CSCOPE Witch Hunt: Patrick, Dewhurst Compete for the Loony Vote While Throwing Local Control Out the Window

by Dan Quinn

Now Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has joined state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, in throwing local control out the window and pandering to fanatics attacking the CSCOPE curriculum program used in hundreds of Texas school districts.

In a letter to the State Board of Education on Wednesday, Dewhurst said that he is “deeply troubled” that teachers in local school districts plan to continue using CSCOPE lessons. Activists on the loony right have absurdly attacked the lessons as Marxist, anti-American and pro-Islamic. Dewhurst wrote that “it is my intent to pass legislation as soon as possible to prevent districts from using CSCOPE lesson plans” as well as other components of the program.

Nearly 900 school districts — close to 80 percent of the school districts in Texas — use CSCOPE to help teachers cover all of the state’s complex and convoluted curriculum standards in a cost-effective way. Now the lieutenant governor wants the state Legislature to tell local superintendents and teachers what curriculum tools they can use in their local schools.

Dewhurst has also posted an anti-CSCOPE petition on his re-election campaign website, repeating the same silly claims (“unnecessary bias,” “veil of secrecy,” “attempt to undermine Texas values”) Tea Party and other right-wing activists have made in attacking CSCOPE and the educators who developed it. He wants “to end CSCOPE once and for all” — not just the lessons, but also the assessments and guides that help school districts map out their coverage of the curriculum standards.

Sen. Patrick, who is running against Dewhurst in next year’s Republican primary, has been fishing for the loony anti-CSCOPE vote for months now. So is Attorney General Greg Abbott, who wants the GOP’s nomination for governor. Their bullying forced the state’s Education Service Centers to announce in May that they would stop developing lessons in their CSCOPE program. But the Texas Education Agency’s legal counsel last week said those lessons are essentially now in the public domain, which means teachers can use them if they choose. But Patrick has threatened to report the names of teachers who continue using CSCOPE lessons to the attorney general so that Abbott can… do what? Fine them? Have them thrown in jail? Maybe drag them into the town square for ritual humiliation? Apparently, these supposed champions of “local control” have decided that teachers can’t be trusted to choose the instructional materials they want to use.

We have pointed out how absurd the anti-CSCOPE claims are. Now even Capitol reporters are noting the lack of evidence behind those claims. Take, for example, this excerpt from a Dallas Morning News reporter’s blog post Wednesday night:

Patrick and other critics have repeatedly pointed to a few examples of lessons that have since been discarded, including one that compared the Boston Tea Party to a terrorist act – from the perspective of the British, who likely did consider it a terrorist act. Another lesson cited by critics asked students to design a flag that would be used by a socialist country. Some of the groups have gone overboard and contend that CSCOPE is aimed at promoting anti-American, pro-Islamic views. But they have offered scant evidence to back up those assertions.

Maybe it would be good to point out that the folks Dewhurst, Patrick and Abbott are pandering to sound like total nutbars. During a November 2012 hearing before a State Board of Education committee, for example, critics compared CSCOPE to Nazi mind control techniques. In February a Tea Party group in the Hill Country west of Austin denounced CSCOPE as “COMMUNIST, MARXIST, PROGRESSIVE, LEFTIST DOGMA, PROPAGANDA, AND INDOCTRINATION at the expense of taxpayers!”

Critics also claim that CSCOPE is indoctrinating students into Islam even though Roman Catholic and other Christian schools around the state have been using the program. And then there are the claims that the Education Service Centers, the Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas Association of School Boards are conspiring to indoctrinate students with supposedly Marxist “project-based learning” techniques.

So while trampling all over the principle of local control for public schools, Dewhurst, Patrick and Abbott seem to be competing for the support of folks who are promoting that kind of looniness. Maybe next they’ll make a pitch for support from folks who think water fluoridation is a communist plot or that NASA staged fake moon landings somewhere in the desert decades ago.