Oh, Texas. You never fail to reach a new height of strangeness, especially when it comes to your own schools.
On its face, this story appears to look like some librul doofus snuck Commie curriculum into their state-approved materials for online learning. Fox leads off with a big intro from AFP's Texas Director Peggy Venable, and segues into an interview with Texas senator Dan Patrick about horrible, awful, un-American, dirty commie hippie freak progressive lesson plans.
In the clips of testimony shown, one teacher is horrified that students are asked to design a flag for a newly-created socialist state. Damned radical commie lesson, it is! Another teacher testified that being forced to teach the CSCOPE curriculum is like being a surgeon using a dirty scalpel because he has to teach students about socialism. Damn.
The CSCOPE curriculum was created by a consortium of teachers from public and charter schools within the Texas School System known as the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (TESCCC). It was designed by Texas teachers for Texas teachers to use.
Anyone who paid close attention to the Texas State Board of Education process for adopting new, very conservative curriculum standards in 2010 would know that something seems off about the claims of Americans for Prosperity and others about how terribly awful this curriculum is.
TESCCC has published a statement defending the lessons under fire, which clearly outlines what I recall from those contentious 2010 arguments, where standards about teaching free enterprise systems and capitalism were inserted into their core standards. Here's an excerpt:
CSCOPE strongly believes in the greatness of the free enterprise system and how it has helped build our country into the envy of all other nations. Free markets are a critical part of our American way of life. It is important to note that the activity in question is in a high school course and not in a grade 6 lesson. This twenty-minute activity is part of a six-day lesson on various economic systems at the high school level that are state required teaching standards set forth by the State Board of Education.
Oh, wait! This is an econ class for seniors in high school? This is what the freakout is about?
Furthermore, the State Board of Education establishes student expectations that focus on social studies skills. For the World History unit referenced above, the following social studies skills are included:
- WH.30: Economics: The student communicates in written, oral, and visual forms. The student is expected to:
- WH.30C: Interpret and create written, oral, and visual presentations of social studies information.
The goal of this activity is to address the content and skills standards that have been adopted by the State Board of Education, and it is absolutely not promoting a way of life contrary to what we value as Americans. In this activity, students examine four different flags, beginning with the US flag, and analyze the colors, the design, and the graphics as symbols of each country’s characteristics and economic systems. Students then design a flag to demonstrate their understanding of the characteristics of socialism, as the standard requires (WH.18C).
Another complaint seems to be the perception that the curriculum teaches students that participants in the Boston Tea Party were terrorists. Once again, there is a response:
The original lesson that is being misinterpreted was about terrorism and how perspectives can shape one’s views of an act, in this case how King George III and others from Great Britain might have viewed activities like dumping tea into Boston Harbor. The Boston Tea Party, though not named, was described and students were asked to respond on how they view what happened. The goal of the lesson was to take an incident well known by students and that was universally viewed as a patriotic event in American history and challenge students to hear about it from a differing perspective. In hindsight, the TESCCC acknowledges a different example would have been a better choice and would not have risked the misunderstanding about its intent. Rest assured that even in the original version students were certainly not taught that the Boston Tea Party was an act of terrorism.
Differing perspective? We can't have that! In any event, it was removed from the current curriculum because that standard was removed in 2010 but left on the site as a resource. The truth never stops wingnuts from spinning it their way, though, so we have tearful testimony about our twisted history in Boston.
One of the biggest bones of contention appears to be that students could learn something about Islam. Perish the thought. TESCCC's response:
This misunderstanding is based on lesson content that has been taken completely out of context. CSCOPE teaches the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) which are adopted by the 15 members of the SBOE. A number of the TEKS call for students to learn about and compare the various world religions. One of the religions addressed is Islam, and there is a lesson on the founding principles and history of the religion; just as there are lessons for Christianity, Judaism, and other major world religions. One part of the lesson on the basic tenets of Islam has been presented as what students are to learn about all religions, when in fact it simply describes what Muslims believe and what Islam teaches.
These Texas folks are having an extended wailing session over curriculum that very, very conservative Texas State Board of Education approved in 2010? What exactly is going on here?
Either there's a for-profit company waiting in the wings to replace this publicly-funded and not-costly curriculum with one of their own, or else there are some Texans who have just lost their minds and done it in a very public way.
It would have been nice if Fox News had reported the rebuttals to their accusations, wouldn't it? But that would be too much like fair, balanced reporting.