Rally Opposes Alberta Government Interference in School Curriculum Renewal
About 350 people rallied on the steps of the Alberta Legislature on August 28, to protest government interference in the renewal of school curricula and the exclusion of Alberta teachers from any further involvement. Rally speakers included teachers, Indigenous educators and students, and the former Minister of Education.
On August 16, the government arbitrarily ended an almost three-year collaboration with teachers aimed at updating outdated curricula documents, e.g., the elementary science curriculum is 23 years old. A month previous, the government cancelled fall testing of the new K-4 draft, which hundreds of teachers had worked on. The Alberta Teachers’ Association president explained the crucial role of teachers: “Teachers live the curriculum; they know what works and what doesn’t work in today’s diverse and complex classrooms. Ultimately, if a curriculum does not work for teachers and support student learning, it will fail and, for us, failure is not an option.”
Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange claimed the government ended the collaboration with teachers because, “There are many partners within the education system that have a role in determining what Alberta students should learn. It is important that we open up the process so that more stakeholders are involved.” This of course is code for turning decision-making over to powerful elements in the private sector.
To replace the teacher-government collaboration the United Conservative Party (UCP) hand-picked a 12-person review panel, which seems aimed at ensuring the new curricula are not “subversive.” A former Edmonton school superintendent leads the panel. He is a fellow of the corporate-funded Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), a “think tank” promoting market-based principles of education, including charter schools, P3 schools, and privatization of the profitable aspects of education.
The rest of the members of the UCP review panel have never taught school. Fans of private, charter, and faith-based schools dominate. A U.S. educator who advocates “school choice,” a neo-liberal euphemism encompassing school vouchers, charter schools, and private school scholarships, is also a member.
Further, while a major current priority in education is to implement recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in order to decolonize education, the UCP review panel does not include a single First Nations, Métis, or Inuit person. This is in stark contrast to the original consultation process which included a number of Indigenous teachers and educators.
The UCP Review Panel’s main job appears to be to ensure that the new curricula fit with UCP ideology. The predictable scenario is that after the panel “cleanses” the curricula, the UCP will claim credit for all the hard work already done by the teachers and K-12 education experts over the past three years. Meanwhile the government and its functionaries will continue to push the reactionary neo-liberal education agenda as hard as they can. Already, it has dumped Bill 9 on teachers attacking their collective agreement and suggestions abound that government-controlled wages for education workers and cuts to overall education funding are imminent.