Dropping the Alberta curriculum and switching to British Columbia’s may end up being the best decision the 19th Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly makes.
Alberta once had a modern, nonpartisan curriculum in the works. Rewriting its curriculum began under the Progressive Conservatives and continued under the New Democratic Party when it took the nation by surprise in its 2014 victory, causing widespread panic across the province’s conservatives who had ruled unopposed for 43 years. It created the perfect conditions for an opportunist politician to sweep in, which Jason Kenney did with Orwellian expertise.
Somewhere in the course of the NDP’s four years, a rumour was started that the curriculum modernization was a covert plan to indoctrinate kids. There was no evidence for this. The entire curriculum was available for viewing online. The foundation of the curriculum was laid out by the PCs.
It did feature modern ideas like teaching children what consent means, developing critical thinking skills, standing up to bullies, the fact the residential school program happened and the science of climate change. But no one who actually understood how a curriculum is laid out raised any concerns. Certainly no one could find any evidence the NDP was trying to convince children to seize the means of production.
Regardless, the rumours worked. With over a million votes, Kenney took power using this and several other narratives which have also turned out to be completely false — such as his rhetoric that environmentalists were secretly trying to undermine Alberta on behalf of foreign oil companies. This lead to his Anti-Alberta Public Inquiry, which after spending $3.5 million concluded there was no evidence of wrongdoing by environmental groups.
Once elected, Kenney put the curriculum “in the shredder” as he was fond of saying, erasing nearly a decade of work.
Since then, the country has been witness to trainwreck after trainwreck involving Kenney’s new curriculum. A survey of 6,500 teachers of the draft came back with 91 per cent against it. Instead of learning about Indigenous issues and climate change, the United Conservative Party wanted students to learn the Magna Carta and about Kenney’s jazz musician grandfather. Much of the curriculum was developed behind closed doors, as opposed to the open consultations of the previous curriculum. Teachers have largely been locked out of the development of the curriculum and the ones who were invited to give feedback say they were largely ignored.
An overwhelming majority of Alberta school boards are refusing to even trial run it. Public backlash against the UCP’s curriculum has been so strong the government is delaying some of the more controversial parts, but critics point out the portions being moved forward are still rife with errors. In all likelihood, the entire thing will need to be scrapped and started over from the beginning.
Even if current polls are correct and Albertans have concluded the monorail they bought is flying off the track, by the time they clean up this mess it will likely be close to 2030. That’s an entire generation. Meanwhile, seemingly unhindered by the same partisan politics, B.C.’s curriculum is ready to go.
Alberta’s curriculum fiasco was Alberta’s choice, not ours. By decoupling the North’s fate from our neighbour’s self-imposed problem, the GNWT is doing northerners a great service this holiday season.