Terry Price, President of Public Interest Alberta
Sometimes I marvel at my ability to still be shocked by the antics, blunders, and regressive directives of the UCP-led provincial government after two years in office. 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. Not only is it completely inappropriate for the needs of Alberta’s students, but it is shockingly inept, with passages of the Grade 2 curriculum appearing to have been lifted straight from Wikipedia.
It's as if this curriculum has been deliberately designed by narrow-minded and ideologically-driven politicians and their allies to appeal solely to their right-wing base, with no regard for children, their learning needs, and the educational needs of Albertans into the future. In fact, that’s the only possible explanation for a curriculum that is already being mocked by the overwhelming majority of educators, school boards and schools of education within the province and will surely soon be mocked across the country and beyond.
In my former role as President of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, I was pleased to speak with leaders in educational innovation and research around the world. It was apparent very quickly that the Alberta Curriculum of Studies had achieved exceptional standing world-wide. 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 - the education of our children and our entire public education system will be undermined by this astonishingly regressive development.
Sadly, this misguided attack on our education system is entirely consistent with the UCP’s ideologically-driven and backward-looking approach to all aspects of government: trying to revive the coal industry in the face of the climate emergency, relentlessly undermining public services and promoting privatization, diminishing our provincial parks, attacking environmentalists through the UCP War Room, cutting corporate taxes which further enrich the wealthy, cutting thousands of public service jobs in health care and education, and making massive cuts to our post-secondary system at a time when we need much more education for all.
And now, we are faced with a brazen attempt to turn back the clock and transform elementary education into a “back-to-basics, just-memorize-the-facts” approach, just when our children and youth will be needing a much more rich and varied education for the challenging decades ahead – particularly as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant economic crisis, and face down the exponentially-increasing effects of the climate emergency.
People who care about the education of elementary-aged children and about the future of our public education system need to act now, to do the hard work of democracy in organized and sustained ways that will stop this absolutely unacceptable curriculum and the damage it will do.
Public Interest Alberta will be making this issue an important priority in the coming months, and we look forward to working with progressive individuals and organizations in determined and deliberate advocacy designed to turn this situation around. This advocacy should begin with a widespread call for two initial steps: the dismissal or resignation of the Minister of Education, and the immediate withdrawal of this curriculum proposal.