The nasty kerfuffle over a Texas lesson-planning aide, a comprehensive program called CSCOPE, may have evaded your radar.
Heck, most people in Texas aren’t even aware of this money-wasting teapot tempest.
CSCOPE Parent Portal logo for a Texas school district. Click to see one way Grand Prairie ISD gives parents access to what’s going on in classrooms.
But the state’s attorney general (campaigning for U.S. Senate, hoping to please the Tea Party Commissars) makes threatening gestures towards CSCOPE from time to time, our leading Black Shirt member of the State Senate pushes bills to gut the lesson planning tools, and Texas’s education overseeing ministry, the Texas Education Agency, is conducting a three-month “review” of CSCOPE to make sure it’s politically correct and properly condemning of Islam, Catholicism, Mormonism, Hinduism, agnosticism and atheism (if any can be found). CSCOPE critics hope that the review will delay updating materials just long enough that school districts across the state will abandon it in favor of . . . um, well, kids can learn if they got books . . . er, um, well — “they shouldn’t be learning about Islam at all” (never mind the state standards that require that course unit).
Out of the east, near Longview, three brave school district officials from two school districts put up their hands to ask why the CSCOPE critics are standing naked. It’s not much, but it’s about the toughest defense of CSCOPE put up by school officials — and of course, they risk investigation by the Attorney General Abbott merely by speaking out, according to CSCOPE critic harpies.
It is sometimes mindboggling how some controversies begin. Certainly, the wildfire that has swept across Texas concerning the CSCOPE curriculum has our heads spinning. Misinformation has spread rampantly and the truth backed by factual information has been difficult to get out in front of the folks that are taking small excerpts and lessons out of context. In some cases, the CSCOPE curriculum has been attacked with reckless, unsubstantiated accusations.
The shame is that CSCOPE should be a success story of how 870 public school districts, average enrollment of 2000 students, working together with the twenty Education Service Centers (ESCs) created a 21st century curriculum based on the state mandated Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Prior to selecting this curriculum for CISD, an extensive investigation was conducted to assure that it was a good fit for our district.
CSCOPE curriculum/lesson plans were created by master “Texas” teachers, not a textbook company, not a testing company, and not a private, for-profit vendor. Multiple resources, including digital resources, were integrated into the curriculum, with suggested lessons that proved to be extremely beneficial to less experienced teachers. The framework allowed districts and staff to integrate localized lessons within the scope and sequence of the system. Approximately 50% of the charter schools (i.e. KIPP Academy, UT Charter School, Bannockburn Christian Academy and the Texas School for the Deaf) also use CSCOPE. Private schools, such as Catholic Diocese of Austin, Wichita Christian, Hyde Park Baptist and Cornerstone Christian Academy use CSCOPE.
What is my point? CSCOPE and our ESCs have been accused of promoting non-Christian and unpatriotic values based on a couple of lessons that were taken out of context, the targeted lessons were based on state standards created and approved by the State Board of Education. Due to several districts refusing to purchase another “new” curriculum, the creators of this “new curriculum” began a mass media blitz misrepresenting two lessons that addressed the state required curriculum standards.
Districts are mandated to teach the major religions of the worlds and the beliefs of those religions. Districts are mandated to teach heroism and terrorism. CSCOPE curriculum units have designed lessons that explore these standards, allowing students to investigate, compare/contrast, and analyze perspectives based on cultural influences. Example, the Boston Tea Party was perceived as an act of heroism from an American’s point of view; however, patriots of England considered this an act of terrorism. Islam, one of the major religions of the world, believes their God is the only God. These are the two excerpts taken out of context of the instructional units that have resulted in mass social media messages from those wanting to sell “their curriculum”, accusing the writers of CSCOPE and the ESCs of treason and promoting the Islam religion! Recently, a superintendent received threatening emails because the district was using CSCOPE.
Carthage ISD was not one of the first districts to embrace the curriculum; however, the revised state standards and new state assessment system demanded a new curriculum. CSCOPE offers a well-designed curriculum framework that is vertically aligned to the state standards (NOT the Federal Core Standards as inaccurately reported), the state assessment system and 21st century life-long learning goals.
CSCOPE insures the appropriate skills are taught in specific grades using multiple resources. The instructional focus is college and career readiness at all levels. School districts have the flexibility of using the curriculum as a sole source or as an alignment framework – CSCOPE lessons/units optional. Skills such as spelling, cursive handwriting, and math facts are found aligned in CSCOPE. Teachers have the flexibility to adjust the amount of time spent practicing these skills.
