New curriculum deepens old political divide in Alberta

Brings back memories of working on Discover Canada, the citizenship study guide introduced by former immigration and citizenship minister Kenney (my book, https://wordpress.com/page/multiculturalmeanderings.com/2507, has a chapter covering that):

When Alberta’s NDP government was still in power, the United Conservative Party campaigned on the idea that its political rival was trying to smuggle politics into Alberta classrooms. Once in office, UCP Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said her own government’s plans for a sweeping curriculum revamp would be about getting away from any “ideological bent.”

But when everyone got the first official look at the UCP’s draft kindergarten-to-Grade 6 curriculum this week, it became clear that the governing party’s political stamp is on its own strategy. In social studies, in particular, it’s a prescriptive, details-heavy document with a take on history that’s not an easy sell to many parents, or the people who teach the stuff.

The document asks Grade 3 students – kids aged 8 or 9 – to explain items many grownups struggle with, including the clauses of Magna Carta, the First Nations’ claim to land beyond the settled area of New France and “why Alberta is a leading resource-producing region.”

There was never a chance that a large-scale blueprint that outlines the lessons that will mould young minds would be anything but political. Education is a fraught issue everywhere, but it’s especially so in the polarized landscape that is Alberta politics. Here, there’s no consensus on where the oil and gas-focused economy needs to go, and where it feels like the NDP and UCP are locked in a perpetual, election-like battle.

The government says the draft K-6 curriculum brings a renewed focus to literacy, numeracy, citizenship and practical skills. Everyone seems to agree that the addition of financial skills, computer coding and sexual consent are good things.

The government is asking for feedback from the public but intends to test the curriculum in some classrooms this fall, and all students are expected to be learning it in the 2022-23 school year. The quick turnaround for reimagining the curriculum is in step with the government’s focus on fulfilling campaign commitments, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Alberta has long had a strong, well-regarded public-education system with high student test scores in reading, math and science, compared with global peers. Ms. LaGrange, however, also notes that some parts of the curriculum are decades old, and raw scores are either flat or seeing a decline.

“This is actually very ambitious – to change all of the curriculum at one time,” said Ms. LaGrange in an interview this week with The Globe and Mail.

But already, the Métis Nation of Alberta has called for a redo. Edmonton Public Schools – which counts more than 100,000 students of all grades on its rolls – said Thursday that it will not participate in a pilot run of the draft elementary curriculum this fall. The decision is based on worries about bringing in a new program during the pandemic. But there’s also high public concern as to whether the curriculum is age-appropriate, whether it properly addresses the issues of residential schools and reconciliation, and whether an “us-versus-them mentality” is embedded in the document.

Elk Island Public Schools is also out, and Edmonton Catholic Schools has saidit “will not be committing to piloting the curriculum.”

All subjects are under intense scrutiny but social studies appears to be the major sticking point. Some parents and critics say the curriculum is far too dense for young students, mishandles issues of race and leaves out LGBTQ issues, is too American- and European-centric, or is focused on the three major Abrahamic religions.

There are seemingly gratuitous partisan jabs, like in Grade 6, where the curriculum notes that “the United States Congress, controlled by the Democratic party, ruled in the Fugitive Slave Act that escaped slaves must be returned to their owners.”

NDP critic Sarah Hoffman’s blunt assessment is “this is a mess of a curriculum.”

But the UCP is responding, in part, to broader concerns about the education system – which Ms. LaGrange notes helped her party win the 2019 election. A key part of this is what she has described as the political biases of some individual teachers.

Last year, Ms. LaGrange referred to an excerpt from an exam that she said was from a Grade 10 class in Calgary. She argued that it was an attack on the province’s responsible energy sector. A multiple-choice question asked students to identify “one of the valid arguments against oil sands development” being the destruction of tracts of forest.

“My main concern has always been to ensure that our curriculum is taught without bias,” the Education Minister said the interview. “And the fact that the new draft curriculum is really based on factual content – that will really leave little room for bias in our classrooms.”

But the other side of this argument is that the ability of teachers to adapt to circumstances is diminished. “The new curriculum turns education into a checklist and rote memorization,” said Alberta Party Leader Jacquie Fenske.

And a second, related theme for the UCP is that current teaching now is so focused on the many errors of history, and injustices, that it fails to note the accomplishments of modern civilization, in Alberta and elsewhere. Premier Jason Kenney says it’s possible to face up to historical racism, for instance, “while also teaching how we have increasingly managed to overcome those things, and how we’ve created this incredibly diverse, pluralistic society.”

