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Perception is nine-tenths reality… or 100 per cent in the UCP’s case

Posted on 13 April 2021 by Ryan Dahlman

Sometimes in the newspaper industry when reporters or editors are rushed, proofreading is rushed and errors are made. A missed comma, a typo, a spelling mistake, grammatical errors are left exposed and while they are in excusable, they sometimes happen due to time.

However, what is unforgivable is where factual errors are made and trust will quickly shrivel up. 

If there is any or some combination of those, the reader will move on and find another source. 

Unfortunately, if you are a government and you are in charge of your child’s education, you tend to be more negative. This brings us to the UCP and the roll out of the draft of a new curriculum. Portions of the new proposed (and still to be edited and finalized) curriculum was released — kindergarten to grade 6 was made public.

Before details of this curriculum was even released, the UCP were not given a lot of credit. There is such a vocal mistrust out there with the myriad of controversies: the handling of Covid-19 regulations (even 16 UCP MLA expressed their displeasure; the way the unrolling of the vaccines has been handled; environment concerns with coal mining which seemed to be quietly done until local citizens in the area sounded the alarm; the general destruction of the Eastern Slope mountains, the damage to ecology, drinking water; the waste of government money given to petroleum companies who closed up shop or the millions thrown away on the non-dead Keystone XL pipeline; the unilateral tearing up of the contract with physicians who as a union just voted again and threat of massive layoffs with nurses and teachers etc. 

Like many things with this government, there has been a lack of attention to detail. If you can’t get the small details correct, nothing else will work. The proposed curriculum has been a disaster, from when they initially announced who was on the committee (which seemed to incorporate everybody but a practising teacher). 

Every day there are examples of inaccuracies, such as calling the imperial system of measurement Canadian units and having to teach conversion of Canadian units with metric.  

There is another Grade 5 portion which reads “thousands of residential school students died and those that re-entered mainstream society are known as ‘survivors.'” Pulling out air quotes in a lecture talking about people who overcame atrocities as “survivors”? Bad form.

Critics have stated that the curriculum is too Christian-centric. In one portion of the Grade 6 Social studies, called “Understanding” the “Freedom of religious practice is encouraged but acceptance comes less easily-in part because newcomers bring new and unfamiliar religious faiths and practices.” Under Knowledge there is Christianity section which describes principal teachings but no other religion. 

In Grade 1 part of the learning involves investigating “the purpose of drama and music in ancient China, ancient Egypt and present day.” Grade 1?!

There was also talk some talk some of the initial draft had passages lifted from Wikipedia and that there were other glaring errors like on a Grade 4 social studies question: Use a map scale: get a map of Alberta and calculate the distance in kilometres (aka NOT Canadian units) travelled by the North West Mountain police from Regina to Duck Lake during the 1885 Metis uprising.

Cough, cough. Pssst…. Regina to Duck Lake are both in Saskatchewan. Now unless the NWMP were driving heavy duty trucks or ATVs, which, in this curriculum they may have well been, there is no reason for them to take an Alberta detour. 

Not surprisingly after heavy complaints that they were not part of the process, the Alberta Teachers Association didn’t have a voice in producing this new curriculum. In a survey of over 3,500 teachers Between (March 29 and April 7) was that 91% of teachers are unhappy with the draft 75 per cent of teachers are “very unhappy;” 90% are uncomfortable teaching the new curriculum; 95% of principals are uncomfortable supporting the curriculum in their school and community.”

The Metis Nation of Alberta cited “monumental concerns about the Euro-American colonial undertones.”

In a tweet, Dr. Carla Peck a Professor of Social Studies Education in the Department of Elementary Education has been highly critical of the government. Listen for a complete interview with Peck on the Forgotten Corner podcast  (Episode 34). She tweeted simply: “Minister 

@AdrianaLaGrange needs to listen to the K-12 curriculum experts, invite them to the curriculum writing table (along with Indigenous and Francophone community members), and start over. Today.”

Terry Price, president of Public Interest Alberta and former President of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation,  stressed how damaging the proposed changes would be to the quality of public education in Alberta. 

“Yet, with this singular and utterly misguided document, Alberta under this UCP government has completed its rapid transition from an international leader in curriculum for our elementary and secondary schools, to a laughingstock — except that it is no laughing matter,” explained Price in a statement. “Alberta’s proposed new elementary curriculum is remarkable in how thoroughly it gets almost everything wrong — including how children learn, the education they will need in our changing world, the role of facts and ideas, the need for critical thinking, and what is appropriate for younger children and their learning.” 

The Prairie Rose School Division announced Apr. 9 they had set up four teacher committees to further investigate the curriculum and make an official statement from there. Both Medicine Hat Public and Catholic school division immediately said they were not going to pilot the new draft along with one from St. Albert, Sherwood Park, Rocky Mountain Hose and two from Edmonton have already declared their intents on not piloting it. 

Even the Northwest Territories which had used Alberta’s curriculum for years is making the switch to B.C.’s curriculum. 

At time of writing, the Calgary Catholic School District was the only school division which had agreed to pilot the new draft curriculum.

A government sometimes makes decisions or develops policies for the greater good. People may not understand initially and are soundly criticized but in time the decisions will prove to be prudent. 

Right now, other than a few sporadic programs, not only are the policies facing harsh criticism at the time, they are proving to be dead wrong. 

Trust, faith and respect are needed from the electorate at some point. If the UCP government thinks they can turn it on right before the next provincial election needs to be held March 1-May 31, 2023. They need to make up a lot of ground and hope for a miracle to get it turned around. Trust is critical and if you don’t believe that I have some land in Alberta between Regina and Duck Lake to sell you.

Ryan Dahlman is managing editor of Prairie Post West and Prairie Post East,

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