CSCOPE is a learning curve for classroom instruction. It is not driven by one textbook or worksheets. It embraces multiple resources, integration of technology and higher order thinking skills.
Similar to purchased curriculum there are mistakes within the lessons, those are reported and corrected. An internal system exists where teachers are asked for input on any element of CSCOPE. It is a proprietary curriculum and shares the same protection as other vendors’ products one must purchase to access the content. Districts sign affidavits, comparable to those required by the state for STAAR testing, to protect the integrity of the system, not unlike copyright laws. The cost is based on the enrollment of the district.
Parents can view the content of a lesson at a parent meeting; however, giving parents free access to the lesson plans and tests would destroy the validity of the assessments and negatively impact the intent of the instructional lessons.
The attack against the supporters and users of CSCOPE may well become the first step toward the state assuming total control of all curriculum and lesson plans for all districts. A bill has been filed to begin this process. That would be another attack on local control by the state.
You have the tools to compare the party platforms and determine for yourself which part supports education in Texas — I mean, really supports education, as opposed to using Doublespeak to profess support while angling to get a shiv in the back of education.
One might have thought it improbable, if not impossible.
Texas State Board of Education Member Cynthia Dunbar, in a parting shot, concedes the grounds upon which a challenge might be made to the gutting of social studies standards she wishes to accomplish today. Is there any doubt her intent is solely religious?
George Clayton pulled a dramatic upset in the March primary elections, for one of Dallas’s two seats on the Texas State Board of Education. He defeated incumbent, long-time conservative-but-not-always-crazily-so Geraldine Miller.
With no Democratic opposition in November, he just has to wait until January to take his seat.
Here’s an education and Texas issue I’ve not done justice to: The Texas State Board of Education is working to gut social studies curricula in Texas, with a special vent on history, which they appear to think is not fundamentalist Christian enough, and economics, where they think “capitalism” is, somehow, a dirty word.
The process of revising social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools is moving into a critical stage. And a public hearing the board has scheduled for January may be the only opportunity for you to speak out against the far right’s efforts to corrupt standards for history, government and other social studies classes.
The final drafts of the proposed standards prepared by writing teams made up of teachers, academics and other community members are reflective of mainstream academic scholarship in the various subject areas. It is clear that members of these writing teams largely resisted intense political pressure from far right, rejecting attempts to remove key civil rights figures and make other politically motivated revisions. (See the Background section at the bottom of this e-mail for a more detailed account of the politicization of this curriculum process.)
The State Board of Education so far has scheduled only one public hearing on the proposed standards. That hearing is likely to occur either on January 13 or January 14 in Austin.
If you are interested in speaking at the hearing, pleaseclick here. TFN will help you register to speak before the board and be an effective voice against efforts to politicize our children’s classrooms.
This may be the only opportunity the board provides for Texans to speak out on the proposed standards. If we are to prevent far-right SBOE members from turning social studies classrooms into tools for promoting political agendas, then it’s critical that the board hears from people like you! Click here to sign up for more information on how to testify in January.
Background on Social Studies Review Process to Date
Earlier this year, TFN exposed and derailed several attempts by the far right to hijack the social studies curriculum revision process. Members of the state board – or their appointees to review panels and writing teams – tried at various times to:
Remove civil rights champions like César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall from the standards, calling them poor examples of citizenship
Turn Joseph McCarthy – who discredited himself and dishonored Congress with his infamous Red-baiting smear campaign in the 1950s – into an American hero
Rewrite history and portray America’s Founders as intending to establish a Christian nation with laws based on a fundamentalist reading of the Bible
Members of the writing teams largely rejected these fringe ideas in the final drafts of the standards they submitted to the board. Chávez and Marshall remain in the curriculum. The American history standards do not whitewash the damaging history of McCarthyism. And under the proposed standards students would still learn that the Founders created a nation in which all people are free to worship – or not – as they choose without coercion or interference by government.
We must ensure that the board adopts curriculum standards that reflect mainstream academic scholarship in social studies. This is vitally important because the results of this decision will be reflected in the next generation of social studies textbooks around the country.
Creationism is not taught at any major university, as science. It’s difficult to find creationism taught in any curriculum, including theology schools, because it’s not a part of the theology of most Christian sects. And yet, creationism continues to pose hurdles to good science education in almost every state (especially Texas).
The hard work of spreading creationism is long entrenched, and continuing, though largely out of the view of most observers of cultural and scientific trends.
Remember Scopes lost his case, and was fined; the overturning on appeal was due to a technical error in the fine, not due to other obviously major flaws in the law (which was signed and promoted by Gov. Austin Peay, who also has a college named after him). The law against teaching human evolution remained effective in Tennessee until after 1967, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Epperson v. Arkansas — which finally persuaded the Tennessee legislature to repeal the act.
