Alberta Politics

UCP drops the goods on Alberta Education

No one expected anything but ideological tripe to come out of a curriculum review that was chaired by a man who, despite running one of the most successful public school divisions in North America, had little good to say about the students within.

When the Curriculum Advisory Panel was first introduced, people were near faint from the testosterone.

One particularly pungent odour emanated from a former Kenney staffer who, without obvious qualifications for distinction as a childhood education specialist – aside from his former role with the current premier – was afforded the role of social studies review for Alberta children in kindergarten through grade four.

Eight more members, including women, and Indigenous scholars, were added shortly thereafter.

The addition quelled some of the initial pushback but no one was expecting a miracle on the prairies.

CBC’s Janet French dropped an article on the leaked draft proposals on Wednesday morning.

The proposals included learning Bible verses as poetry, removing education about residential schools from the K-4 social studies curriculum “because they’re too ‘sad'”, and focusing on memorization rather than inquiring minds.

According to the article, Indigenous members of the panel – who returned the request for comment – had not seen the drafts.

It wouldn’t be the first time the United Conservative Party had set up the CBC.

CBC Edmonton’s investigative duo, Charles Rusnell and Jennie Russell, had received leaked documents revealing an estimated 16,700 layoffs of AHS cleaning and laundry staff. After reaching out the Health Ministry’s press secretary prior to the Thanksgiving weekend, they were told they would receive an interview on October 13.

The Minister’s office instead sent updated documents to the Edmonton Journal, who posted an article on the morning of October 13 detailing 11,000 layoffs.

Dueling, or complimentary, outcomes

Aside from the internal high-fives the latter move likely received, the documentation given to the Journal reduced the estimated layoffs by more than 5,000, similar to a “door in the face” technique.

This technique would be most familiar to anyone who had ever donated money to any organization but let’s stick with political parties.

You answer the phone and the person on the other end identifies themselves as being a volunteer for the political party. They ask if you would be able to donate $250 during a pandemic/recession. You scoff. They ask if you could donate $100 and perhaps you consider it momentarily. In the end, you agree to donate $50.

Had they asked for $50 at the start, you might only have agreed to give $10. That’s why they ask for $250 first, and not $50.

The same is true with allowing someone to believe there will be 16,700 layoffs and realizing you can probably make due with 11,000. It’s not great, but it’s also not as bad.

I have no personal knowledge of the recommendations of the curriculum advisory panel outside of the CBC article, and I am being extremely charitable when I say that it is possible the UCP has no intention of accepting some of the more ludicrous recommendations.

However, leaked documents serve a useful purpose.

The government can gauge the public’s reaction prior to releasing the information themselves.

The government can also release something that is not nearly as outrageous – and by doing so makes an also unreasonable recommendation seem less so in comparison. Being not as bad doesn’t make it good.

That’s one scenario.

The second is less pleasant.

With the leaked recommendations, the Government of Alberta has served a greater purpose: instilling fear of public education in Alberta parents.

Remember, in 2019, the UCP government mandated that all public schools remove the word “public” from their mastheads.

And let’s be truthful here – the idea that the UCP will instill an even more ideologically driven curriculum than the one Alberta has had for decades is actually scary to a lot of people – over 750,000 of them, as a rough guess.

Unlike the NDP – who hoped that Albertans would choose a steady hand on the economy and spending over a platform of Budweiser wishes and T-Bone dreams – the UCP seems to be fully aware that its support is dissipating. For that reason alone, they may be willing to take more risks with policy, knowing they may not get another chance to burn Alberta’s youth with their brand.

And a government who has resigned itself to the consequences of its actions is likely more dangerous than one who hopes to be re-elected.

This post contains opinion.

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean is a political commentator physically distancing in Southern Alberta. Connect: @Mitchell_AB for more, @thisweekinAB for posts @politicalRnD for something in between

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