Opinion piece by Susan Delacourt

Opinion: Why Kenney won’t back down on curriculum

Premier Jason Kenney is refusing to back down on the draft K-6 curriculum, no matter what teachers, educational experts, and parents say.

With that one has to wonder what is the deal with Kenney’s personal war on public education?

Ironically, the war began when Kenney whined about the 2018 draft K-4 social studies curriculum not having enough war stories in it. This was long before the initial draft was complete, released for public review, and before he was the leader of the UCP.

Upon election, the UCP government immediately cancelled the curriculum writing agreement with the ATA, appointed curriculum advisors, removed the word “public” from schools and had a full K-6 curriculum written quickly, full of plagiarism and inappropriate content. This curriculum rewrite and our children’s education was doomed by Kenney from the beginning.

The 2018 K-4 draft curriculum was not even made public until a full year after Kenney started whining about it. Despite his campaign lies, the 2018 draft K-4 curriculum was not written behind closed doors nor was it full of NDP content. Even Kenney’s hand-appointed advisory panel noted the 2018 draft “was developed through a collaborative approach with teachers, subject-matter experts, and system leaders.” Kenney cannot lay claim to residential schools, consent, and financial literacy being in the 2021 draft, because they were already clearly and respectfully written in the 2018 draft. Why was there was no public outcry after the 2018 draft was released? It was solid. It simply needed to be piloted and revised. Yet extremely few school boards are willing to pilot the 2021 draft. Hmmm… I wonder why.

Kenney was right about one thing in the 2018 draft K-4 curriculum. There was not one word about “Confederation or the rule of law or parliamentary democracy” or “military history.” That’s because it was a draft K-4 curriculum, where children’s ages range from four to nine. Read that again. Ages four to nine. There were still eight other grades for educational experts to address how to teach Canada’s history in a contextual, developmentally appropriate, and respectful manner. No educational expert would insist that a sole conservative politician’s military and economic indoctrination begin in early education when children are still learning to hold a pencil, tie their shoes, and develop social-emotional skills.

Kenney is so hell bent on his war on public education that he did not listen to his hand appointed advisory panel. The Recommendations on Direction for Curriculum document asserted that the curriculum “reflect a balance of perspectives,” “introduce new concepts at developmentally appropriate times to ensure the well-being of students remains a top priority,” and highlighted that the 2018 draft K-4 curriculum “is informed by clear and appropriate understanding of learners at different stages of development.” In other words, there were no professional recommendations to completely throw out every single subject in the 2018 draft and replace it with Kenney’s personal dogma about politics, religion, and economics.

It is clear that Kenney intends to move quickly in ramming this curriculum forward.

Even with a 99 per cent non-confidence vote in the Minister of Education, Kenney continues to dig his heels in and recklessly forge straight ahead.

Does Kenney really think Alberta’s public schools are the place to bore and traumatize elementary students by memorizing his own personal ideological perspectives of war, Confederation, parliamentary democracy, military history and religion?

This is not about left or right. This is about our children’s future.

Angela Grace, Ph.D., is a registered psychologist, former elementary teacher, sessional instructor at the University of Calgary, and steering committee member of the Alberta Curriculum Analysis website.