Dan Patrick Huffs and Puffs at CSCOPE Users

Dan Patrick calls everybody a poopoo head.

Dan Patrick calls everybody a poopoo head.

State Sen. Dan Patrick doesn’t like poopoo heads! Poopoo heads are mean and do things he doesn’t like! And he is totally going to tell on them and get them in trouble.

But seriously, Dan Patrick is acting like a six year-old. He said CSCOPE is bad. He doesn’t have any evidence – but who are you to demand evidence? – it’s bad! In his underdeveloped mind, because Dan Patrick doesn’t like CSCOPE, everybody should listen to him and do what he says. And if you as a school district or teacher are so brazen as to disobey the commandments of Dan Patrick and continue to use CSCOPE lessons, well he is going to sic the Attorney General on you.

CSCOPE is a system of lesson plans produced by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) meant to supplement textbooks. The lesson plans provide activities for students to learn materials required by the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) curriculum outside of the usually dry context of textbooks. These plans have been used by about 70% of Texas school districts since 2006.

Toward the end of 2012 some reactionary conservative types began to question three of the lesson plans in the Social Studies category. They claimed these lesson plans were anti-American and pro-Islam. From what we can tell, however, when they claim a lesson was pro-Islam, what they meant was that the lesson presented the precepts of Islam (as required by TEKS) without also noting how its claims are false and it is evil. And when they claimed a lesson was anti-American, what they meant was the lesson dared to question whether every action ever taken by the United States has been moral and right.

The people making these accusations seem to believe the United States belongs to the Christian God and all her activities have been ordained by that god. To these people, to question either god or country is a high crime. To these people, well rounded critical thinking skills threaten their worldview.

Eventually they got the attention of Sen. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Greg Abbott. Dan Patrick was the Chairperson of the Senate Education Committee during this past legislative session. He began a witch hunt against CSCOPE based on the claims about these three lessons. After much accusation and little evidence, TEA folded to the political pressure and agreed to stop producing CSCOPE lesson plans. Bills meant to stop CSCOPE were filed toward the end of the legislative session. Senate Bill 1406, passed during the regular session this year, requires any “curriculum management system [developed] by a regional education service center” to be reviewed by the SBOE. This is simply a state level administrative requirement and provides no penalty for the use of any such material by a school district. Since CSCOPE has shut down and the lessons have been put into the public domain, it does not seem to be part of such a system any longer.

With CSCOPE shut down, many small school districts have found themselves without supporting lesson plans as they near the Fall 2013 semester, and having to divert funds from other school programs to pay for new lesson plans. Because of this, TEA has made the CSCOPE lesson plans available in the public domain, and many smaller school districts have decided to continue using them.

When the SBOE noted that they did not have the power to stop local school districts from using the materials of their choice, Dan Patrick huffed and puffed and threaten to sue anyone who continues to use them; or, he volunteered Attorney General Greg Abbot to sue them, at least.

This is how a six year-old acts. A six year old says something and expects everybody to do it. A grown adult who wants to be Lieutenant Governor of Texas would have a legal basis for the demands he is making before threatening to have the Attorney General go after them, but not Dan Patrick. It doesn’t seem to matter much to him that there are no laws being broken by school districts or teachers that use CSCOPE lessons plans. No legislation has been passed outlawing them.

So what is Dan Patrick’s plan? It’s either super secret or he doesn’t have one.

The 2014 election landscape is beginning to take shape. With current Attorney General Greg Abbot as the likely Republican candidate for Governor, and Dan Patrick as the likely candidate for Lieutenant Governor combined with Texas’ penchant for only electing Republicans to statewide office, this is a worrisome scenario. It is not clear what Abbot’s position on this situation is, but if he does not want to spend his possible first term as governor of Texas chasing around Dan Patrick’s witch hunts, then he is going to need to put a stop to this. On the other hand, if the Abbot and Patrick duo can work up this frenzy into a mess of Todd-Aiken-esque sound bites, it might provide Texas with a very interesting election season.

Dan Patrick is throwing a bit of a temper-tantrum right now. He isn’t getting his way and he’ll throw down with some kicking and screaming if he has to. Secular Texas has drafted a letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott to inquire as to his intentions. With any luck Dan Patrick will get sent to bed early with no dessert.