Also, there is question as to how much latitude teachers have to deviate from CSCOPE. As teacher of thirty-three years Mary Bowen testified at the hearing, CSCOPE training materials urge “sustained monitoring of the curriculum” as needed to assure that “individual teachers do not have the option to disregard or replace assigned content.” The training materials assert that “educational equity” can only be assured by “tight alignment between the taught and the tested curriculum.” Teachers in some districts have also complained of spot visits by minders, some with cameras, making sure that they were teaching to the CSCOPE schedule and subject matter.
In an effort to confront the burqa controversy, CSCOPE provided a link to the original lesson on its website — for just a few days. I was able to review the actual “inactive” lesson plan before it was removed (the pdf file that I saved is identical to this screenshot).
Ironically, my conversation regarding lesson accuracy with CSCOPE public information officer Mason Moses may be the reason that the link disappeared.
As I explained to Mr. Moses, the lesson did not literally suggest that students adopt Muslim clerical religious codes for a day, but it did ask teachers to explore the many “similarities” between Islam and Christianity provided in the lesson, did provide hand-picked, idealistic passages from the Koran for passing out to students, and it did pose baffling questions for group discussion like: “Why do all the references about mercy [in the Koran?] seem against what we are seeing in reports from our ‘occupation’ in Iraq or in reports of events in Iran or Israel?”
Was this question a first draft? Was it vetted by a teacher/reviewer? One does not have to be child of a military member serving in Iraq or Afghanistan to understand the breathtaking offense embedded in this kind of question. The attempt to draw mercy-defined moral equivalence between the actions of a dictatorial and egregiously abusive government like Iran’s and a legitimately elected and accountable democratic government like Israel’s — on top of the unflinching selection of the word “occupation” to characterize U.S. involvement Iraq — cannot be explained away with the usual CSCOPE “passage was taken out of context” denial.
CSCOPE’s Vertical Alignment Document (VAD) for World History reflects the same kind of uninvestigated assumptions. Here is just one of several misleading factoids provided for discussion: “People conquered by Muslims chose to accept Islam because they were attracted by the appeal of this religion’s message, as well as not having to pay a poll tax.” The wording of the statement reveals the inherent question (even if one can know many centuries later how many were “attracted” by the religion’s “appeal”): One would first have to establish that the particular conquered people referenced did indeed have a “choice,” especially if the conquering was done by sword. Historical records — much written by Muslims based upon eyewitness accounts — describe the methods of Islamic conquest as savage depending on the time and tribe. For those that refused to convert, life was often that of a second-class citizen (dhimmi), or sometimes that of a slave. These issues are eligible subjects for debate and investigation, but only after more mature students are guided through research of historical records and reliable accounts.
This disturbing lack of footnotes and citations to authoritative reference plagues the viewable CSCOPE curriculum and framework. When internet searches are performed by extracting phrases from the VAD or when one follows links to recommended internet resources, the copy-and-paste extracted for use in the CSCOPE materials is often from another home-spun site that generates bullet points or slide shows. Many sites are clearly agenda-driven with no external sourcing offered for authentication of material.
Now that education is becoming textbook-optional, parents need to be even more vigilant. Web-based learning may sound sophisticated and advanced, but both CSCOPE and Common Core have demonstrated it can be anything but. When two of the most popularly linked resource sites are authentichistory.com and historyonthenet.com, it is not surprising that lesson orientation may be ad hoc, simplistic, erroneous, and eurocentric. Augmenting a lesson with sample postcards from a period in history or viewing cartoons that illustrated a political contest is a fun way to reinforce a lesson. But the lesson must first have a foundation in facts, dates, leaders, villains, and heroes. These are judgment calls that many of the featured websites are not willing to make and the default to cultural relativism shows that too many of today’s teachers-who-teach-teachers can be expected to prefer the shades of historical gray that come with easy copy-and-paste.
At the education committee hearing CSCOPE maintained that it had turned the proverbial corner, that it will provide full transparency, that curriculum coordinators will be reviewed – albeit by more senior teachers, and that teachers will always have a ready “feedback” button to press for complaints.
All of that remains to be seen. CSCOPE now bears the burden of proof but the parents in every Texas community bear the burden of oversight. Thanks to teachers like Mary Bowen, a state education chair like Barbara Cargill, and an education committee chair like Senator Patrick, the CSCOPE fraud has been exposed. Now it is up to grandparents, retired teachers, and home- and public-school parents to do their duty as responsible parents and citizens to monitor the content and conduct of the soon-to-be-reformed CSCOPE.