Progress Report Newsletter #229: Curriculum kayfabe

Alberta’s schools are set to re-open only a few weeks from now but we don’t appear to be getting any closer to a safe plan from the provincial government.

Mounting pressure from parents for more protective action against coronavirus has pushed education minister Adriana LaGrange to relent and require masks in schools. But the change has come so late that the provincial government didn’t have the time to openly procure these masks from the many potential local producers. Instead, the bulk of the masks are being ordered (at apparently no bulk discount! great deal!) from the American corporation Old Navy, with the remainder coming from a Red Deer company owned by a major UCP and LaGrange donor.

Where the education file is concerned the UCP government appears much more focused on fulfilling their campaign promise to throw out and restart the curriculum review that the Notley government had been working on. During the election, UCP candidates painted a picture of classrooms ruled by leftist bias, where children were being indoctrinated to hate ‘traditional Canadian culture’ and the fossil fuel industry. That effort continues apace. When asked by journalists for examples of political bias in the proposed curriculum, Minister LaGrange could provide none; but LaGrange and the various UCP press secretaries and spokespeople have instead shopped around misleading anecdotes like this multiple choice quiz the Minister has been complaining about for over ten months (a quiz which was completely in line with the former curriculum designed by the PCs.)

If you didn’t catch LaGrange’s press conference on the curriculum review last week--it was absolutely bizarre. David Climenhaga has a good summary on his blog. For a validator the Minister invited a former superintendent, Angus McBeath, to give a presentation that I can only describe as Abe-Simpsonian. After a long digression about how young people these days don’t appreciate their service jobs enough, Mr. McBeath assured viewers that Alberta’s new curriculum would teach students to read and do mathematics (the old one didn’t?) and would produce the type of person who you’d be happy to sell you a used car.

Carla Peck, a professor of elementary education at the University of Alberta, has written a thorough summary of the changes the UCP are making that you can read here. After sifting through the UCP complaints and proposals, I’m struggling to find much of substance that the UCP are changing at all. Ongoing work is certainly being thrown out, but it's not being replaced with much. At the end of the day, I'd call it just a performance: the UCP invented a fictional problem (leftist bias and ideological indoctrination in schools), convinced their base that the problem existed and was urgent, and are now flailing to appear as though they’re actually addressing it. Believers in the idea that the NDP were indoctrinating children may be impressed by LaGrange and McBeath’s vague promises. The rest of us, I think, would prefer to see the Minister focus on the looming, and perhaps at this point inevitable, COVID-19 second wave in our schools.


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