCOPE lesson plans portray communism as “the idea of living together in a ‘commune’ where all people work together for everyone.” Students are encouraged to create their own socialist flags. The curriculum neglects to mention the millions of people who have died as a direct result of living under communist regimes.
Studies on Terrorism
Another concern voiced by the Daily Caller is that CSCOPE lessons refer to participants in the Boston Tea Party as terrorists, comparing them on some level to modern-day terrorists that pose a true threat to America. The lesson described the participants as “fugitives” and “apparently intoxicated.”
Opponents of the CSCOPE system have also voiced concern that the program is categorized as “instructional material” rather than curriculum, exempting it from the same regulatory restrictions as other curriculum programs introduced in public schools. In addition, some have protested the secrecy of the program, alleging parents were not able to view lesson plans or get information about what the children would be learning in the classroom.
Defense of CSCOPE
While concerns over CSCOPE appear to be growing, fueled by the reporting of many conservative media outlets, liberal publications have been doing their part to defend the curriculum management system. The Huffington Post reported that when those voicing concerns were questioned more intensely about the source of their information, they were unable to provide solid facts to back up their accusations. The publication also stated that CSCOPE told parents they were welcome to review the material, and invited the Texas State Board of Education to do the same.
Brownwood Independent School District recently posted information about CSCOPE on their website, explaining the material was more of a “curriculum calendar” that gave teachers structure on when to teach standards, rather than specific lesson plans that must be followed. Assistant Superintendent of Wichita Falls Public Schools Dr. Tim Powers told the Times Record News that schools in his district do not promote one religion over another, because that would be against the law. Powers also stated that schools do not promote one culture or form of government over the United States government.
Despite reassurances from superintendents and others across the state, concerns over CSCOPE continue. The Texas Attorney General is currently investigating CSCOPE and the Texas legislature has said it will look into the issue soon. It does not appear that it will be long before lawmakers will be getting involved in the Texas education system. Whether that will be a benefit or major drawback to the system remains to be seen.