This part of the revamp is very on-brand for the UCP. Part of it, however, feels incongruous in a week when Mr. Kenney talked about “hitting our stride in diversification.”

An overly political remaking of Alberta’s now-strong school system is galvanizing parent groups who are against the changes. A big fight over the base curriculum for the youngest kids is not only bad for the province, it could make potential newcomers – and even the companies and investors Mr. Kenney’s government has spent two years trying to entice – less enthusiastic about coming to the province.

Politics will be part of any new curriculum. But Mr. Kenney’s UCP is, as often, in danger of letting politics take over.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-new-curriculum-deepens-old-political-divide-in-alberta/

Former co-chair of Alberta’s anti-racism council calls on government to release recommendations

Of note, but not surprising. Focus on “dinner and dance:”

A former co-chair of Alberta’s Anti-Racism Advisory Council is calling for the government to publicly release the group’s report and its recommendations to combat racism.

The Alberta government has not committed to releasing the report, which it received earlier this month. Heather Campbell said in a Twitter thread Wednesday the public should press them to.

“The report should be made public. Demand it be so. With racism, silence is merely an act of complicity,” she wrote, also noting that her experience serving on the council has been challenging and difficult.

Source: Former co-chair of Alberta’s anti-racism council calls on government to release recommendations

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 16 December Update

Main news continues to be with respect ongoing sharp spike in infections in most provinces and countries along with consequentdeath rate increases:

 

 
Weekly:
 
Infections per million: California ahead of New York, Sweden ahead of Italy (the Swedish model keeps on looking worse by the week)
 
Deaths per million: USA ahead of Quebec, Prairies ahead of Canada less Quebec
 
 
 
And Sun Media’s Brian Lilley painting a slightly more positive picture of Ontario than warranted (Ontario’s relative position within Canada reflects the upsurge in Western Canada):

If you listened to much of the media and the opposition parties, you’d think that Ontario was handling the COVID-19 crisis worse than anywhere in the country — perhaps worse than much of the world.

Despite all the problems that Ontario has faced, and I have written extensively about those, compared to our neighbours and similar jurisdictions, the province continues to perform well in the face of a horrific virus. This thought was brought to mind as I watched the first vaccines being administered. In Ontario, it was a nurse at the University Health Network giving a shot to a personal support worker from a long-term care centre.

Premier Doug Ford was nowhere to be found.

In neighbouring New York State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo actually conducted a live video conference with the nurse getting the first shot, inserting himself into the story in a way that only Cuomo can. The New York governor continues to receive praise for his handling of COVID and recently received an Emmy for his press conferences during the pandemic.

The media and the American establishment love Cuomo and his handling of the pandemic; it’s a shame his record is so abysmal. More on that in a moment.

Listening to opposition leaders here, you would think Ontario was in far worse shape than neighbouring New York.

“Today’s exploding COVID cases should be a wake-up call for Mr. Ford,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath tweeted.

Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said that Ford’s priorities this fall were not looking after the people.

“He was focused on helping his buddies and forgot about the rest of us,” Del Duca said Tuesday.

When it comes to critiquing Ford’s handling of the pandemic, I’ll take a back seat to no one. I’ve been critical of his handling of long-term care, the length and style of his lockdowns and the collateral damage they have wrought, but criticism needs to be based in some kind of reality.

Could Ontario have done better in dealing with long-term care in the first wave? Absolutely. The province though made decisions based on the information before them. After watching emergency rooms be overwhelmed in China, Italy, in New York City, the province put scarce resources into hospitals. COVID-19 hit differently here than elsewhere: the general population was ready, a small portion of our long-term care homes were not.

The majority of homes still have not had an outbreak.

Now, back to that comparison.

On Tuesday, Ontario, with a population of 14.7 million reported 2,275 cases. This was the highest ever, due in part to a change in how cases are counted, but let’s take the number at face value. There were also 921 people in hospital and 20 deaths. New York State, with a population of 19.4 million, reported 10,353 new cases, 5,982 people in hospital and 128 deaths on Tuesday.

Deaths from COVID-19 would be the stat that matters most and while Ontario has 27 deaths per 100,000 of population, New York State has 183 per 100,000.

Within Canada, Quebec is the only province the comes close to Ontario in terms of population, international travel, urban density and other factors. With a population of about 8.5 million, Quebec has recorded 89 deaths per 100,000 of population or 3.3 times the rate of Ontario.

