Late last year, a group of Texas parents expressed outrage at a public school world history lesson they claimed referred to the Boston Tea Party as an act of terrorism. The lesson asked the teacher to read a "news report" describing how a terrorist organization ransacked a port and destroyed valuable merchandise.
The group that created the lesson defends it as a compelling way to illustrate how world events are viewed differently by people on various sides of a conflict.
On Thursday, critics and supporters of the controversial curriculum brought the dispute to the Texas Senate Education Committee. The committee held a hearing to discuss the curriculum system, known as CSCOPE, which is currently used in about 70 percent of the state's school districts.
CSCOPE is an online curriculum management system developed by a collaboration of Texas' 20 Education Service Centers, part of the Texas Education Agency, for sale to districts to help them meet state curriculum standards by providing lesson plans and tests.
Some contend that the system is filled with weak educational standards, anti-American values and pro-Islamic bias.
"Hopefully someone in here recognizes the difference between throwing tea in the harbor and a terrorist act," state Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said at Thursday's hearing. "This was no terrorist act, this was an act of protest, and for our children to be taught this (way), I have a big problem with that."
Wade Labay, state director of CSCOPE, countered that many of the complaints are coming from people who are taking the material out of context and haven't received proper training on the material's intent.
State Sen. Dan Patrick, chairman of the education committee, said before the hearing that he had "an open mind" and wanted to understand the curriculum that is part of 875 school districts in Texas. But after hearing from representatives from CSCOPE, he appeared less than satisfied with what he referred to as the curriculum's mistakes.
"If this was an airline hearing, and these were problems with your plane ... we would ground you," said Patrick, R-Houston. "But we can't unplug you yet because now you are in 875 school districts."
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