OPINION COLUMNS

Why the Tea Party should be CSCOPE’s biggest advocate

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, June 8, 2013

Tuesday’s meeting, where we heard the “truth” about how CSCOPE is linked to the Common Core State Standards and a liberal agenda which has created a national security threat, left me feeling, more than anything, sad.

Not sad that our kids are being “indoctrinated” by the “communist-inspired” teaching methods of educators who associate with known terrorists. Personally, I believe that is hogwash.

Brian Knox

Brian Knox

I’m sad because there are real concerns about our education system that seem to be overshadowed by these conspiracy theories with no basis in fact.

Despite her assurances that this crusade “is not political,” the presentation by Alice Linahan of Women on the Wall was clearly geared to a Tea Party crowd. Overreaching federal government. Hidden agendas. Wasteful spending. Anti-American. Anti-Christian. Foreign-born educators having access to our children. These were all topics Alice associated either with CSCOPE or the other “progressive” education techniques such as “21st Century Learning” being implemented in our schools.

What’s most sad is that when you look past all the political and culture war tactics, you can actually see common ground between Tea Party-inspired educational reformers and local educators who would also like to see reforms.

The Tea Party groups that wanted CSCOPE gone have finally seen what schools have been telling us for years: politicians (yes, even many Texas Republicans) don’t really care about education.

They care about politics, claiming “victory” on issues and being reelected. Don’t believe me? Look at how quickly Tea Party darling Senator Dan Patrick drew the ire of his constituents after trying to claim “victory” for ending CSCOPE while also trying to kill a bill that prevented CSCOPE from coming back because it would steal some of his thunder.

Local school districts have been fighting the bureaucracies of state and federal governments for decades.

That’s why I have a hard time understanding why Tea Party groups have chosen to rally around the cause of “Stop CSCOPE” and new philosophies of education that could actually improve student performance once local schools are unshackled from the constant compulsion to test, test, test driven by these bureaucracies.

If you go to the Decatur Independent School District’s website, you will see information on its “Future Ready” strategic plan of education. You’ll find a link to a study that clearly inspired this plan. It’s called “Creating a New Vision for Public Education in Texas,” and it’s credited to former Northwest ISD superintendent Keith Sockwell. As far as I know, he’s not connected to any evil plan to control the minds of our children.

In fact, here’s a snippet from the introduction to the report:

“Today, students, teachers, administrators, parents, school boards, other local residents, and businesses live the nightmare of state and federal micromanagement. New laws are thrust on schools and communities from the state and federal levels without opportunity for significant participation from the local level, yet schools faithfully implement the biennial spate of new laws and rules. This stranglehold by the state is causing the tolerance level of those most affected to reach a breaking point, resulting in unbearable levels of frustration, particularly for students and teachers.”

Does that sound like a group that wants more government control over education?

In the study’s “Declaration of Commitment,” the authors describe the principles they are about to set forth as being inspired by the spirit of the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution.

Last time I checked, the Tea Party held those documents in high regard.

I can’t go over everything in the 35-page document, which was created by a group of 35 Texas superintendents, but here are just a few of the highlights:

  • opposition to “one size fits all” educational structure;
  • bringing the public into conversations about education;
  • learning standards that embrace development of the whole person;
  • standards that are flexible enough to provide for expansion and extension by local districts and their communities;
  • respect for the voices of students, teachers and parents;
  • education of youth is a state responsibility but a local function;
  • that a stronger sense of community ownership would prevail if we could have more conversations about issues over which we could control rather than on state and federal compliance matters.

Earlier in this spring’s legislative session, the prevailing thought supported by the anti-CSCOPE, Tea Party group was that lesson plans should be subject to review by the State Board of Education.

Yes, the Tea Party was advocating for more government regulation.

After sitting through 2 1/2 hours of talk about how liberal indoctrination by those in high places are stealing the hearts and minds of our children, one of our local CSCOPE critics asked the question that I had been waiting for: “So what do we do to change it?”

Here was the perfect opportunity to talk about working with the local school board, educators and administrators to look at ways to come up with a solution from the grassroots level – to combine forces and speak with one voice so that our elected officials see a united stand for real education reform.

Instead, Alice’s answer was to go to the school board meetings and video them. And if it looks like school board members are supporting the superintendent, post that on blogs and Facebook. Start a controversy. Connect the dots (ie, create your own conspiracy theory). If all else fails, bring in someone from outside the community to come in and create a controversy for you.

Good grief.

How about all these groups uniting to bring about what is really needed: less state and federal control of our local schools and better support for our local educators?

This Legislature took a big step toward reducing the number of tests for high school graduation. How about keeping the pressure on to reduce or eliminate standardized tests and replace them with assessments that better measure what kids are learning? How about going back to using tests to identify what kids need to learn? How about removing the “pass this one test or you fail” spectre from teachers, students and parents?

If you create an environment where a student is engaged in the lessons and loves to learn, just watch test scores skyrocket. But even more important than test scores, that child will gain a love for learning that will remain with her for the rest of her life.

I respect the passion Alice Linahan has for her job and her desire to see kids succeed. My disagreement with her is that she sees the local school districts as an extension of the federal and state bureaucracies instead of seeing them as what they really are: an extension of our community, people who love kids, who live here and want to see our students – their students – succeed. This isn’t some faceless bureaucracy, this is our local administrators, teachers and support staff positions.

