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CSCOPE Conspiracy?

CSCOPEI subscribe to the Texas Freedom Network's e-mail list. I just got one warning of an upcoming fight in the making.

A witch hunt organized by far-right activists and pressure groups has created a new venue for the State Board of Education (SBOE) to politicize what Texas students learn in their classrooms. This spring a committee of SBOE members and educators will initiate a review of CSCOPE, a curriculum management system used in hundreds of Texas public and parochial schools.

For a good background of this case, go read the article, TFN's Kathy Miller: Politics Trump Common Sense in the Far Right's Manufactured CSCOPE 'Controversy'. The article lists some of the good and bad things about CSCOPE, and explained how CSCOPE officials had already agreed to institute many reforms after a hearing before the state Senate Education Committee.

The article also mentioned some of the more outrageous charges that have been leveled against the system. However, it didn't provide extensive quotes or list sources, so I thought I'd look into it a bit myself. I did a google search for CSCOPE, and followed one of the first results to a site called Texas CSCOPE Review. I skimmed through their home page a bit to find an example of what they considered to be a bad lesson from CSCOPE, and the first link I clicked on was to CSCOPE: Anti-Christian Authors. The writer of the article was unhappy that one of the CSCOPE lessons directed students to read an article on the BBC website, Christianity and the Roman Empire. Here's an excerpt from the Texas CSCOPE Review article.

Throughout the article, Christians are referred to as a cult. Following is an exert from the article:
"Contemporary pagan and Christian sources preserve other accusations leveled against the Christians. These included charges of incest and cannibalism, probably resulting from garbled accounts of the rites which Christians celebrated in necessary secrecy, being the agape (the 'love-feast') and the Eucharist (partaking of the body and blood of Christ). "

And then from later in the article:

I have not seen a TEKS that describes Christianity as a cult or Christians as cannibals, must [sic] less incestuous.

Why are our state education agencies presenting Christianity as a cult and worse?

My goodness. Is the writer for Texas CSCOPE Review that ignorant? If you go read that BBC article (it's pretty good), you'll see that it uses cult in the traditional sense, as Merriam-Webster would put it, of "a system of religious beliefs and ritual". The article referred to several cults from the ancient Roman world, with Christianity just being one of those. It's also surprising that the Texas CSCOPE Review could so misinterpret what was being said about the charges against Christians. The BBC article specifically said that they probably resulted "from garbled accounts of the rites which Christians celebrated in necessary secrecy". The BBC wasn't confirming the charges, but rather showing the type of outlandish charges that were used to justify persecution of Christians.

I know that fact checking one claim isn't very rigorous, but when it was the very first claim of an organization that I encountered, it doesn't bode well for that organization's reputation. And given most of the sources I've heard of denouncing CSCOPE are troubled by its 'liberal bias', and that its critics include the likes of Glen Beck, its probably pretty safe to bet that those particular criticisms don't have much merit.

Of course, this isn't to say that the program's perfect and couldn't use improvement, but let's give them a chance to institute the reforms that came out of the state Senate Education Committee hearing before starting a witch hunt.

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