Other neighbours with similar populations fare no better.

Ohio is at 84 per 100,000, Pennsylvania at 98, and Michigan at 113.

In fact, were Ontario an American state, we would be the 45th lowest state in terms of COVID deaths per 100,000 and were we an independent country, we would be below most of the industrialized world. Only Japan would be among the G7 nations that would be lower than Ontario.

The province can always do better, and it must.

That requires targeted and constructive criticisms rather than what the opposition is offering up.

Source: LILLEY: Ontario outperforms much of the world in dealing with COVID

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 9 December Update

Main news continues to be with respect ongoing sharp spike in infections along with death rate increases:

 
Weekly:
 
Infections per million: New York and California ahead of France, Sweden ahead of UK, Prairies ahead of Canada, Canada less Quebec ahead of Ontario, British Columbia ahead of India
 
Deaths per million: British Columbia ahead of India, Pakistan ahead of Australia
 
 
COVID Comparison Chart.002COVID Comparison Chart.003

And good commentary on Alberta Premier Kenney’s belated recognition of reality:

After months of pleading with Albertans to take “personal responsibility” to stop the spread of COVID-19, Premier Jason Kenney has finally taken personal responsibility himself.

On Tuesday, he reluctantly announced the kind of sweeping COVID-19 restrictions he had been tersely rejecting for weeks.

He is now ordering everyone to wear a mask in public spaces everywhere in Alberta. And nobody is allowed to hold any social gatherings outside.

You can say “hi” to your neighbour walking the dog but stay two metres apart and don’t dawdle. Starting Sunday, you can only get take-out from restaurants and pubs. No in-person dining. Casinos are closing as are bingo halls, raceways, bowling alleys, pool halls, fitness centres, spas, gym, indoor skating rinks.

Retail stores can stay open but only allow in 15 per cent capacity at a time.

The list goes on. Odds are, if you enjoy doing it, it’s cancelled, postponed or diminished.

As Kenney recited the new restrictions, he must have felt like he was reading the Riot Act to Albertans.

And, in a sense, he was.

As the pandemic grew in the past month from bonfire to wildfire, Kenney had tried to argue his way through the crisis by ignoring pleas from physicians, ridiculing the NDP opposition, and insisting Albertans would bring the crisis under control by taking “personal responsibility.”

In the end he was done in by the might of two factors: freedom-loving Albertans who didn’t take the COVID-19 virus seriously; and the COVID-19 virus that didn’t take freedom-loving Albertans seriously.

Adding those two together gives you the inescapable math of a pandemic.

“The recent surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations will threaten our health-care system and the lives of many vulnerable Albertans unless further action is taken now,” said Kenney.

“With the promise of a vaccine early in 2021, we can see the end of this terrible time. But all Albertans must take this more seriously than ever by staying home whenever possible, and following these new measures.”

Even though Kenney was speaking to all Albertans, he focused particular attention on those who will resent the new measures. They’re more likely to live in rural areas, reject government interference in their lives, and preach self-sufficiency. In other words, United Conservative supporters. By refusing to introduce tougher restrictions for weeks, Kenney was bending over backwards to placate his political base.

But the inexorable math of COVID-19 has forced Kenney to demonstrate he has a spine.

“To many people, these policies, these restrictions seem unjust,” said Kenney. “I’ve made no secret of the fact that Alberta’s government has been reluctant to use extraordinary powers to damage or destroy livelihoods in this way. It is why we have stressed education together with personal and collective responsibility from the very beginning and it’s why we tried to balance the protection of lives and livelihood rather than resorting to damaging measures as a first resort.”

Kenney also announced more money to help small businesses survive the new measures. That is a great idea but it was a great idea when critics suggested it weeks ago, along with the very restrictions Kenney announced Tuesday.

Better late than never?

Understandably, Kenney bristled at questions from journalists about whether he might be responsible for the COVID deaths of Albertans because he didn’t lock down the province sooner. Kenney said it would be a “mistake” to draw simple conclusions during such a complicated time.

But it is a question that will dog him. And NDP MLAs will no doubt be helpfully re-asking the question whenever a microphone or TV camera is within hailing distance.

“The lockdown announced today comes late,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley after Kenney’s news conference. “We could have acted four weeks ago. Since then, an additional 317 people have died.”

Notley will be wielding this rhetorical knife through the next election.

Kenney might be thinking “better late than never” and while that might be great when talking about filling a pothole or repairing a school roof, it’s not so great when talking about enacting more precautions during a pandemic that’s killing people daily.

