Teachers using the controversial curriculum management system, CSCOPE, aren't standing in front of the classroom telling students that "Allah is God," Assistant Superintendent Dr. Tim Powers told his fellow Rotarians today.
"We don't do that," said Powers, to a group of about 100 members and guests at the weekly Wichita Falls Rotary Club meeting.
"Do you honestly believe we would allow teachers to promote one religion over another?" said Powers, the Rotary president. "We teach the religions of the world. Again, if you don't want us to teach the world's religions in the classroom, contact your legislator. Because the Legislature requires that we teach the world's religions."
One of the religions taught, Islam, proclaims "Allah is God," a proclamation students would hear when studying concepts in the Quran. That lesson in CSCOPE, an online curriculum management system directly aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, sits at the center of the brewing controversy over a curriculum also accused of promoting socialism, Marxism and communism.
Powers addressed what he called the three much discussed, misconstrued and flawed lessons in the social studies curriculum, yet to be implemented in the Wichita Falls Independent School District, out of the 1,600 social studies lessons included in CSCOPE. The controversy over the curriculum, which costs the district about $8 a student, has taken on almost mythical proportions, where parents may perceive that any mention of Islam would be promoting Allah as the only God.
Another lesson criticized, where students are asked to see the 1773 Boston Tea Party from the King of England's point of view, uses the term "terrorists" to describe what, from an American's point of view, would be "patriots."
The problem with that lesson, Powers said, was that the teachers were not instructed to bring the conversation back to an emerging America point of view.
"Today's students," he said, "they know the word terrorist. They don't know freedom fighters."
A third lesson plan that fuels the conversation comes from an economics class discussion where students are shown four flags — American, British and Soviet Union, plus a blank flag. Students are asked to take parts of all these approaches and create their own within the blank frame.
"That activity," Powers said, "somehow (the critics) said we are teaching that socialism is the way to go. That was 20 minutes of a six-day lesson."
CSCOPE does not, contrary to criticism, promote other cultures or government philosophies over the U.S., Powers said, as evidenced by a search on the word "Constitution" in the lesson plans.
"You get 1,733 references to the word Constitution in CSCOPE."
If the critics set out to find a reason to discredit a curriculum, "they will find something and blow it out of proportion."
"Out of 1,600 lesson plans, there are three we're focused on."
The assistant superintendent, who said even with his terminal degree he'd be hard pressed to "walk across the stage" if he were forced to master the TEKS, said he "didn't appreciate someone coming into our community and telling us how to run our schools."
Powers devoted the bulk of the meeting to what he called the "Reader's Digest" version of a complex issue that took up nearly three hours of a school board work session Tuesday, when some 200 members of the public gathered in an upperfloor room of the Education Center to hear the assistant superintendent go through the aspects of CSCOPE and its importance to academic success.
"My whole focus, the answer to the question of 'Why are we here?'" Powers said today, "the actual focus of everything we do is to help every child be successful."
CSCOPE, which Powers said doesn't supplant textbooks, is directly aligned with the essential educational skills students K-12 need to master. The curriculum management system, created by regional educational centers across the state, is used in most of the school districts in Texas. There is no other commercially available curriculum management system available, Powers said, and to force the school district to develop one locally would be costly and time-consuming.
"Do not pull the rug out from under us here," Powers said. "If you do, we will be dead in the water."
What has come out of the discussion, Powers said, are some steps the district will take, including the development of a parent review panel, implementation process where parents have a full opportunity to review the lessons, and the establishment of a CSCOPE academy for new teachers.