The one thing a Texas Republican is afraid of these days is drawing a tea party-backed primary opponent. So when a conspiracy theory whips up fear among the electorate, legislators are less likely to calm voters with facts and logic. Instead, they will legitimize that theory by giving it a hearing in the legislature. The latest example stems from a certainty among a segment of parents that President Obama is forcing Texas public schools to teach Muslim propaganda, Marxism, and Nazi mind control.
"One would never imagine that for the last seven years students all across the state of Texas have been indoctrinated with a pro communist, pro Islamic curriculum called CSCOPE," wrote Ginger Russell of redhotconservative.com. Russell had found what she called Obama's "liberal strategy for indoctrinating children." When evaluated on the basis of mere fact, her claims were dismissed. But that didn't make them go away.
Instead, politicians are giving the conspiracy oxygen, and like a fire it is spreading. The Texas Attorney General is investigating CSCOPE and reportedly promised to "shut them down completely" if he uncovers illegality. And on Friday in Dallas, a panel from the State Board of Education will meet to review CSCOPE. This is the same State Board of Education that rejected mandating studies on the Establishment Clause but required Texas students to learn about the Contract With America, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.
Back in 2006, regional education centers created a way for small school districts to buy web-based lesson plans and exams which tracked the state curriculum. Most Texas school districts can't afford to hire staff to create lesson plans so the idea took off. Today, about 70 percent of Texas school districts use what are known as CSCOPE materials.
There was no sign of the Muslim-Commie-Nazi infiltration until a tutor named Janice VanCleave was unable to access a student's lesson plan online. Seeing evil behind a locked door, she and her blogger daughter, Ginger Russell, kept digging and "discover(ed) a Marxist/Communist takeover of Texas Schools," Russell wrote.
One CSCOPE lesson presented students with a British newspaper story that described the Boston Tea Party as terrorism and asked the students to make up their own minds.
Charged with teaching kids about world geography, CSCOPE also encouraged schoolchildren to imagine a new socialist or communist country. The lesson asked them to design a flag so that kids would learn that certain symbols are associated with socialist countries. And if you're wondering why teaching about something is the same as supporting it, you're not alone.
And since state law requires the instruction of world religions, CSCOPE offered some basic information about Islam which struck some as pro-Muslim. Russell's angry emails triggered an official investigation by a North Texas school district, but the findings didn't confirm her fears. Last December, the investigation actually found a "bias against radical Islam," reported the Dallas Morning News.
Russell was unmoved.
"CSCOPE is based on a Marxist Ideology where absolute truth is not taught and everything is relative," she maintained in one blog post. "Under the Obama administration's 'Common Core' education takeover, Marxist curriculums like CSCOPE are being implemented across the country," she wrote in another.
By then Glenn Beck was on the case. "This is what this president is pushing into Common Core, which is what will be in every school," he told his radio audience. "It sounds very Gestapo-like."
CSCOPE reassured Texans that every parent has the right to review the materials and offered to let the State Board of Education review them as well. Russell took her concerns to the lieutenant governor who is facing re-election. Before long, the Texas senate was holding its own hearing on the issue.
The question now is whether elected officials will allow fear to alter the education of millions of Texas schoolchildren. Our track record does not engender optimism.