Is the Right's CSCOPE Witch Hunt Now Spiraling Way Out of Control?

The right-wing assault on CSCOPE in Texas has intensified with Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick, R-Houston, posting on his Facebook page a statement from state Attorney General Greg Abbott. Abbott’s statement echoes critics of the curriculum system, which is used in hundreds of Texas public and private schools:

“The Attorney General’s Office has been working with Sen. Dan Patrick to scrutinize the CSCOPE program for several months. We are deeply disturbed by the CSCOPE content and have significant legal concerns about the program’s operations. Inexplicably, CSCOPE’s officials still have not taken any real steps to address the very concerns that have been raised thus far. It is time for the veil of secrecy to be eliminated and we will continue working collaboratively with the Legislature until CSCOPE is held accountable for any potential improprieties.”

So is Attorney General Abbott now buying into the bizarre, paranoid tales told by right-wingers who see CSCOPE as a vehicle for promoting Marxism and Islam in Texas schools? (See here and here.)  The program was developed through a collaboration of Education Services Centers across Texas. Those service centers, created by the state in the 1960s, provide support services to school districts. If you listen to CSCOPE critics, you might think the idea for creating those service centers was hatched in the Kremlin or in some radical Islamic madrassa.

Does Abbott think CSCOPE is an example of Nazi mind control, as critics have claimed? Is he really worried that hundreds of Texas schools — including Christian private schools — have freely chosen to use curriculum materials that undermine the free enterprise system and indoctrinate Texas students into radical Islam?

And what does Abbott mean by “significant legal concerns”? If there are legitimate concerns about legal improprieties, the attorney general clearly has a responsibility to investigate. But he should explain what those issues are rather than recklessly feeding the campaign of innuendo and unsubstantiated smears.

One CSCOPE critic claimed on Tuesday that the attorney general had ordered an “investigation” of CSCOPE and would “shut them down completely” if they had engaged in “illegal actions.” What illegal actions are they talking about? Another prominent critic declared that she will personally investigate whether all employees of Education Service Centers could be “guilty by association.” Good grief.

Just as bad, really, is that the attorney general’s statement also distorts the existing public record. His claim that “CSCOPE’s officials still have not taken any real steps to address the very concerns that have been raised thus far” is simply not true.

More than six weeks ago, on Feb. 8, Sen. Patrick sent out a press release announcing that CSCOPE officials had agreed to a long list of his demands. They agreed to, among other things, make meetings of their governing board public, to revise all contracts to clarify that teachers may share CSCOPE materials with parents (something a number of teachers had said they already knew they had the right do), and to engage in a joint review of their lessons and other materials with State Board of Education members. In fact, a committee of state board members and CSCOPE representatives is set to begin that public review process at a meeting in Dallas this Friday (March 29).

If there are legitimate concerns regarding transparency, content errors, and even legal issues (whatever they might be) regarding CSCOPE, then those problems should be remedied. That should be expected of any educational program used in Texas public schools. But as of now this mess has the appearance of a witch hunt spiraling out of control.

19 thoughts on “Is the Right's CSCOPE Witch Hunt Now Spiraling Way Out of Control?

  1. We’ve seen this movie too. It’s title is: “Socrates Teaches Students to Think.” Two-bit bigots and tyrants have always had trouble with people who think on their own rather than just accept the party line. Thinking leads to dangerous things (for them), like everyone recognizing that they are “full of shit as a Christmas Turkey.” You can delete that if you wish, but it is a time-honored old Tennessee folk saying—legitimate folklore—not profanity.

    1. I should explain the folklore. Throughout Tennessee history, the convention has been that one serves turkey on Thanksgiving Day and ham on Christmas Day. Well, that was the Brown family tradition. Anyone who serves turkey on Christmas Day is full of you know what—and beware what the turkey may be stuffed with. I suspect that many Tennessee right wingnuts serve turkey on Christmas Day.

  2. I’m having second thoughts about getting certified to teach in Texas. The trend is clear: the public education system is gradually being forced to conform with crazy right-wing ideology. Texas seems to have forgotten that we have the scientific method to help us chose the best of alternative approaches. Here we have political winds forcing each new political fad on educators, as if we had no better means for deciding what and how to teach.

  3. Patrick and now Abbott are engaging in a cruel and unethical smear campaign against honest and hard-working educators whose only offense is wanting to educate Texas students in ways consistent with high academic standards. Their political campaign of harassment, intimidation, and guilt by unspecific innuendo is characteristic of fascists and other authoritarians. Joe McCarthy would be proud of them. When are Texas voters going to stop this kind of dirty politics by voting these fascists out of office? Abbott wants to be governor so he is playing to the ultra-right-wing radical Texas Republican primary voters using an issue provided by Patrick. These two are indulging in a campaign of hate and resentment against educators to achieve their radical and un-American political agendas to keep Texas children ignorant and misinformed. Texas politics has become even more sick and debased than I thought possible.

  4. I’m completely uninformed about what CSCOPE is. Where can I read it? All I’m seeing simply refers to how it’s being characterized by the rightwingnuts. Help! Thanks.

      1. Thanks, Dan. I spent a little time looking at it. I’m not a teacher, so there might be something a teacher would object to, but it looked OK to me. Again, thank you.

