There’s nothing wrong with a little financial education, but is that what Alberta students will be getting from the grade school “financial literacy” program Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced at a news conference yesterday?
Ms. LaGrange said the United Conservative Party Government will pour $5 million into three organizations to provide what her potted quote in the government’s news release called “future entrepreneurs, innovators and creators” with “much-needed financial knowledge and skills for personal and professional success.”
I don’t know about you, but when I hear this kind of expenditure of public funds described as an “investment” it sets my nose twitching for the source of the stuff sprayed on the fields just west of my little house on the Prairie.
So who or what are these organizations that will supposedly be providing financial literacy “learnings” for Alberta students?
Something called the Enriched Academy will receive $900,000 per year over the next three years to “provide students in grades 7 to 12 with financial literacy programming on topics such as money management, budgeting, credit and student loans.”
Enriched Academy, seemingly sometimes presented as EnRICHed Academy, appears to be a private company, not an academy, that sells pre-packaged courses about money. Its website is remarkably uninformative. There is very little information about it from neutral sources. Nor is the government’s news release particularly helpful.
A non-profit organization called the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education will be given $500,000 a year for the same stated purpose. Like the academy, little balanced information from neutral sources appears to be immediately accessible about the CFEE.
However, it appears to be somewhat more transparent. There seem to be lots of people connected to the financial services industry on its board and staff. There are a few with ties to both the federal Liberal and Conservatives parties. Union officials? I didn’t notice any.
Who bankrolls it – other than Alberta taxpayers now – is not immediately clear. Banks and financial services companies certainly play a role, judging from its website. Perhaps this can be cleared up in the days ahead.
The CFEE, fortunately, does not seem to be associated with the Foundation for Economic Education, the libertarian U.S. think tank founded in 1947 in hopes of rolling back the policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Still, I don’t imagine the CFEE will be teaching Alberta students about the benefits to Canada of a Green New Deal or a Just Transition any time soon.
Finally, Junior Achievement Southern Alberta will receive $250,000 a year for three years to “provide young learners in grades 3 to 6 with hands-on, experiential financial literacy programming, work readiness and entrepreneurship education.”
These are also phrases that should set alarm bells ringing among financially literate people who pay attention to the activities of right-wing governments.
Unlike the other two, JA has a Wikipedia page. Unfortunately, according to the folks who run the Wikipedia, the article about the international organization of that name “contains content that is written like an advertisement,”or may even “have been created or edited in return for undisclosed payments.”
We do know, though, that JA Worldwide was a key part of a fightback effort by the U.S. National Association of Managers in the 1940s to counter the legacy of the New Deal and inculcate young people with enthusiasm for corporate capitalism.
To its credit, JA Southern Alberta is transparent about its mostly corporate donors – who, according to its website, are its only source of revenue. Which makes all of us Albertans, I guess, JA donors too, double-donors if you happen to live in Chestermere, Nanton, Kneehill County, Cochrane, Strathmore or a few other Alberta communities.
The three organizations will reach more than 360,000 students with their program, the government press release boasts.
The release doesn’t say if the curriculum materials developed by the three organizations will be properly vetted by curriculum professionals for accuracy and balance. But then, as we have seen with the government’s controversial and highly ideological K-6 curriculum changes, the UCP doesn’t pay much attention to curriculum professionals anyway.
Will Albertans be getting good value for this “investment”? It’s too soon to say.
Will Alberta students be getting genuine financial literacy tools or corporate propaganda? Probably a bit of both.
What will they be told about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, if anything? God only knows.
And since, according to the UCP Government, parents know best how their children should be educated, will parents have the option of pulling their children out of these programs if they find them to be biased and propagandistic? Don’t count on it.
ATA assails Bill 15 as ‘profoundly damaging’
While Ms. LaGrange trilled Wednesday about how pleased she was by the passage of Bill 15, legislation that strips the Alberta Teachers Association of its regulatory role and hands it to a government appointee, ATA President Jason Schilling yesterday said the change “will be profoundly damaging to one of the world’s best education systems.”
“Albertans should be very concerned that this bill was passed based on unfounded allegations propelled by lies and misinformation,” Mr. Schilling said bluntly in a news release.
“Bill 15 is an effort to punish the association and teachers for daring to stand up to the government’s bad decisions when it comes to education, and to coerce us into complying with their agenda, but we will not waver,” he said. “We will continue today and into the future to stand up for students, for teachers and for public education.”
As with anything else that the UCP has done with the public education system in Alberta, during their not so great term in office, I’m sure whatever the UCP does with this will have some type of hidden agenda, be geared towards the UCP and their rich corporate friends, and it will also be very flawed. The UCP’s K-6 school curriculum is very messed up, and this shouldn’t be any different.
