Opinion: Scrap this draft curriculum and get back to tried-and-true process

Earlier this week, the provincial government released its new draft curriculum, and despite claims by Jason Kenney to the contrary, it is being met with widespread rejection and condemnation.

Since the draft was released on March 29, there have been statements of concern from the Alberta Teachers’ Association, academic experts, the Metis Nation of Alberta (MNA), and the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations. Parent councils are mobilizing to write letters to anyone who will listen, demonstrations are being planned, and protest signs are beginning to pop up on lawns and minivans.

Some of the problems with the draft are so glaring that they are easy targets for criticism: certain sections appear to be lifted directly from Wikipedia, while others mirror content found on the American curriculum website Core Knowledge[3] (which might explain the U.S.-centric nature of much of the content). But the draft curriculum doesn’t just suffer from sloppy construction and on-the-fly edits: it has fundamental and serious problems that spell disaster for Alberta’s once-lauded public education system.


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The draft views children as empty vessels that must be stuffed full of facts before they are fit to engage in critical thinking. The social studies curriculum for students in Grade 2 contains a dizzying list of topics spanning centuries of European history, as well as detailed information about Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. As a parent of a child who will be entering Grade 2 next fall, I know there is no way that my child could retain all of these facts, let alone be able to understand them or integrate them into his world view.

Even more troubling is the narrow perspective the curriculum takes; the mentions of Indigenous histories and world views are a token effort; there is no mention of francophone histories or perspectives; the LGTBQ+ community is absent; non-Abrahamic religions are omitted; and there is no discussion of human rights at all. Do we want our children to be able to master the 1980s edition of Trivial Pursuit, or do we want them to see themselves and their communities reflected in their curriculum and to be able to engage with it in a meaningful way?

What concerns me most is what kind of person will emerge at the end of Grade 6 after immersion in this curriculum? As a parent of two elementary-aged children and an advocate for public education for all Alberta children, I am dismayed at how the draft curriculum will impact children’s learning, their sense of community and their identity as Canadians. The intent of using political power to influence children’s world view through this curriculum draft is a gross political overreach.


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Previous provincial governments had a tried and true method for reviewing school curricula involving extensive engagement with teachers, post-secondary education and subject experts, and with input from parents. The process was administered by experienced staff at the Ministry of Education and largely avoided politicization. The current government has upended this process, appointing highly partisan advisory panels to provide curriculum recommendations and shutting out frontline educators from the process.

The shortcomings of this politicized process are now clear to Albertans and I believe the government needs to scrap this draft curriculum and go back to a process that is led by experts, based on evidence, and insulated from political interference. If the process is sound, the outcome will be too.

Christie Hurrell is a public education advocate and volunteer with Support Our Students Alberta (SOS AB).


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  1. ^ Columnists (edmontonjournal.com)
  2. ^ (edmontonjournal.com)
  3. ^ Core Knowledge (www.coreknowledge.org)
  4. ^ Community Guidelines (pages.postmedia.com)
  5. ^ email (pages.postmedia.com)