Alberta Politics
Alberta Teachers Association President Jason Schilling (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Teachers overwhelmingly reject Alberta’s draft K-6 curriculum, but that’s unlikely to change Jason Kenney’s mind

Posted on September 30, 2021, 1:18 pm
8 mins

It won’t come as a shock to anyone in Alberta that the Kenney Government’s draft Kindergarten-to-Grade-6 curriculum is a dangerous and ideologically motivated dud, or that most professional teachers despise it. 

Still, kudos to the Alberta Teachers Association for actually going to the trouble of commissioning an exhaustive professional review of the thing, conducting an online survey, soliciting written submissions from more than 6,500 teachers and inviting them to take part in focus groups. 

Premier Jason Kenney, Alberta’s de facto education minister (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

If there was anything surprising in the ATA’s publication of the review’s findings yesterday, it was that only 91 per cent of the teachers and school administrators surveyed were unhappy with the curriculum, while three out of four were “very unhappy.”

The ATA’s news release yesterday summarized the conclusion of the teachers surveyed as, “the draft curriculum doesn’t even meet the government’s own standards.”

Of course, that’s not really a surprise either – because the government’s established standards for school curricula were set by professionals too, back in the day when politicians in Alberta paid some attention to people who knew what they’re talking about. 

Under Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party Government, as the deadly fiasco of Alberta’s response to COVID-19 dramatically illustrates, we are governed by a group of know-nothings who pay no heed to experts, and in fact are actively hostile to knowledge and expertise. 

With the UCP, it’s all about ideology and culture wars. And when knowledge and ideology are in conflict, knowledge goes out the window. 

When that happens, there’s inevitably trouble ahead – whether it’s a deadly surge of the Delta variant or elimination of some of the most successful school curricula in the world to make way for a mess of right-wing and colonialist nostrums. 

As ATA President Jason Schilling said in the association’s news release yesterday, “if this curriculum moves ahead, Alberta’s kids will get left behind and be set up for failure in the 21st century.”

Alberta Education Minister, in law, anyway, Adriana LaGrange (Photo: Alberta Newsroom Flickr).

“This curriculum is based on ideological, antiquated ideas of what children should learn, by those who seem to have no experience with teaching in Albertan, or even Canadian, classrooms,” he added, rather diplomatically considering the circumstances. 

When Premier Kenney took over leadership of the province’s conservative movement, he pushed out progressive Conservatives, old-style “Red Tories” who had some respect for quality education, and made common cause with a coalition of home schoolers, private school operators, and zealots determined to use religious education to turn the clock back to the 1950s – or maybe to the 19th Century. 

This was not so different from the way the premier built alliances with anti-vaxxers, science deniers, and conspiracy theorists – with deadly results in public health care when we were unexpectedly confronted by an aggressive new virus. 

Premier Kenney, himself the product of a private school religious education, is also a crank with strong ideas – antiquated, ideological and mostly wrong – about pedagogy. 

He quickly surrounded himself with a group of hand-picked ideologues who share his eccentric views on education and set out to “reform” the curriculum. 

ATA Professional Development Coordinator Mark Swanson (Photo: Alberta Teachers Association).

This is why, of course, professional teachers were largely left out of the curriculum drafting process. Only three of 19 advisors involved in the rewrite had an education degree, ATA Professional Development Coordinator Mark Swanson told the CBC. Teachers invited to review the draft were required to sign a non-disclosure agreement. 

By definition, the UCP and Mr. Kenney don’t want to hear what professionals have to say. 

But it’s said here that of all the UCP’s benighted policy ideas, this new curriculum is the one Premier Kenney has chosen as his hill to die on.

It would hardly come as a surprise, therefore, to learn the premier dabbled in writing parts of this curriculum himself. He is, in effect, Alberta’s de facto education minister. This also explains why the official education minister, Adriana LaGrange, seems so irrelevant to the entire debate about the K-6 curriculum.

Among the flaws in the K-6 curriculum identified by the ATA are inauthentic and insulting Indigenous content that looks as if it were tossed in at the last minute, inadequate material reflecting Alberta’s rich francophone history, lack of respect for diversity, absence of support for a pluralistic society, failure to address racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry – “and language that, in fact, promotes such bigotry” – and an approach to religion that infringes on the religious rights of many parents.

Taken together, this adds up to “narrowly defined content that does not reflect the development of knowledge, understanding and skills for the 21st Century,” according to the ATA. 