    1. CSCOPE curricula and lessons have never been available to the public and that has been a major problem. As I stated in previous comments, the only public descriptions of CSCOPE have come from radical religious right Republicans who persistently mischaracterized it to suit their own corrupt purposes. However, that will soon change. CSCOPE reports ( that:

      As part of the ongoing effort to enhance public understanding and increase transparency, the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (TESCCC) has been working with the CSCOPE technology provider to provide public access to CSCOPE lessons. The CSCOPE site will include a new feature that allows parents and members of the general public to access CSCOPE lessons without having to enter a username and password.

      CSCOPE lessons accessible to the public will be the same lessons provided to districts, with the exception of material that may be used for grading or student assessment, such as answer keys. This new public access feature is scheduled to be launched in early April, 2013. Math lessons will be loaded first, with Language Arts and Science lessons following. The TESCCC is working with the State Board of Education (SBOE) for a review of Social Studies lessons; therefore, information on posting of CSCOPE Social Studies lessons will be forthcoming based on the timeline set by the State Board of Education for the review.

      So in a few weeks Texas citizens will be able to access the lessons and curricula to be able to judge for themselves and without the distortions and misrepresentations of the Tea Party right-wing radicals.

  5. The sad thing is, this bizarre right-wing witch hunt is masking the very real evils of CSCOPE: a system that over 80% of public schools in Texas use that, in most districts, forces teachers into a tiny little educational box from which there is no escape. Want to pause for a day to highlight or talk about a current event? Nope, not with CSCOPE. Want to teach using your own methods, your own practices, etc? Nope, not with CSCOPE. Some districts use it as a resource, which is fine…but many use it as a day-by-day prison in which to trap teachers. Its actually kind of sad that teachers have been bad-mouthing and complaining about CSCOPE for YEARS, without any kind of public sympathy…but as soon as some GOP crazies start talking Islam and Communism, it’s every where.

    1. What Heath Hamrich says is simply not true. CSCOPE serves as the basis of a curriculum if the ISD adopts it, but teachers are free to use current events and other resources, too, if they provide good examples. Teachers always have flexibility to teach students using their own teaching practices. Is the administration’s Thought Police actually in every classroom to ensure rigid conformity to “trap teachers”? I don’t believe this. School districts adopt CSCOPE to ensure accountability to state education requirements. CSCOPE follows the TEKS, so blame the TEKS if you object to the subject matter. The TEKS in some areas (Biology, Social Studies) are corrupt and bizarre in some instances, so you will get no argument from me about that. CSCOPE was first used seven years ago with 182 districts. Today 875 districts use it. Why the popularity if teachers have been complaining about it? Don’t teachers in each ISD choose the curriculum and textbook for each discipline area? Who is forcing CSCOPE on teachers if they don’t like it?

      1. Uh-huh. In every interview for a teaching position I had this past summer, in a variety of districts, the majority of the interview was re: CSCOPE and staying within the CSCOPE guidelines. Teachers across the board hate it; while some VERY FEW districts use it as a resource, most mandate that it be followed day by day, using the CSCOPE practices and assessments, on the day designated. I have several principals lecture me that they were CSCOPE districts. Who is forcing CSCOPE? Administrators, perhaps, for whom it is a handy backup; the Region Centers as well, perhaps. Where does all the money spent yearly on CSCOPE go? Some very, very few teachers like the system…just do a goggle search on CSCOPE and you’ll find message boards JAMMED with complaints. I’ve heard horror stories of districts firing teachers who don’t use the activities provided by CSCOPE, of bad evaluations because a teacher was “off” the CSCOPE day-by-day scope and sequence. What I’ve said IS true, at a practical level, based on teacher opinion overall.

        1. Well, Heath, thank you for the information. I honestly did not know about the things you just told me. I thought things were bad, but they seem to be worse than even I thought. If teachers hate CSCOPE so much and are nevertheless forced to use it to the exclusion of everything else, then we better hope that CSCOPE is a good program. What I don’t understand is why are teachers taught about pedagogy, multiple teaching methods, using their initiative, etc. if they are going to be forced to use CSCOPE exclusively. Why train teachers at all? Since thousands of teachers quit each year, why would any district fire a teacher just for not using CSCOPE 100%. That seems to be a waste. No wonder K-12 education in Texas is so bad with job satisfaction like that.

          1. There are some teachers who appreciate it, or so I’ve heard, mostly at the younger grades…but honestly the support for CSCOPE seems to have come from administrators and school boards. One reason I was told was that it made it easy for transfer students: someone moving from the Valley could jump into class in Dallas and not miss a beat since every school and every course would be on the same schedule. This is an administrator’s and businessman’s dream, but for a teacher…a nightmare. A good teacher has no problems acclimating that student regardless. I have heard, but can’t substantiate, that even districts that use CSCOPE as a “guide” have accepted IPads for admins loaded with evaluation software that makes it easy on an administrator to evaluate a teacher…only it tells a principal exactly what a teacher is supposed to be doing according to the CSCOPE schedule, and counts off if a teacher isn’t doing it. Education is an unfortunate catch-22 in Texas and the nation: Many teachers in the state, and the nation, have no business in education; perhaps even MOST teachers. Unfortunately, that will remain the same until pay is raised and teachers are treated with respect…which won’t happen so long as so many are sub-par, etc, etc. So, in a business-type solution, we’ve come to our atmosphere of just ignoring or bypassing the teacher: standardized tests, computerized curriculum, standards like CSCOPE…

            Not a great time to teach in Texas.

          2. I can attest to the iPads being used by administrators to see whether a teacher is in the right place according to cscope. It is true. They also monitor the amount of times a teacher logs in into the system to ensure compliance. It is very demoralizing.

            BTW, I’ve worked with very few sub-par teachers; most are very dedicated and professional.