For more than a half a century, citizens of the Lone Star State have had intense, emotional battles over what children should and shouldn’t be taught in public school classrooms. While there have been fights over just about every academic subject, debates over history, evolution, God and country generate the most heat. In many ways, Texans are stuck. Some believe teachers should lay out relevant facts before students and have them draw their own conclusions. Others believe there should be particular values —perhaps absolute values— added into the mix to help guide students.”
For “Long Game,” Trey Kay (producer of the Peabody, Murrow and DuPont honored “Great Textbook War”) spent nearly two years gathering interviews and acquiring archival audio in Texas. During this process, he was present to capture a new controversy that erupted over a Texas-generated curriculum system known as CSCOPE. Tea Party parents were outraged when they discovered there were CSCOPE lessons that equated Boston Tea Party participants to terrorists and encouraged students to design a flag for a new communist country. These parents were also troubled by lessons that taught the fundamental principles of Islam. When they asked to see more of their children’s lessons, they were told that CSCOPE material was protected by a non-disclosure agreement and that parents couldn’t have access. The controversy reached critical mass after conservative talk show host Glenn Beck began speaking to his national audience about CSCOPE as a form of leftist indoctrination that was running rampant in Texas and could potentially appear in public schools in other states. After about six months of intense media and political pressure, the lesson plan wing of CSCOPE –used in over 70% of Texas schools – was disbanded.
Kay’s report also examines Texas’ perennial battle over science standards and in particular, how the state chooses to teach all things related to the origins of the universe and theory of evolution. This fall (2013), the Texas Board of Education is selecting biology textbooks for use by high school students over the next decade. The panel responsible for reviewing submissions from publishers has stirred controversy because a number of its members do not accept evolution and climate change as scientific truth.