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Sundre teacher calls UCP’s education vision 'shockingly unbalanced'


The UCP has released its vision for education and is seeking feedback. You can follow the link to fill out a survey. Be forewarned: the survey is difficult to fill out, and it is designed to arrive at a predetermined outcome, not designed to gather meaningful data.

To me, it looks unusably vague, except for where it gets specific. In cases where it gets specific, it mirrors the UCP election campaign, and has no signs of independent or expert influence as far as I can tell. Disclaimer: I don’t hate the UCP, they have some good ideas, and I don’t love the Liberals or NDP, they make many mistakes. I do not identify with any political party. I support science, rational thinking, and data-based decision making that is most strongly influenced by the experts in the field.

Leading up to where we are now, the UCP tossed out last June the work that had been done by the previous curriculum panel. Before getting fired in June, there were about 60 teachers involved, along with about 60 non-educators. These non-educators were there to provide a wide variety of different perspectives.

It was well on its way to being a great document, but was not yet finished. In the early stages around 2012, there was a massive public consultation process by the then conservative government, with tens of thousands of submissions, which were meaningfully included in the process.

There were no significant changes to the process that the 2011-2015 PC government established when the NDP took over in 2015. The NDP certainly made mistakes, but the curriculum work was not one of them. The frequent claims that Premier Jason Kenney has made about the curriculum design process are patently and demonstrably false. My friends on the previous provincial education curriculum panel are adamant that the process was free from political influence.

In June, after the election in May, Adriana LaGrange, the new education minister, shared her vision for the curriculum with the teachers and non-educators who were on the redesign committees. They all soundly rejected it, so she fired them all.

She then created the panel comprised of patronage appointees and like-minded folks who came to the predetermined conclusions she wanted them to arrive at. This newly released vision is nearly identical to the one that LaGrange shared with the curriculum redesign group last June. The millions of dollars spent on the several years of work seem to have been wasted, setting us back from implementing much needed changes.

With the new vision for education in Alberta, it looks as though we are taking a hard turn to an Orwellian future where the curriculum will be designed around party campaign talking points. I cannot imagine a more effective way to stifle innovation and limit our future economy, let alone our thinking. This would be outrageous from any party. It is an attack on teachers and the education system. If we follow this path, I believe there will be irreparable harm.

Here are some examples to support my conclusion.

The number of mentions of science or science-based teaching in the government’s proposed curriculum is zero. The number of mentions of work, economic or industry perspectives to inform our teaching practice and curriculum design is more than 50. Other than an important section about First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FMNI) perspectives, the only other perspectives mentioned are economic focused ones. To be clear, economic perspectives are important. We should, and do, teach those a lot. Probably close to half of my focus on perspectives in classroom discussions are economically based. That is how the current curriculum is written for chemistry, and it is a very important perspective. But in this document, the focus is shockingly unbalanced.

The number of mentions of environment, or environmental perspectives, is also zero. The number of mentions of global perspectives or Canadian perspectives is...yup, zero. The whole thing is 100 per cent Alberta perspectives. It talks about a balanced approach, but the government’s idea of balance seems to be 99 per cent economic, one per cent FMNI, zero per cent science, zero per cent from outside Alberta, and zero per cent environmental. This approach will destroy Alberta’s economy as we create a generation of limited thinkers who are unemployable, unable to problem solve, and unaware of the world around them, not to mention unable to care for our planet or each other.

While it acknowledges Alberta students perform at the top of the world in math, it then proposes to gut the math curriculum by removing problem solving and focusing only on rote. Clearly, fundamentals are important. We need to do a better job on them, but we also need more than arithmetic solvers — we need problem solvers. There is one mention of problem solving; it is in the context of students learning fundamentals so they can problem solve in the future. However, there are zero ideas on how to develop problem solving itself. This is not a balanced approach; this is regurgitating partisan campaign sound bites.

It essentially accuses social studies teachers of failing to do their jobs and avoiding economic perspectives. This does not describe any teacher I have ever met.

The only English and language arts point presented is that we need to do more cursive writing, as if that is the single most pressing need we have for the future. Maybe we should be doing a better job of teaching cursive, but why is that the only thing the government seems to care about in English education? Creative writing and critical thinking are far more important. Yet there are no ideas presented on developing these things, other than we need to do more rote so they can learn to be critical thinkers in the future.

Adriana LaGrange, our minister of education, says she is worried about “extremist views” being taught in schools. She also fully supports the recommendations of this panel. I certainly worry about her extremist views, where the only perspective in the world that matters is the Alberta economy, with a token, passing mention of FMNI issues.

This document is the most extremist thing I have ever seen from Alberta Education.

Ryan Beck,