Kenney’s new restrictions will last four weeks. That will take us through the Christmas holiday and into the new year.

During Tuesday’s news conference, Doug Schweitzer, the minister of jobs, economy and innovation, happily declared “a vaccine is almost here” as if the pandemic will suddenly end Jan. 5 when Alberta is scheduled to start inoculations against COVID-19.

The reality is that, because of logistics and supply issues, during the first three months of 2021 only about 10 per cent of Albertans will receive vaccinations, mainly health-care workers and the elderly.

The rest of us will have to wait and continue to wear masks, wash our hands, and practise social distancing for many more months. Perhaps by then enough Albertans will know how to practise “personal responsibility” without Kenney having to read us the Riot Act.

Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/opinion-thomson-covid-kenney-blinks-1.5833751?cmp=rss

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 2 December Update

Main news continues to be with respect ongoing sharp spike in infections along with death rate increases:
 
Weekly:
 
Infections per million: Alberta ahead of Germany, Japan ahead of Australia
 
Deaths per million: British Columbia ahead of Philippines, Canadian North ahead of Japan
 
COVID Comparison Chart.002COVID Comparison Chart.003
 

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 25 November Update, Picard on Alberta

Main news continues to be with respect ongoing sharp spike in infections along with death rate increases:
 
Weekly:
 
Infections per million: Italy ahead of UK, Prairies ahead of Ontario, Canada less Quebec ahead of India, Canadian North ahead of Pakistan
 
Deaths per million: Italy and UK now ahead of Quebec, Prairies and Alberta ahead of India, Pakistan ahead of Atlantic Canada, Canadian North ahead of Japan
 
November 4-25 increase:
 
Infections per million: Greatest increase in Canadian North and Western provinces, moving ahead of many European countries
 
Deaths per million: Similar pattern with respect to deaths
 
 

André Picard’s critique of Premier Kenney and his government’s response to the pandemic:

Feckless.

That’s the only way to describe Alberta’s “tough” new measures.

In response to the soaring number of COVID-19 cases in the province, Premier Jason Kenney declared a “state of public health emergency” on Tuesday.

He started out with a little muscle flex, saying “no indoor social gatherings will be permitted, period.” Outdoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people.

But then we learned that restaurants will be open for in-person dining, bars will remain open, and so will casinos, gyms, stores, primary schools (Grades 7-12 are going to remote learning).

Heck you would be hard-pressed to find anything that will be closed.

Places of worship are allowed to hold services with one-third of capacity, just as they are now but “we are moving from recommendations to rules.”

Mr. Kenney also earnestly announced that masks would now be mandatory in the province’s two big cities, Calgary and Edmonton. But they already are mandatory because municipal governments have been a lot more pro-active and sensible than the province.

What we saw Tuesday was inaction posing as action, a quasi-libertarian Premier bending over backward to do nothing while pretending otherwise.

But Mr. Kenney’s true nature was revealed when he began prattling on about how he has resisted a lockdown because it would be an “unprecedented violation of constitutional rights.” He once again heralded the importance of “personal responsibility” while, at the same time, announcing rules that clearly suggest people don’t have to be very responsible.

Acting forcefully to protect citizens from the ravages of a global pandemic is not a violation of their rights. Quite the opposite.

Just hours before Mr. Kenney spoke, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil announced the closing of all restaurants, fitness and recreational facilities, libraries, museums, casinos and more for at least two weeks.

Why? Because the province had a “surge” of 37 cases. Thirty-seven. Business owners actually demanded the lockdown, saying severe rules are the only way to retain consumer confidence.

Alberta recorded 1,115 coronavirus cases on Tuesday, along with 16 deaths. And that was the lowest rate in a while, because testing is way down. In recent days, Alberta has had more cases than Ontario, which has more than three times the population.

The testing system is overwhelmed. The contact tracing system has collapsed. Hospital beds, and all-important intensive care beds in particular, are filling up fast. There are dozens of outbreaks in hospitals and care homes and schools.

Alberta’s pandemic response was great for many months – the Premier was right to underline that fact. But the harsh reality today is that public health and hospitals alike are dangerously close to losing control of the situation.

Mr. Kenney said it himself: “If we don’t slow the ER and ICU admissions, it will threaten our health system.”

But then, in the next breath, he was back to talking about how it’s essential to keep businesses open.

Who knows what the public will make of this Jekyll and Hyde discourse? The between-the-line message seems to be: It’s business as usual.

