CSCOPE Takes Another Awful Spin Around the News Cycle

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Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst
Patrick Michels
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has vowed action against CSCOPE: “We’re gonna step all over their face on this.”

Near the end of the regular session, Sen. Dan Patrick, chair of the Senate Education Committee, headlined a “Mission Accomplished” press conference. He stood with other conservative Republicans to proclaim the end of the vile “CSCOPE era” in Texas, freeing us all from that long Texan nightmare of the last 20 years.

The state’s regional education service centers, which sell the curriculum management program to almost 900 of Texas’ thousand-plus school districts, agreed to discontinue the classroom lessons, placating tea party groups who believed that CSCOPE muddied children’s minds with critical thinking exercises about U.S. history, religion and gender. (One lesson did untold damage by placing “communism” at the top of a list of economic models, rather than at the bottom.) Our future, once again, was safe.

But that victory suddenly turned very hollow last week, when Texas Education Agency general counsel David Anderson told the State Board of Education that CSCOPE’s lessons were in the public domain now—accessible to anyone at all, for free.

The latest chapter in this controversy comes just in time for the lieutenant governor’s race, a fine chance to out-charm the right-wing fringe. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst vented his outrage over CSCOPE (and how the Internet works) on conservative activist Alice Linahan’s web radio show on Monday.

“It’s still sitting on the Internet, and it’s available for any and all of our school districts to uplift it and use it,” Dewhurst said, later adding, “I thought it was dead. And all of us thought it is dead. But it is sitting there, on the Internet.”

But Dewhurst told listeners that he’s tough—tough enough to handle these lesson plans, that’s for sure!

“You’re talking to someone who was in the United States Air Force as an officer at the end of the Vietnam War. You’re talking to somebody that was in the CIA and posted abroad. I didn’t think twice about standing up to this mob two times and stand them down. … If this curriculum is going to be employed and it teaches values that are contrary to what we believe, I’m going to step all over their face on this. We’re gonna stop this.”

One thing that makes CSCOPE such a great punching bag is that it’s hard to explain who or what it is. But now that Dewhurst has raised the stakes like this, it’s fair to wonder: Just whose face will he step on? The administrators who built and ran a program the vast majority of school districts still want to use? The retired teachers who wrote those lesson plans years ago? Or maybe the teachers who will continue using CSCOPE lesson plans in their classrooms next year?

News that CSCOPE’s lessons are fair game in the classroom is good news for teachers in Texas who’d been headed into a new school year without a key resource. One of the most daunting things about being a new teacher is the prospect of filling up all that class time, and wondering if you’re filling it right. Textbooks help, but they’re not a full curriculum. The state standards, the TEKS, help too—but they’re a list of what kids should learn, not how you should teach it. Over time, good teachers develop their own lessons and projects, and big school districts have resources to help their teachers, like lesson plans and schedules to make sure they cover the standards.

But without CSCOPE—or a more expensive alternative made by, say, Pearson—teachers in smaller school districts don’t have that. As Dewhurst keenly observed, once something’s been released to the Internet it’s tough to get it back. But Patrick, who hopes to oust Dewhurst in next year’s primary, is committed to the CSCOPE purity cause.

“I urge parents to monitor closely the decision of their districts who attempt to use any public domain material whether it is CSCOPE or another program,” he wrote on Facebook last week. On Wednesday, Patrick filed a bill prohibiting districts from using old CSCOPE lessons. He’s asked Gov. Rick Perry to add CSCOPE to the special session that ends next week.

Trying to police individual classroom lessons from the Capitol is not only creepy, but really impractical. What happens when a teacher uses a CSCOPE handout with a few names changed? What if a lesson they’ve been using a lesson for years happens to be like one in the CSCOPE package? There are so many classrooms in Texas and inside each one, hundreds of lessons. Who could possibly do that policing?

You probably know the answer to that one. Last weekend Donna Garner, an educator and a conservative writer, asked her readers to spread the word: “Any teacher who chooses to teach CSCOPE lessons after August 1, 2013 should expect to be opposed publicly at local school board meetings by assertive activists who do not want their school children indoctrinated by CSCOPE.”

Patrick Michels is a reporter for the Texas Observer and a former legislative intern. He has been a staff writer and web editor at the Dallas Observer, and a former editor of the Texas Independent. He has a bachelor's in journalism from Northwestern University, a master's in photojournalism from the University of Texas at Austin, and is a competitive eating enthusiast.

  • NWB

    In Texas, crazy passes for leadership. What a sad state of affairs.

  • LeAnn Lipps Robertson

    In Texas C-Scope passed as valid curriculum. What a sad state of affairs!!! As I classroom teacher I can tell you those lessons stunk and were absolutely pathetic examples of lessons.

    • not_Bridget

      I found another message from you about Noam Chomsky. In which you said “Just because he’s an educator doesn’t mean he knows everything.” But you’re a “classroom teacher”–so we must take your word for it that the lessons “stunk.”

