Protesters against the K-6 draft curriculum wrote messages in sidewalk chalk in front of Education Minister Adriana LaGrange's Red Deer constituency office on Tuesday. Staff had these messages washed away by mid-afternoon. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff)

Red Deer teacher, parents protest the proposed new elementary school curriculum

‘It needs to be re-written from start to finish:’ says teacher

Alberta’s draft K-6 curriculum excludes non-traditional learning styles, is “disproportionately” focused on Christianity, American history and body image, says a Red Deer teacher.

“I have two-and-a-half months left in my 35 year teaching career, so I am going to speak bluntly,” said Allan Baile, a teacher at Aspen Heights Elementary School. “I have deep-seated concerns,” he added, about what’s put into, and left out of, the curriculum.

He gave a few examples — including no reference to people in the LGBTQ community, a late introduction to First Nations discrimination at residential schools, and the UCP government’s lack of consultation and ideological bent.

Baile complained even the proposed curriculum for physical education over-emphasizes body image over exercise, good eating, and skills development.

He called the draft “a total campfire starter… it needs a total re-write from start to finish.”

The Red Deer teacher along with a Red Deer College education student, parents of children with disabilities, and New Democrat critics added their voices to those protesting perceived shortfalls in Alberta’s new school curriculum draft on Tuesday.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange released the over 600-page kindergarten to Grade 6 curriculum draft on March 29.

The local protest was initially planned for outside LaGrange’s Red Deer North constituency office at 11 a.m., but was instead switched to a virtual event to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.

By 12:30 p.m., more than 1,000 people had viewed it on the Albertans Reject Curriculum Draft Facebook page.

Red Deerians Alix Veno and Sarah Kriekle, who both have elementary-aged children, say they organized the protest to raise awareness about the deficiencies of the proposed new curriculum and to advocate for “going back to the drawing board” on it.

Although some credit was given to the curriculum including discussions around consent, among the many complaints voiced by speakers was an inappropriate focus on “Christian colonialism,” primarily in Social Studies, without inadequate teachings about its oppression of other races.

Residential Schools would not be introduced to students until Grade 5, contrary to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee recommendation it be introduced at kindergarten.

Baile and others were baffled by the in-depth American history included in the draft curriculum while things relevant to our country, such as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, are downplayed or ignored.

Veno noted the presence of Americans on the UCP government’s curriculum review panel.

Two mothers of students with disabilities, Shantel Sherwood and Alyssa Miller, who are members of the Hold My Hand Alberta group, spoke about the learning-by-rote memorization style that the new curriculum espouses, saying their kids can’t learn that way.

They also raised concerns about the complicated historical subject matter that would be taught to students as young as Grade 1 and 2. Sherwood said, at that age, her child wouldn’t know what to make of Genghis Khan, for example.

Miller considered it disappointing that the draft curriculum appears to give no thought to children with disabilities and their different learning needs.

LaGrange was unavailable for an interview on Tuesday.

Nicole Sparrow, press secretary to the minister’s office, said Alberta parents want an education system that provides children with a strong foundation of “essential skills and knowledge.” She added the draft K-6 curriculum does this by equipping students with basic reading, writing and math skills.

“While we are focused on literacy, numeracy, citizenship and practical skills in the curriculum, we think parents will appreciate the curriculum’s emphasis on learning about financial well-being, developing social and emotional learning skills that support mental well-being and consent,” said Sparrow.

She added the draft K-6 curriculum “moves away from experimental teaching methods and provides clear, specific details about the knowledge and foundational skills that all elementary students must learn in each subject and grade, and that both parents and teachers can read and understand.”

Parental feedback can be provided to the government through a survey at Alberta.ca/curriculum.



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