Some people thought H. L. Mencken’s mocking judgment on the Scopes trial was final. Not creationists. While the rest of the world went on, fundamentalists developed a powerful, out-of-the-major-media network to spread and promote their ideas. Part of this network was the establishment of Bryan College, and to some degree, I think Austin Peay State University (though, as a state university with serious intentions on educating people, APSU is in the evolution camp in curricula).
Why is there no Clarence Darrow College? Why is there no John T. Scopes Institute for Teachers (say, at the University of Chicago, where Scopes went back for his advanced degree)?
Unless we get out there and fight in the trenches of education and religion and culture, evolution will continue to face silly opposition. Feynman warned us of the dangers of cargo cult science. (Honestly, though, Wood’s stuff looks like cargo cult cargo cultism, it’s so far removed from real science — doesn’t it?)
In the end it’s odd that a progressive-on-most-issues guy like Bryan would be memorialized by naming a college after him to preserve his most profound errors. It’s effective propaganda. I’d be willing to wager Bryan would have come around to evolution with the evidence stacked as it is now. His error was emotional and theological, I think. Education can prevent and correct such error. Bryan College doesn’t do that in evolution — something else needs to be done to fight what Bryan College does.
The John T. Scopes Institute for Teachers could run in the summer months, it should have a thousand teachers of science from primary and secondary education in every session, and it should emphasize the best methods for teaching the best science we have. We really need such an agency — or agencies — now. Our children lose interest in science between fourth grade and graduation, their achievement in science plunges in comparison to other nations.
Our economy suffers as a result.
Creationists have Bryan College to help them spread their versions of cargo cult science, with that mission specifically in mind. We can fight fire with fire, but we have to fight ignorance with education. And, my friends in science education, we are behind.
Spread the word; friends don't allow friends to repeat history.
Students will examine the nature of God as they progress in their understanding of mathematics. Students will understand the absolute consistency of mathematical principles and know that God was the inventor of that consistency. Mathematical study will result in a greater appreciation of God and His works in creation. The students will understand the basic ideas of both differential and integral calculus and its importance and historical applications. The students will recognize that God created our minds to be able to see that the universe can be calculated by mental methods.
The scientist who sent me the link called it “God’s math.” Architect Mies van der Rohe once said, “God is in the details.” But he didn’t mean that math should be taught as anything other than mathematics. He didn’t mean that any religion should be inserted into math classes — and frankly, that’s a little worrying to me. I speak regularly with theologians who read the same text and come up with radically different descriptions of what it means, sometimes diametrically opposite descriptions.
The social studies curricula are more troubling. What is described is at best second-rate course work. One hopes that the teachers teach the material instead of these descriptions:
WORLD HISTORY I
NINTH GRADE The students will examine the nature of God as revealed through the study of social studies. Students will develop convictions about God’s word as it relates to world history and will define their responses to it. Through the study of world history, students will develop an understanding of the economic, social, political and cultural developments of our world, as they compare countries and civilizations, Students will learn and acquire an appreciation for God’s relations throughout the timeline of world events. The integration of literature into studies of ancient civilizations will enhance and inspire their learning process. Students will develop attitudes, values, and skills as they discover their place in the world. Students will analyze, synthesize and evaluate social studies skills, including social relationships such as family and church.
WORLD HISTORY II
TENTH GRADE The students will examine the nature of God as revealed through the study of social studies. Students will develop convictions about God’s word as it relates to world history and will define their responses to it. Through the study of world history, students will develop an understanding of the economic, social, political and cultural developments of our world, as they compare countries and civilizations since the Reformation. Students will learn and acquire an appreciation for God’s relations throughout the timeline of world events. The integration of literature into the studies of modern civilizations will enhance and inspire their learning process. Students will develop attitudes, values, and skills as they discover their place in the world. Students will analyze, synthesize and evaluate social studies skills, including social relationships such as family and church.
ELEVENTH GRADE Students will evaluate the past and learn from its lessons (I Corinthians 10:11), and become effectual Christians who understand “the times” (I Chronicles 12:32). Students will study the history of our country beginning with the Civil War with a biblically integrated filter as they examine the political, social, and economic perspectives. An emphasis will be placed on the major wars, the industrial revolution, and the settlement of the frontier, requiring students to critically analyze the cause and effect relationships of events in history.
