Directing Education in Alberta #abed #ableg #abpoli

As of Tuesday, those who were elected to form Alberta’s next government began with a new slate; not a clean slate but a new one. Let the past inform the present but only Kenney knows what he has in store for Alberta.

One Ministry to watch is Education. Prior to the appointment of Adriana LaGrange as its Minister, Kenney pledged to start the curriculum review over, remove “failed teaching fads”, and rid the province of the constitutional challenge against Bill 24. At his government’s swearing in ceremony, Kenney assured Alberta that the UCP believed parents know better than politicians what education is best for their children.

Kenney’s plan for the curriculum is to return to basics and remove “dangerous” NDP ideology. Since the 1930’s, Alberta’s curriculum has been developed with an Alberta focus: its economy, its place in confederation and its difficulties with the federal government. The social framework that was central to the curriculum was “hard work” and “freedom”. 

Among other changes, such as removing limits on school fees and the cap on charter schools, proclaiming the Education Act over the School Act removes the protections put in place by Bill 24 because Bill 24 was an amendment to the School Act, not the Education Act.  

When answering a question about an anti-UN post shared by Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland candidate (now MLA) Shane Getson during a Facebook Live announcement in early April , Kenney responded “it’s not a view of the United Conservative Party as we don’t get into stuff involving the U.N.. Except for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;” he added cheerfully, “we’re going to quote it in the new Education Act.”

Following the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms‘ arguments against Bill 24, the Act to Strengthen Gay-Straight Alliances, most revolve around parental rights. In particular, the JCCF refers to Article 26(3) of the Declaration: 

Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

This choice allows parents the option to remove their children from sexual education modules in health class, religion classes in religious schools, and offers them the opportunity to home school. (3) is also used to justify the universal right of parents to access school choice, which Kenney’s promise to remove the cap on Charter schools satisfies.

Article 26 also includes the following, although whether it will make an appearance is debatable:

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. (emphasis mine)

Mr. Carpay may not have the influence he is suspected to wield in the United Conservative Party but if he has a champion within the Party, be it the leader, a Minister or a respected advisor, we could well see Mr. Carpay et al’s arguments eventually ensconced in the laws of the province.

As someone recently pointed out to a former NDP MLA on social media “How does it feel to be irrelevant? That’s how (the NDP) government made over a million Albertans feel for the last four years.” 

It feels as if it might be payback time.

At the end of the day, education is about preparing students for their future with knowledge that goes beyond their personal experience. There is a big, big world outside of this province and our students deserve to be able to succeed in it, if they so choose.

This post contains fact and opinion. 

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean

contact: [email protected]

Twitter: @Mitchell_AB for all the commentary, @thisweekinAB for posts