Canadian jazz musician Mart Kenney, Jason Kenney’s grandfather (Photo: BCRadioHistory.com).

The authors of the ATA review were too polite to mention the draft’s megalomaniacal insider joke, contained in a passing reference to jazz, about the mostly forgotten Mart Kenney (and his Western Gentlemen), our own premier’s grandfather.

None of this should surprise us either, given the colonialist, Eurocentric and culturally chauvinistic worldview of Mr. Kenney and his claque.

Other flaws identified by the study appear to be the product of simple incompetence rather than the premier’s anachronistic worldview. 

These included muddled and illogical sequencing not done with teaching in mind, and “developmentally inappropriate learning outcomes that lack high academic standards and do not adequately describe what students must know and be able to do.”

In addition, of course, there are the now-well-known examples of plagiarism in the curriculum, both from the Wikipedia and a U.S. provider of curricula for home-schoolers, private religious schools and charter schools.

The ATA survey also indicates that 90 per cent of elementary school teachers feel uncomfortable about teaching the new K-6 curriculum, and 95 per cent of school principals are uncomfortable about supporting it in their school and community.

Mr. Schilling urges the government to shelve the draft curriculum and start over again, this time consulting teachers. 

That’s unlikely to happen as long as Jason Kenney is premier. 

12 Comments to: Teachers overwhelmingly reject Alberta’s draft K-6 curriculum, but that’s unlikely to change Jason Kenney’s mind

  1. Just Me

    September 30th, 2021

    Protest-free zones around schools coming…very soon.

    As for women’s health clinics, because there could be family planning services provided within, are exempt. Kenney-Boy gotta be gangsta and protect his base.

    Reply
  2. Mickey Rat

    September 30th, 2021

    Ok, I’ll bite. Why do we think this is Kenney’s chosen hill to die on? Is it maybe the least dangerous of all the bad options he has? I’m curious…

    Reply
  3. Just Me

    September 30th, 2021

    Insofar as this education curriculum is concern(ing), it should be remembered that so-called historian and grenadier guard hobbyist, Christian Champion, is Kenney’s favourite historian and unapologetic white colonialist. (Make the world … England and all that. Tally Ho!)

    It should also be remember that, in a fit of jingoism, the Harpo government initiated a two-year program to recast the War of 1812 and Canada’s own great patriotic war.

    Completely ignoring the well-documented reality that the war was started, on the most flimsy of terms by imperialist American war hawks (I’m looking at you, James Madison) the war itself was never popular in the US and was largely, and rightly, ignored. Us military commitment was not there in 1812, but by 1813, York was in flames and the US owned the Great Lakes. Harpo’s gang left those bits out because … cherry picking.

    The CPC’s efforts to paint the epic battles of the conflict, comparing the battles at Queenston Heights and Chateauguay to Marathon and Thermopylae, were not much more than the wanton rewriting of history, to appeal to no one who cares. The CPC’s cheering for all the Canadian victories was weird because one would think they would be cheering for the US conquering Canada and privatizing everything.

    Reply
  4. pogo

    September 30th, 2021

    Nice deflection. Remind me, how many UNA members are refusing vaccination. How many? In a pandemic of the unvaccinated? You guys crack me up!

    Reply
  5. pogo

    September 30th, 2021

    You know this is a cheap goal for them, right? What needs explaining? Duty? Responsibility? Ethical conduct? Hey Dave! Does UNA fund personal development?

    Reply
  6. pogo

    September 30th, 2021

    Get your vaccine! You whining morons!

    Reply
  7. Phlogiston

    September 30th, 2021

    Our dear leader no doubt strongly fears that the proper education of young minds will set the reactionary conservative cause back decades, if not forever. The UCP and other reactionary conservatives know that development of critical thinking skills in the electorate will cause more voters to question the dubious assertions that the UCP cavalierly parade as accepted fact. The more educated the electorate, the dimmer the UCP’s chances of holding on to power. Thus, Kenney and the UCP fear an educated electorate and desire an electorate that is at least as dumb as the majority of UCP MLAs, if not dumber. The way to get there is to trash the education curricula and make sure it does not teach media awareness, literacy, and critical thinking effectively.