      What a sophisticated critique! Your students must produce really eloquent essays, Could you produce more details about your objection to C-SCOPE?

      • LeAnn Lipps Robertson

        Interesting that you would attack me and not the article? This is the rhetorical fallacy called “personal attack”. It is used to attack the other side rather than address the issues, and actually yes my students do produce eloquent essays. They do so because I spend time teaching them the process which C-scope does not allow for.

        If you would like to examine the lesson plans they are now a “free for all” on the internet. C-Scope is wholly inadequately written. Example, it allows 15 minutes of one class period (10 to 12 class periods comprise a unit) to teach vocabulary, for example, metaphor, simile, etc. Then it stops there and does not take these concepts any further in instruction. When you finish the unit (10 – 12 days) you have this gigantic 15 – 25 page (literally) unit test which expects them to recognize and use these ideas that have only been taught as vocabulary.

        C-Scope was an ineptly put together product developed by 6 region service center directors to be sold to school districts at an outrageous price (by the way) to help replace lost funding to the service centers. It was never designed to “assist” districts. It was developed to bring in revenue to the service centers.

        Noam Chomsky is an amazing educator, but I do not agree with his political opinion. To stand against Israel in this age is almost to stand against America and if he wishes to espouse his opinions within his circle of influence that is his choice, but he should not use his credentials to espouse a very dangerous and ill-conceived position on the status of a country he where he does not reside.

        Now, there not_Bridget. I have not attacked you, I have again addressed the article, lets see if you can do the same.

        • not_Bridget

          I’m at the end of my lunch hour & don’t have time to compose an elegant reply. My job doesn’t give me summers off. Texas Freedom Network has this to say about CSCOPE:

          Tea party activists and other CSCOPE critics have absurdly claimed that the program’s lessons are anti-American and are indoctrinating students into Marxism and Islam. Education Service Centers, created by the state in the 1960s to provide services to school districts, contracted with current and retired Texas teachers to write those lessons plans so that they cover state curriculum standards. More than 870 school districts — nearly 80 percent of all the state’s school districts — plus a number of Roman Catholic and other Christian schools in Texas have been using CSCOPE.

          http://www.tfn.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7485

          The package was created by current & retired teachers; your claim to fame here is your position as a teacher. But you’re different. (Do you teach in a wealthy district? Or a poor one? Or in a private school? Nothing wrong with that; I’ve got relatives who have worked in all those settings.) It’s evident that political issues matter more to you than pedagogical ones. I’m sure you will be alert & report any of your colleagues who dare to download the curriculum to Dan Patrick & his pals. .

          Sorry if I’m not respecting you sufficiently, but this Texan is tired of Tea Partiers poking their noses in where they don’t belong.

          • LeAnn Lipps Robertson

            Not a Tea Partier and frankly I’m tired of people assuming that teachers have summers off. I have been in conferences (it is required by law that I obtain additional hours each year) all summer long. I spent the entire month of June in a National Writing conference 8 – 4:30 Monday through Friday. I had the first 5 days of July off then I was at another week long conference again 8 – 4:30 5 days a week. I was home for 2 days and had to leave again for another required conference 8 -4:30 for 5 days. I’ve been home now for 6 days and will be leaving again this afternoon for another required conference. Our teacher inservice starts August 8th. Where in the world did people get the idea that teachers sit on their a** all summer long? We have no such luxury. I’m sure when you go to work, you are provided everything you need to do your job. 2 years in a row my district has spent the last 6 weeks with no paper of any kind to anything with. Our options, buy it ourselves, or do without. And frankly ma’am you have made many incorrect assumptions about me. While I still have made none about you!

          • SoberMoney

            Leann, I strongly suggest you read the book called “The Iron Wall,” written by an Oxford scholar – who is himself Jewish. It gives anyone who really wants to know the actual history and “truth” about the Arab -Israeli problem.

            If you are a sincere educator, you will reality test your assumptions – assumptions that are clearly based on either right wing blather or Fox News misinformation.

            Any sane educated person cannot seriously support the Jewish fascist that is currently PM of Israel. Constantly expanding Zionist settlements are the fuel for much of the hatred that comes from the Arabs. The Zionists are imperialists, and have been since the first war back in the 1960′s – and Noam Chomsky is correct to call them out on it.

            To blindly defend the colonial nationalism of the Israelis is a sign of ignorance, not patriotism.

            You sound intelligent. Prove it to yourself and get the facts before you comment. You owe it to your students.

  • Saundra Ragona

    Texas, as the largest State in the Union should be a leader in all manner of things. Instead it seems to be locked in the 19th Century, still defending the Alamo and still losing the battle. It’s time Texas steps forward and leads into the 21st Century. Let those “good ole’ boys” go home.