CSCOPE & Critical Thinking

If it weren’t for social media, I probably wouldn’t know as much about the CSCOPE controversy in Texas. Legislators post about the continued battle on their Facebook pages. Citizens condemn the curriculum on Twitter and express fears that the lesson plans may be used anyway.

I have many issues with CSCOPE as a one-size-fits-all curriculum. In this blog post, I’d like to discuss why two of the most discussed questions / assignments, when taught in the right context, promote critical thinking and allow for a wide range of pro-America responses.

1) Draw a flag for a new socialist country.

I think it’s all right for American students to learn how to identify socialism. The assignment prompt as it has been circulated in the media does not put any value judgment on this socialist country — it asks kids to draw. I would assume, though, that students must also turn in an explanation for WHY they drew the flag this way.

My child can submit a solid pink rectangle with an explanation that socialism is for girls and wimps. Aside from the sexism, it would meet the assignment.

My child can submit an inverted American flag with an explanation that socialism is antithetical to everything that American democracy represents. It flies in the face of the individualism, capitalism, competition, etc. that make the United States great. This too meets the assignment.

american flag with inverted colors

The burden is then placed on the teacher, not the curriculum, to honor the critical thinking of such students. Not all teachers are trained to accept multiple points of view. The standardized testing mentality seeks ONE correct answer when there could be 42.

If a child gets an “F” for submitting the flag pictured above, the problem is not with the assignment. The problem is with the teacher. As long as the kid shows a clear understanding of socialism, she deserves an “A” for her work.

2) Explain why, from the perspective of the British, dumping tea in the Boston harbor could have been seen as an act of terrorism.

First, I would like to point out that when I learned that this question existed at all — and apparently it was removed from the standard curriculum? — I was impressed by its daring.

Even if I change “could have been” to “was,” the question does not say that American colonists were in fact terrorists.

My child could respond that the British indeed might have felt that way, but they were WRONG. My child could engage in a nuanced discussion of motive vs. methods defining terrorists — if your goal is freedom from tyranny, it’s not terrorism. My child could argue that making a lot of tea is not the same as murdering innocent people to incite panic. My child could define the situation as one of peaceful non-violent protest made all the more eloquent by the fact that during the actual Boston Tea Party, many American participants disguised themselves as fierce Mohawk warriors.

Nothing in the assignment keeps my patriotic kid from stating clearly that putting tea in the water was not a terrorist act.

I wonder how many teachers actually used either of these assignments in the past few years? Personally, I would look at both and say, “Mmmm. Great critical thinking but too controversial. Let’s see what else teaches these TEKS.” And based on what I know about CSCOPE, I wouldn’t have been required to use anything specific and there would have been other options. Any mandates would have come from my local school board or school.

Should CSCOPE remain an option for Texas schools that are looking at no lesson plans with just weeks to go before classes begin? I’m not a K-12 teacher. I don’t use the lesson plans on a regular basis. If I wanted complete control over curriculum, I would homeschool, and as it stands, I trust in my parenting skills to impart certain values to my family. So while I do have children in the public school system, I defer to the folks in the classroom to decide whether the materials have educational merit. If CSCOPE is leading to lower test scores, as one blogger claims, then why wouldn’t teachers be running as far and as fast as they can from the system?

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