TWELFTH GRADE Students will evaluate the past and learn from its lessons (I Corinthians 10:11), and become effectual Christians who understand “the times” (I Chronicles 12:32). Students will study the foundational documents of our founding Fathers built upon as they formulated the ideals upon which our country was established. Such documents include: The Magna Carta, The English Bill of Rights of 1689, and the Mayflower Compact. Students are equipped with an understanding of the basic principles contained in these documents, and are able to identify their dependence upon biblical and Reformation principles, leading them to an understanding why the American system is meant for a religious people.
Students will evaluate the past and learn from its lessons (I Corinthians 10:11), and become effectual Christians who understand “the times” (I Chronicles 12:32). Students will gain an understanding of the workings of economic systems, being able to identify the strengths and weaknesses inherent in capitalism (Deuteronomy 8, 15, 28, Leviticus 25), and the reasons for its superiority to the models of communism and socialism (Ezekiel 46:18).
The last description there, for economics, might lead one to understand this school ignores most of the lessons of Jesus, and especially the stories of the disciples in the immediate aftermath of the crucifixion as described in Acts 2. Not only are the courses described inadequate (we hope the teachers teach the state standards instead, at least), where scripture is specifically mentioned, they appear to be tortured to fit the agenda.
Then comes the choker:
Students will study the physical life of God’s creation. They will continue to develop skills in the use of the scientific method. The students will learn methods and techniques of scientific study, general attributes of the cell and its processes, characteristics of the wide spectrum of living organisms, the classification, similarities and differences of the five kingdoms, evolutionary models and the creation model, the mechanics of inheritance, disease and disorders, and the workings of the human body. Students will gain experience in manipulating the conditions of a laboratory investigation and in evaluating the applications of biological principles in everyday life.
There is no “creation model” that is scientific, nor is there one that conflicts with evolution and is also Biblical. What, in God’s name, are they teaching?
CHFB School was established over 25 years ago, and claims to have more than 300 students enrolled, K-12. Surely there is a track record to look at.
Anybody know what the actual curricula look like at this school? Are there any measures to suggest the school teaches real subjects instead of what is described?
What was the Texas legislature thinking when they authorized Bible classes? Isn’t this bad enough as it is?
Science, Evolution and Creationismwas released today by the National Academies of Science (NAS), restating the position of the nation’s premier science organization that creationism has no place in science classrooms.
Date: Jan. 3, 2008
Contact: Maureen O’Leary, Director of Public Information
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail email@example.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Scientific Evidence Supporting Evolution Continues To Grow; Nonscientific Approaches Do Not Belong In Science Classrooms
WASHINGTON — The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and Institute of Medicine (IOM) today released SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM, a book designed to give the public a comprehensive and up-to-date picture of the current scientific understanding of evolution and its importance in the science classroom. Recent advances in science and medicine, along with an abundance of observations and experiments over the past 150 years, have reinforced evolution’s role as the central organizing principle of modern biology, said the committee that wrote the book.
“SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM provides the public with coherent explanations and concrete examples of the science of evolution,” said NAS President Ralph Cicerone. “The study of evolution remains one of the most active, robust, and useful fields in science.”
“Understanding evolution is essential to identifying and treating disease,” said Harvey Fineberg, president of IOM. “For example, the SARS virus evolved from an ancestor virus that was discovered by DNA sequencing. Learning about SARS’ genetic similarities and mutations has helped scientists understand how the virus evolved. This kind of knowledge can help us anticipate and contain infections that emerge in the future.”
DNA sequencing and molecular biology have provided a wealth of information about evolutionary relationships among species. As existing infectious agents evolve into new and more dangerous forms, scientists track the changes so they can detect, treat, and vaccinate to prevent the spread of disease.
On the road for a day and a half. Here is an encore post from last October, an issue that remains salient, sadly, as creationists have stepped up their presence in Texas before the next round of biology textbook approvals before the Texas State Board of Education. I discuss why intelligent design should not be in science books.
Flying pig image from Flying Pig Brewery, Everett, Washington. (Late brewery? Has it closed?)
[From October 2006]: We’re talking past each other now over at Right Reason, on a thread that started out lamenting Baylor’s initial decision to deny Dr. Francis Beckwith tenure last year, but quickly changed once news got out that Beckwith’s appeal of the decision was successful.
I noted that Beckwith’s getting tenure denies ID advocates of an argument that Beckwith is being persecuted for his ID views (wholly apart from the fact that there is zero indication his views on this issue had anything to do with his tenure discussions). Of course, I was wrong there — ID advocates have since continued to claim persecution where none exists. Never let the facts get in the way of a creationism rant, is the first rule of creationism.
