(UPDATED: Additional information has been added to this story.)
In less than a month (December 16th), we will mark the 239th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. This well-known protest against "taxation without representation" is almost universally recognized as the moment that sparked the American Revolution.
In many Texas public schools, the Boston Tea Party is now being taught as an example of an act of terrorism.
Here's an excerpt from a Texas school system's World History / Social Studies lesson plan. It purports to be helping teachers become more efficient, but many people are upset with the content of the lesson and the lack of parental review. In this specific instance, teachers are instructed to read the story to their classes as if it were a news report that had just happened within the past hour:
News report: New Act of Terrorism
A local militia, believed to be a terrorist organization, attacked the property of private citizens today at our nation’s busiest port. Although no one was injured in the attack, a large quantity of merchandise, considered to be valuable to its owners and loathsome to the perpetrators, was destroyed. The terrorists, dressed in disguise and apparently intoxicated, were able to escape into the night with the help of local citizens who harbor these fugitives and conceal their identities from the authorities. It is believed that the terrorist attack was a response to the policies enacted by the occupying country’s government. Even stronger policies are anticipated by the local citizens.
Later in the curriculum, teachers are instructed to reveal to students that the event described above the historic Boston Tea Party. Here's a screen capture from the actual lesson and what should be done after the story is read:
Image: Screen capture CSCOPE's website
For the record, this lesson comes from a non-profit group called CSCOPE. They are an offshoot of an educational program that traces its roots back to 1965 when the state established media centers / Education Service Centers (ESCs) throughout each of the state's 20 school districts:
In 1965, the 59th Texas Legislature authorized the State Board of Education to establish media centers throughout the state. Two years later, the State Board of Education divided the state into 20 regions, assigning each media center to begin operations and serve in each region. In 1966-67, Title III of the U.S. Elementary and Secondary Education Act provided funding for start-up costs associated with establishing supplementary educational centers.
These "media centers" are reported to have received $25 million in funding last year.
Just a few years ago, 19 of the 20 centers formed a non-profit entity call the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (TESCCC). And TESCCC owns the Cscope Curriculum Management System. CSCOPE defines itself on their website:
CSCOPE is the source for an all-in-one approach to a quality curriculum system. CSCOPE is a comprehensive, customizable, user-friendly curriculum management system built on the most current research-based practices in the field.
TheBlaze has reached out to CSCOPE in hopes of clarifying a few of the issues being raised by parents. As of this writing, no calls have been returned.
One of the major issues we expect to discuss with CSCOPE's directors is the complaint raised by several parents about the lack of transparency at the schools. Several parents from different locations in Texas have independently confirmed that parents are not permitted to access the lessons being taught in the classrooms. There is a "Parent's Portal" available online, but the content differs greatly from the lesson plans we have seen.
For example, the lesson on terrorism shown above is part of the curriculum that correlates to this section in the Parents Portal:
Image: CSCOPE web site
Several parents and teachers have written to TheBlaze stating that they were denied access to the lessons being taught using CSCOPE materials. This apparent denial is apparently in direct conflict with Texas law.
Sec. 26.006. ACCESS TO TEACHING MATERIALS. (a) A parent is entitled to:
(1) review all teaching materials, instructional materials, and other teaching aids used in the classroom of the parent's child;
If schools using CSCOPE are not allowing parents to review education materials, it would appear they are violating one of the state's constitutionally protected rights. Our initial investigation into CSCOPE has also uncovered some other questionable lesson plans. In order to properly vet these stories, TheBlaze is investigating further and will report back on Monday after Thanksgiving weekend.
If you have any information to contribute to our investigation, please email links and documents to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Since our original posting of this story, TheBlaze has received a flood of emails from educators and parents in Texas providing more information that will be included in our follow-up story next week. One teacher claimed that our report about the "Boston Tea Party being taught as terrorism" was incorrect and that the lesson is currently not on the CSCOPE website.
We do know that the lesson in question was on the site as recently as January of 2012 and apparently had been part of the curriculum since August of 2010 (see the screen capture from the now "scrubbed" web page below). Since officials from CSCOPE have not returned our calls, we cannot confirm the date when the curriculum and the website was changed.
Image: CSCOPE screen capture
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