I wish Alice and others who are “taking up the battle” traveling around the state spreading their own version of “truth” would spend more time in the classrooms and school board meetings listening to the concerns of local teachers, students, school board members and administrators rather than telling them what they should be doing (or more specifically, what they shouldn’t be doing).

And I wish the education community would listen more to these concerns and respond accordingly. No one from the school district attended the CSCOPE informational meeting Tuesday to offer anything from the school’s viewpoint. Of course, if neither “side” was going to listen to the other, it really wouldn’t have mattered.

There is more common ground than both “sides” think. But both groups have to do less talking and more listening.

Both are passionate about providing children with the highest quality of education. Now’s the time to work together.

Our kids not only deserve it, they demand it.

5 Responses to “Why the Tea Party should be CSCOPE’s biggest advocate”

  1. sharyn helm says:

    Brian, you heard the challenge that Alice gave to everyone at the meeting. Prove her wrong. What you believe is ‘hogwash’ can be researched online. And you say this “If you create an environment where a student is engaged in the lessons and loves to learn, just watch test scores skyrocket. But even more important than test scores, that child will gain a love for learning that will remain with her for the rest of her life”, which is EXACTLY what those of us who speak the loudest have been trying to say. I do applaud you for calling out the lack of representation from the school district at the meeting who continue to disregard our concerns.

  2. It is hogwash. Brian, stick to your guns, stand your ground. One of the key reasons we are no longer No 1 in many crucial areas of intellectual, business and scientific stature is because we have dumbed down the education system. Science and math are no longer taught as a basic needed skill other then addition, subtraction and multiplication. If you asked one or two of these great political thinkers and Texas intellectuals to give me the price of a car with $32,500.00 total price tag with a 8.25% local sales tax, I wonder how many could give you just the price of the car. Genuine reform in the schools is needed but claiming anti christian values, communist around every corner and terrorist loving sponsors is just the horse puckkies being stacked higher and higher. I’m not saying I support CSCOPE does need to be modified and local input to be added, but if people insist on bring their person warped religious beliefs into the classroom then we are doomed to fail as a State and as a Country. Remember, one of the founders of this movement and conspirer of off the wall ideas that this is a plot to warp the minds of our children is Glenn Beck. Every time he opens his mouth he proves what a great intellectual he is supported by such great people like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman, stellar stars of the Tea Party and the idea that change can only come to government if the people say no and oppose everything just because it the government!

  3. As my Daddy used to say, “Contraire mon frere.” Let me assure you, as someone who has spent YEARS researching educational history and compiling data, that the opinion that all of this is “hogwash” is just that: opinion. And, it’s dead-wrong to boot.

    Facts are stubborn things. And if we care to do research into the history of education, educational reform, UNESCO, socialism, the inception of public education, where current groups are getting their funding, etc., we might learn some things. It is clear that not many are interested in research or fact-finding: it is more fun to use the term “conspiracy theorist” than to actually do some digging and spend a few years overturning stones getting to the bottom of things.

    In a community where those opposing CSCOPE and/or modern educational thought are both marginalized and vilified, I find it ironic that we are criticizing someone for wanting to become an “alternative media” source to put forth a more balanced story. Is that a bad thing? Particularly since our local paper seems to tow the party line consistently?

    I was at the meeting with Alice and I’m not a member of the Tea Party nor am I am member of either major party. I’m not a listener to nor a fan of Glenn Beck. I’m not in favor of state micromanagement and am even less a fan of Common Core: a nationalized educational program that our state (Republicans) declined to participate in. I’m not one who thinks that the solution for ANY of our local woes is to put more power of Austin or the beltway and I wasn’t too happy with Patrick’s “solutions.”

    However, I’m also not a fan of a school board members who know zilch about education and don’t care to do any research. How many board members were at the meeting? How many board members have sat with concerned parents, asking for details, facts, and figures? How many board members or administrators act like the public servants that they are supposed to be?

    I’m also not a fan of purporting to have an opinion on education yet refusing to do research or even present a balanced picture. I don’t recall any interviews being done at the meeting with people who were there opposing any of this. Perhaps I missed that? As a matter of fact, I can’t recall one instance of the paper printing the concerns of parents in the district whose children are coming home in tears, being taught ridiculous mathematics lessons, or simply giving up on school. Maybe I missed those interviews, too.

    I’m trying to recall interviews that have been done of the many families who have simply given up and are enrolling their children in private school or are homeschooling them. I can’t think of any. Perhaps I need to be more vigilant in looking for those.

    Facts abound. There have been many who have worked tirelessly in education for years, compiling and freely publishing these facts for those who care to read about them. The real question is: is anyone in administration or at the Messenger willing?

    When I see education, the most sacred of professions next to parenting in my opinion, treated so flippantly, I’m reminded of a Bible verse: ~”Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”~ That is a pretty solemn statement and while it’s not referring to public education, it’s a warning that should be heeded. How much more does it apply to those who make decisions that will affect all of our teachers and students?

  4. Brian, I do want to applaud you for pointing out the administration’s glaring absence at the meeting. I noticed that we had one school board member there and, ironically, one guy who DID NOT get voted onto the school board. Where was his counterpart…..?

  5. http://www.agendawise.com/2013/06/wise-county-blogger-misses-mark-on-cscope/

    Here’s a response to Brian’s article that I feel is well-thought out and pretty thorough.

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