Texas Investigates School Curriculum Over Islam Conspiracy Theory

Texas. It’s a place of wide-open spaces, great country music, friendly people … and conspiracy theories. The state’s leading curriculum, CSCOPE, has been accused of being “a pro-communist, pro-Islamic curriculum” that threatens to indoctrinate all of our innocent children — and now the state legislature is taking up the case, despite all complaints being dismissed as false. Welcome to Texas, where it’s more dangerous to say something isn’t pro-Islamic than to say that it is.

CSCOPE, which stands for nothing (except the “C” is obviously for “Communist”), is getting a thorough review by the state government — all prompted by a tutor named Janice VanCleave who was unable to access a student’s lesson plan online. She decided this was obviously a red flag, and she called her blogger daughter, Ginger Russell, and they both dug until Russell "discover(ed) a Marxist/Communist takeover of Texas Schools".... or so she wrote.

So what makes it a Marxist/Communist takeover?

Problem 1: The curriculum gives students a newspaper article from the British point of view that describes the Boston Tea Party as an act of terrorism and asks students to make up their own minds. It seems as though anything that asks students to question an American-centric viewpoint of our past is obviously anti-American. 

Problem 2: In order to educate children about world geography and government the curriculum asked students to imagine a socialist government today and draw a flag for it, so they could learn that certain symbols are associated with socialism. You want my child to draw a flag for anything but a DEMOCRACY?! BLASPHEMY!

Problem 3: In teaching children about world religions, the curriculum recognizes that “allah” is a “monotheistic deity; also recognized as the God of Abraham (Yahweh)” which VanCleave decides is evidence that the curriculum teaches students that “Allah is god.” Even though the curriculum actually includes instruction on religions “including Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, and the development of monotheism.”  

Russell, in an attempt to get the word out to school leaders on all of these serious issues, sent out an email to everyone whose email addresses she could find. The email, which said “Christians are going to have to stand up against the pro Islamic teaching in our public schools with CSCOPE curriculum.”

The email received plenty of coherent and responsible critical responses from school leaders, which Russell has chosen to publish at the bottom of her “tell all” article on CSCOPE as evidence that she’s being intimidated and “slandered” because they couldn’t possibly have legitimate concerns. For instance, Dan Powell, the superintendent of Crowely ISD, sent this to her in an email: 

“This is absolute non-sense! You are either crazy or ridiculously mistaken. As a Christian and patriotic American, I am most offended by your lies! Take me off your mailing list immediately, and find a shrink.”

And from Valley Mills ISD Business Manager Brenda Byrom:

“I don’t know where you get your information or how you can so distort an issue as much as you are doing. I suppose when I was a student in public schools and our textbooks taught us about Hitler and Stalin that they were teaching us about communism and we should have burned the textbooks. Your email is ridiculous and I want to be removed from your email list.” 

If only the Texas State legislature was as able to smell bull as Powell and Byrom. Instead of taking these complaints at face value, the state has launched an investigation, and the state attorney general has promised to “shut them down completely” if he finds anything problematic. 

They should save their efforts, because as the Dallas Morning News reported, a Dallas-area school district has already done one. After school leaders in Irving ISD got the email Russell sent out, they decided to do their own investigation, which resulted in a 72-page report. Among the findings:

- Christianity got twice as much attention in the curriculum as any other religion. Islam was a distant second.

- The Red Crescent and Boston Tea Party reference mentioned in the email were nowhere in CSCOPE’s curriculum, although they may have been in the past.

- If there was any Islamic bias in CSCOPE it was “bias against radical Islam.”

Yes, all of that sounds completely controversial. But in Texas, if someone shouts “Islamic indoctrination” it’s not enough to just read the report and tell complainers they are full of it. You must launch a full-scale investigation into charges that have already been investigated and waste state dollars that are already stretched thin.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Jessica Huseman

Jessica wrote for Mic.com until Feb. 2014. Now she's an investigative reporter at The Teacher Project, writing articles on K12 education for Slate.com. Her work has appeared in ProPublica, The Atlantic, Slate, The Dallas Morning News and Chalkbeat and more. Find her contact info and her recent work at www.jessicalhuseman.com.

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