Discussion has since turned to the legality of teaching intelligent design in a public school science class. This is well settled law — it’s not legal, not so long as there remains no undisproven science to back ID or any other form of creationism.
Background: The Supreme Court affirmed the law in a 1987 case from Louisiana, Edwards v. Aguillard (482 U.S. 578), affirming a district court’s grant of summary judgment against a state law requiring schools to teach creationism whenever evolution was covered in the curriculum. Summary judgment was issued by the district court because the issues were not materially different from those in an earlier case in Arkansas, McLean vs. Arkansas (529 F. Supp. 1255, 1266 (ED Ark. 1982)). There the court held, after trial, that there is no science in creationism that would allow it to be discussed as science in a classroom, and further that creationism is based in scripture and the advocates of creationism have religious reasons only to make such laws. (During depositions, each creationism advocate was asked, under oath, whether they knew of research that supports creationism; each answered “no.” Then they were asked where creationism comes from, and each answered that it comes from scripture. It is often noted how the testimony changes from creationists, when under oath.)
Especially after the Arkansas trial, it was clear that in order to get creationism into the textbooks, creationists would have to hit the laboratories and the field to do some science to back their claims. Oddly, they have staunchly avoided doing any such work, instead claiming victimhood, usually on religious grounds. To the extent ID differs from all other forms of creationism, the applicability of the law to ID was affirmed late last year in the Pennsylvania case, Kitzmiller v. Dover.
Clergy, Parents Voice Concerns About Public School Bible Classes
New Report Reveals Poor Quality, Bias, Religious Agendas in Texas Courses
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 13, 2006
AUSTIN – Clergy and parents are voicing serious concerns that Bible classes in Texas public schools are of poor quality and promote religious views that discriminate against children from a variety of faith backgrounds.
“The study of the Bible deserves the same respect as the study of Huck Finn, Shakespeare and the Constitution,” said the Rev. Dr. Roger Paynter, pastor of First Baptist Church of Austin. “But in some public schools, Bible courses are being used to promote an agenda rather than to enrich the education of our schoolchildren.”
Dr. Chancey is a solid scholar of the Bible. His criticisms are detailed and often understated, in a business where criticism is generally more hyperbole than substance. Especially if you live in Texas, you should read the report.
In the original study, Chancey noted that some nationally-promoted curricula for Bible studies had plagiarized some of their most important materials, in one case including the entire section on honesty as defined by the Ten Commandments. Dr. Chancey does not write drily — he really does a great job turning words. Both studies are well worth the reading.
First Amendment charlatans are fond of quoting the Supreme Court’s decisions in school-and-religion cases since World War II, in which the Court urges critical studies of scripture, saying such studies are legal and good. Then the charlatans go on to advocate Bible studies that are devotional, confusing a Sunday school class-style of scripture study with the critical literature study the Court actually urged. These reports leave little room for squirming by those advocates.
Last time around, TFN held a meeting here in Dallas featuring Dr. Chancey talking about the report and the reaction to it from the religious right (they were stunned into saying many really stupid things). It was a fun night, and I hope TFN will do it again.
I’m straying only a bit off topic, and only by certain legalistic interpretations. History folks, bear with me.
My complaint about what is called “intelligent design” in biology is the same complaint I have against people who wish to crown Millard Fillmore as a great light for bringing plumbing to the White House over the complaints of health officials — that is, my complaint against those who push H. L. Mencken’s hoax over the facts.
Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost listed at great lengths his list of reasons that arguing for science actually promotes intelligent design instead (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). This blog’s response was in two parts, one and two. Other people offered other rebuttals, including notably, P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula, a very good blog that features the hard science of biology and especially evolution.
We've been soaking in the Bathtub for several months, long enough that some of the links we've used have gone to the Great Internet in the Sky.
If you find a dead link, please leave a comment to that post, and tell us what link has expired.
Retired teacher of law, economics, history, AP government, psychology and science. Former speechwriter, press guy and legislative aide in U.S. Senate. Former Department of Education. Former airline real estate, telecom towers, Big 6 (that old!) consultant. Lab and field research in air pollution control.
My blog, Millard Fillmore's Bathtub, is a continuing experiment to test how to use blogs to improve and speed up learning processes for students, perhaps by making some of the courses actually interesting. It is a blog for teachers, to see if we can use blogs. It is for people interested in social studies and social studies education, to see if we can learn to get it right. It's a blog for science fans, to promote good science and good science policy. It's a blog for people interested in good government and how to achieve it.
BS in Mass Communication, University of Utah
Graduate study in Rhetoric and Speech Communication, University of Arizona
JD from the National Law Center, George Washington University