    Reply
  8. Abs

    September 30th, 2021

    About Père Athol Murray, namesake of the school Kenney attended, and where his father was the principal:

    “Murray played a central role in the 1962 strike by Saskatchewan doctors opposing socialized medicine and inciting violence at anti-Medicare rallys on radio broadcasts, proclaiming “This thing may break into violence and bloodshed any day now, and God help us if it doesn’t.””

    From: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athol_Murray

    There you go. The things kids learn at residential schools!

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    October 1st, 2021

    The UCP really doesn’t know what they are doing, and nor do they even care.

    Reply
  10. !?

    October 1st, 2021

    “…outcomes that lack high academic standards and do not adequately describe what students must know and be able to do.” – Can’t be held accountable if there is no mark to measure against.

    @ MR above: Kenney has failed his base on covid (unions, masks, closures, vaccines etc) and needs something to show he is still one of them – maliciously sabotaging education is a big something he can give without having to deal with the consequences.

    Reply
  11. Bill Malcolm

    October 1st, 2021

    An open letter penned by Alberta Health Services (AHS) workers was sent to AHS on Monday Sept 27 by Calgary constitutional lawyer Carol Crosson. Dingleberry lawyers are always on hire for money.

    The letter was signed by 3,544 health care workers including 73 physicians, 1,111 nurses, 227 paramedics and thousands of allied health professionals, pharmacists, dentists, lab workers, psychologists and counselling professionals, medical students, AHS administrative and support staff and other health care professionals.

    In other words, signed by dolts. Stupidity strikes all sectors of society.

    The letter itself, which I read, repeats every known trope about Covid that can be gleaned from the internet, plus a complete non-understanding of “rights” and the constitution. It opposes mandatory vaccinations for AHS employees based on these nonsenses. The one I “like” is that if you’ve had Covid (no variant specified), you’re immune, period. Right, just like everyone is immune to flu and its various strains/variants despite having had ’em all through the years. Unortunately not the way coronavirus works — the common cold proves that. Is the application minor logic not a capability of the signers of the letter? Perhaps kenney’s new revisionist school curriculum will help .

    Well, the same vaccination strictures are being placed on health care workers of every kind in Nova Scotia as well, both public and private to include old folks home workers, etc. Be fully vaccinated by Nov 30 (second shot by Nov 16) and prove it or be placed on unpaid administrative leave. No excuses accepted. If these people refuse to get vaccinated after that for some so far unspecified period, then job termination will follow. I hear Forida and Texas need people like this. You don’t need quislings operating from within the health system with strange health belief systems. BTW, both unions that represent nurses in NS, including the one also representing oher government health care workers, the NSGEU, are in full agreement with the mandate. Apropos of Pogo’s comments above, I suppose the Alberta UNA position should be made clear as well. Alberta is in crisis — thankfully, so far NS is not, so the union position there is important, especially after this Open Letter of closed ideas.

    The NS premier, a Progressive Conservative, not the prairie Manning Conservative variety nascently emerging from a gopher hole fully formed spouting right wing manifestos on cue, advised the vaccine holdouts yesterday at a press conference they’re wasting their time sending him YouTube videos by “so-called experts” and screeds like those mentioned in the Open Letter to Dr Liu by these genius Alberta “health care professionals”. No notice will be taken of them, he said, because the gobbledy gook is contradicted by the public health success in the province so far. So, it’s get vaccinated or get out, the premier’s message to health care workers — you can refuse vaccination, that is your right — just don’t expect employment in the health care sector or its various publicly funded offshoots.

    And quite right too.

    Since many private companies and universities etc have had similar policies for some time, it hardly seems that that the public sector is leading with a glass chin on this one. And I note that kenney is finally welcoming NL medical staff to go to the aid of the Fort McMurray ICU. I bet none of those Newfies are unvaccinated, and they’re health care professionals with a pretty damn down to earth outlook. NL leads the vaccination stakes by a wide margin over other provinces, and probably has a reasonable school curriculum untainted by ideologues either.

    Reply
  12. Curriculum Expert

    October 1st, 2021

    One thing you haven’t mentioned is that a lot of the UCP curriculum was directly drawn from something called “Trivium” which is a bestseller in conservative homeschooling circles. The idea is that young children only memorize facts (ie. trivia) in the early grades, and any active thinking would be ignored, if not discouraged. This directly relates to Kenney’s involvement in Dominionism. The idea is to prevent critical thinking so you can indoctrinate children more easily.
    http://www.triviumpursuit.com/articles/

    Reply

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