In the News April 9
Defending Public Education in Alberta
Actions Across Alberta Demand Kenney Government “Ditch the Draft” Curriculum
All across Alberta, successful actions were held on April 2 to oppose the draft curriculum for Kindergarten to Grade 6 being imposed by the Kenney government. Rallies were held in Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, and Wainwright. The rallies demanded that the government “Ditch the Draft” and emphasized the need for a modern education system and curriculum which enables youth to create the world they need.
One of the first acts of the Kenney government when it came to power in 2019 was to shred the work that had been underway for close to ten years to update the Alberta K-12 school curriculum. Education Minister Adriana LaGrange replaced the hundreds of teachers involved with twelve hand-picked advisors, mostly from the world of business administration rather than teaching and learning. There was not a single K-12 teacher on the panel.
The result was a curriculum so deficient and harmful to students that teachers and their organization, the Alberta Teachers’ Association, parents, academics, Indigenous nations and organizations, the Métis Nation of Alberta, Francophone organizations, and many others rejected it outright. Fifty-six of Alberta’s 61 school boards, responsible for the education of 95 per cent of students in Alberta refused to pilot the draft. Not a single school has piloted the entire curriculum.
They have condemned the curriculum as age inappropriate, sloppy, full of plagiarism, including from Wikipedia and U.S. sources, factual errors, an emphasis on memorization, and ignorance of how students learn. Its content has been rejected as Eurocentric, racist, homophobic, misogynist, and based on the glorification of great men who are said to “make history.”
Tens of thousands of Albertans have been active, signing and circulating petitions, participating in letter-writing campaigns, submitting written submissions to the Minister of Education, and reaching out to their friends, family and neighbours. More than 70 academics and other curriculum and subject-matter experts have published detailed critiques in every subject area on the Alberta Curriculum Analysis website. After a full year, the Minister of Education has still not shared the mountain of feedback she has received.
Initially, the government planned for full implementation of the curriculum in all subjects in September 2022. In the face of this widespread condemnation, the government has twice announced that some parts of the curriculum will be postponed until September 2023, first postponing Social Studies, Science, and Fine Arts for a year, and then adding Grade 4-6 Math and English Language Arts to the courses being postponed. This has not in any way silenced the opposition or diminished the demand that the entire draft be rejected.
In rallies across the province, speaker after speaker emphasized the need for a modern curriculum and a modern education system that serves the people of Alberta. As one, people demanded that curriculum development must be in the hands of those with actual knowledge and expertise, that is teachers and scholars with curriculum expertise. People demanded as well a genuine process of consultation with Albertans and an opportunity for people to participate in giving their views and discussing what kind of curriculum is needed.
At the Edmonton rally, Carla Peck, a well-known professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta, stressed that this curriculum should not and cannot be forced onto teachers in the fall. After two of the hardest years in their teaching careers, the Minister of Education wants to impose a curriculum that has no resources, is still being drafted, and has not been piloted.
Curriculum should be written by teachers and curriculum experts. It should be based on research on how students learn, not harm them by erasing them, be anti-racist and anti-oppressive, advance truth and reconciliation, teach critical and creative thinking, not memorization, be a modern curriculum that will help them create the future they want, she said.
Together our voices are louder and stronger, but we have to act, she said. She called on everyone present to help friends and family understand how this curriculum will harm children. The government has backed off from its plan to implement all subject areas in September, and we cannot stop because they are still pushing ahead with some subjects in the fall, she said.
Métis scholar Dr. Yvonne Poitras-Pratt, said that the Kenney government’s curriculum would undo all the progress which has been made. She said it regresses instead into a damaging rhetoric of “us vs. them” where the glorification of Eurocentric ideals, including militaristic ways and a thinly veiled “great men of history” bias alongside the glorification of “economic gains” are lauded as the best and only way forward.
A speaker in Calgary pointed out that the UCP accused the previous government of pushing their own partisan agenda on education, but that is precisely what the government has done. She said the UCP government is attempting to push through a narrow vision of society where students are passive citizens who learn to “do as they’re told” or, as the chair of the curriculum advisory panel famously stated, “become the kind of person you would be happy to buy a used car from.”
Speakers said that a new curriculum consistent with the times must break with Eurocentrism in a fundamental way. The knowledge and experience of Indigenous people are an integral part of any modern curriculum.
The new curriculum for Physical Education and Wellness must teach the concept of consent in an age-appropriate way, in every grade, speakers pointed out. They also raised the demand that like every child, children with special needs have a right to everything they require in order to flourish as human persons.
The indelible impression left by the rallies was that one year of work to “Ditch the Draft” has created a movement where people are speaking in their own name, and developing their own vision and outlook on the kind of education system which our youth need to create a bright future. This movement is bound to continue to develop. It shows the profound need for renewal of the political system so that decision-making is in the hands of the people.
Workers’ Forum, posted April 9, 2022.