I have come to the point where, even if it sounds reasonable or benign, I trust absolutely nothing this government implements.
Here’s how they got started with a bit about who the founders are. 900K per year for a CD? Hopefully they have something a bit more sophisticated by now. https://financialpost.com/entrepreneur/dragons-sold-on-enriched-academys-financial-literacy-program-for-youth
Rogera2: Thanks for this. Looks like they’ve hit the bigtime now! DJC
The UCP is a neoliberal alt right party even if many members don’t understand that term. In the USA, the Republicans have been surreptitiously undermining democracy, promoting a free market and their pro male agenda for 30 + years. And they are getting closer to their objectives of prohibiting abortion, making the basic voting right if not impossible, certainly more difficult for millions. Look at and review Kenney’s legislation, anti demonstration, anti union , allowing big business (or littler businesses) to influence municipal and provincial elections, and a whole list of other including and especially education. They take small steps because many Albertans think that voting is enough to preserve democracy. Freedom is not an issue, it’s a manufactured issue meant to distract. PP squared has been playing it every day.
DC, thanks again for keeping us apprised of the latest shenanigans of this execrable government and pathetic excuse of a political party.
Given the behavior and the implicit and explicit agenda the UCP informs us of every single day, I have no doubt that your instincts about the propagandistic nature of this imported, canned financial literacy curriculum are correct. The UCP and Kenney have made it quite clear that they view education through a political lens as a means to create a population that is less able to think critically and is more favorably inclined toward conservative principles. They want education to serve their political ends to remain in power forever; they don’t want education to serve the greater good of the population and the economy as whole.
Phlogiston: I appreciate your comment. Just asking questions about this “initiative” illustrates what’s wrong with it in principle, even if the course materials turn out to be of high quality. It is, however, a kind of commentary that is frowned upon in mainstream journalism, with its obsessive quest for balance. Savvy organizations can thereby stop the necessary questions from ever being asked in public just by not returning reporters’ calls. I thought the legacy media coverage of this story was of very poor quality, basically just rewrites of the government’s new release, which comes complete with gaps large enough to drive a Mack Truck or a Kenworth through. DJC
“Based on unfounded allegations propelled by lies and misinformation” is the motto
for every decision made by the UCP Alberta government since 2019, isn’t it?
As is often the case, the devil will be in the details, which seem to be missing from the press release David provided the link to.
I read the press release carefully, trying to determine if these companies would actually be sending speakers out into classrooms, or just providing materials for teachers to access while preparing their programs. If it is the latter, each teacher could be an effective filter, extracting the useful information from the material, while discarding the ideology. The former, however, brings to mind Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins telling a class of Grade 7 & 8 students that carbon dioxide was necessary for life, so a carbon tax was not necessary.
More missing details: will financial literacy be a separate option-type course, or will it be part of a core subject like Social Studies? Putting it in Social Studies is more of a concern if it means students will be required to repeat the ideology on a provincial achievement test.
My guess is they will stick it in CALM, the “Career & Life Management” course every high school student needs to pass to get their diploma.
It isn’t a surprise this is the same government who wants to kick out the RCMP to get control of our police force so they can use them against anyone who doesn’t support them, just like Hitler did, as Germans have told us over the years.
Financial literacy will only be for those that can afford it, just like health care, car insurance, property and income tax, utilities and groceries just to name a few. As noted by Alan this type of over kill on anyone who opposes the UCP is exactly what happened to Germany under Hitler. If Kenney has his way he will replace the Cross of St. Andrews on the Alberta flag with the stars and stripes.
Old Alberta: I believe that is the cross of St. George on the Alberta flag. But perhaps St. George is nowadays is in bad odour given his role in Russian symbolism. In addition to being the patron saint of England and Georgia, he was the patron saint of Yaroslav the Wise, ruler of Kievan Rus, and the highest Russian military honour in the post-Soviet period is called the Order of St. George. The Scots are not off the hook either: The No. 2 Russian military decoration is now the Order of St. Andrew, and St. Andrew’s cross graces the jack flown by Russian military vessels. The little striped ribbons you see on Russian lapels nowadays are St. George’s ribbons. DJC
Thanks for the correction. I guess the comment was more along the lines of Kenney more interested in becoming American and like his orange friend would prefer to dictate rather than be reasonable and negotiate.
Feels like the UCP is trying like hell to create an entire province comprised of a more violent, ignorant and racist version of Sunnyvale Trailer Park. I guess it makes sense – reasonable, responsible, adults don’t vote Conservative anymore, because they know the difference between a “Conservative” and a “society-pillaging racist.” Sometimes I think that deep down, under all the rhetorical artifice, the only thing the far right shares is a desire to make sure that mediocre white men, and only mediocre white men, stay in power. What other principle has guided them? Not fiscal prudency, not national security, not law and order, not even property rights (rights given to a few are far weaker than rights given to many)… the only “individual freedoms” they are interested in are the most ableist, such as the freedom to compete to be better able to shield yourself from COVID while also having the freedom to spread COVID with impunity. If you tell a white person that COVID is worse for non-white people, many of them take fewer precautions and care less about it. Seems incredible. (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/study-covids-racial-disparities-made-white-people-less-vigilant-virus-rcna22613)
Not fair to say “all white people who won’t wear masks or get vaccinated are racists.” Replace “all” with “most” though, or replace “racists” with “doing racist things” and I think you’re getting somewhere. You don’t need to know the contents of someone’s heart to know whether they are a racist, you need to examine their words and actions for the effects they will have on racialized people. As a thought exercise, try viewing people through the lens of “who is doing things that will harm non-white people more than they harm white people?” You might be astonished at what you find. I’m definitely not saying that is the only useful lens to see the world through. Sometimes a cigar is racism, sometimes it’s just a cigar.
I don’t usually rant like this anymore. If I called this kind of behaviour out every time I saw it, I’d have time for nothing else, but it does have to be called out every once in a while.
Back when the earth was still cooling in the late 70’s I took a course in grade 11 that was called Economics. It covered things like mortgages, income tax, house hold budgeting and investments to name a few. There was also an accounting course, which I did not take. There were also sections on interest, deprecation and even dollar cost averaging in a math course in grade12. I wonder if these are still being taught in that other province. If we want a well functioning society and citizenry there are certain topics that should be taught coast to coast to coast. This is one of them. Correct me if I am wrong but I don’t believe that outsourcing has ever saved money.
Ah financial literacy, its like motherhood – everyone is for it in theory.
In practice, the financial services industry often makes things more confusing and complicated because that works to their advantage. I was reminded of that when I recently received a 6 page credit card statement for a card I only had one transaction on. They do their best to bury their customers in a deluge of fine print, ever changing terms, conditions, services and fees.
So the rationale of financial literacy is that customers should be informed and make good decisions. This is ok to a point, but when you are dealing with large corporations that engage in oligopolistic practices and tend to do what they want and think is to their benefit, it is not a level playing field. I suppose the Conservative ideological argument is a bit of financial literacy would replace the need to effectively regulate these companies. That is totally false.
Hopefully, students will be able to get some useful information and will be able to reject the inevitable propaganda parts of the financial literacy courses. I suppose this would be a good situation for teachers to encourage critical thinking skills in their students.
None of the people listed on the “About Us” web page at Enriched “Academy” appear to have have any qualifications.
Could be a red flag.
Oh, HEY! Enriched “Academy” has a “Money back guarantee” complete with a web page blaming you for being a failure.
Something smells a bit clammy to me.
In the late 1990s my junior high daughter was subjected to much drivel about entrepreneurs in her Alberta public school Social Studies class. She was even required to write an essay about a famous entrepreneur. At the time she had discovered Andreas Schroeder’s book series “Scams, Scandals, and Skulduggery.” Her essay topic focused on the American bootlegger, Al Capone, who, she pointed out had all the characteristics of an entrepreneur including funding soup kitchens to divert public attention from his other activities fulfilling the public’s thirst for booze. The point is that this dreaminess about getting rich quick runs deep in Alberta’s culture, especially post-Getty. This UCP idea is just the latest (no doubt expensive and wasteful) low-rent manifestation.
Let’s not forget that J.A. Had representation on the Curriculum Advisory Panel (the former CEO of Northern Alberta J.A.) – and now J.A. gets a contract from Alberta Education. Someone at Alberta Education really likes this organization.
Watching Pierre Pawliver hurl sarcastic comments at Jean Charest for being a former liberal just proves how two faced he is. He doesn’t have any problem with his pal Jason Kenney being a former liberal does he?
I agree with Charest he certainly made an ass of himself when he supported these damn truckers and while these phoney conservatives whine about Trudeau wasting $215,000. on a holiday they cost taxpayers $36 million by supporting criminals creating a nightmare for truckers trying to do their job and citizens in Ottawa and they don’t care. So much for their disguise as conservatives. Where is the intelligence in that. You can bet Peter Lougheed wouldn’t have been this stupid.
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