Yes, the pandemic is a blow to the economy; yes, it’s taking a toll on our mental health; yes, there is a lot of collateral damage.

But if there’s one thing we have learned – or should have learned – is that all that will continue, along with the harm of COVID-19, unless you go all-in to slow the spread of the virus.

Mr. Kenney said the “balanced approach” he has chosen will ensure that the spread of the coronavirus is interrupted while allowing businesses to remain open. But you can’t have it both ways.

The evidence from around the world is crystal clear: This approach is a fast-track to failure. Not only will the virus continue to spread, but the economy won’t flourish because people will still be scared.

Quebec has been in lockdown for more than two months – with rules that are way more strict that what Alberta is imposing – and it’s barely able to keep its COVID-19 numbers static, never mind lower them.

Does anyone seriously believe Alberta will be able to do better by essentially doing nothing?

Albertans should brace themselves because they’re in for a world of hurt in the coming weeks.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-jason-kenneys-balanced-approach-is-a-fast-track-to-failure/

Quebec immigration minister skips federal human rights meeting addressing systemic racism (along with Alberta, Saskatchewan)

Sigh:

Quebec’s immigration minister Nadine Girault pulled out of a virtual meeting among provinces about human rights, drawing criticism from federal government officials who say it is because of the province’s refusal to acknowledge systemic racism.

Girault sent a bureaucrat to observe, instead of participate in the meeting, citing scheduling issues. Alberta and Saskatchewan also sent observers, rather than participating.

But Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault says he was told by Quebec provincial officials Girault’s absence was because of the meeting’s portion on systemic racism, which Premier François Legault has refused to say exists in Quebec.

Source: Quebec immigration minister skips federal human rights meeting addressing systemic racism

Alberta’s Little History War

From Chris Champion, the Conservative staffer I worked with developing the Canadian citizenship guide, Discover Canada, and who is playing a similar role with respect to the Alberta education curriculum, providing context for the controversies over the proposed approach:

JASON KENNEY, SWORN in as Alberta Premier on Apr. 30, should not only cancel the revised social studies curriculum drafted under Rachel Notley since 2016. He should scrap the extant 2005 curriculum too, and do what he can to shift the teaching philosophy behind it.

Kenney re-entered the History Wars with finely-calibrated counterattacks in 2016-17, renewed this year on Feb. 16, against “social engineering and pedagogical fads.” He should now bring forward the reserve guns.

Mandatory testing to the end of Grade 12 is laudable and should continue. The deeper problem lies in the current thematic approach to history and civics, in which a series of disjointed topics displaces sequential narrative. As against narrative history, too difficult for most academics, the teaching establishment prefers “‘issues-centred,’ interdisciplinary Social Studies courses,” beloved of two of Kenney’s antagonists, University of Alberta educationists Lindsay Gibson and Carla Peck. But even they admit that educators have been “over-privileging thematic approaches and disregarding chronology.”(1)

Thematic history is lazy, dispensing with the need to juggle sequence and analysis and put people and events in context. True understanding absolutely requires narrative, a discipline that forces teacher and student to interpret and explain, as they should be able to do both orally and in writing (but most of course cannot). A bundle of isolated topics — last week women’s suffrage, tomorrow divestment from Israel, next week Oka — half-fills the student’s head with random happenings, creating the illusion of insight, whose only glue is the social-justice temperament that left-wingers equate with good citizenship.

Just look at the “themes” of 2005. Grade 4 socials is about “analyzing various actions taken to address historical injustices.” Say again? This implies that current fads of the left are the engine of history, turning 9-year-olds into little SJW’s. In Grade 5 it’s “examining Canadian identity,” an inappropriate, post-secondary sociological approach. Grade 7 covers “origins, histories and movement of people” (dry social history). Grade 9 offers “a few isolated topics in Canadian history” such as the Indian Act and local Treaties. It gets worse, with “multidisciplinary investigations” of “globalization” in Grade 10, “nationalism” in Grade 11, and “ideology” in Grade 12. The problem is not that this stuff is, as Notley asserted, “out of date”; it is too up to date: it’s a curriculum designed by a committee, it would seem by some childless educratic clerisy.

It’s deadly stuff! When Kenney accused Notley’s experts of omitting military history, her minister countered that wars would continue to be studied in the context of “ideology.” But that’s the problem. To reduce war to a byproduct of ideology is reminiscent of Lenin’s deterministic “highest and last stage of capitalism.” 

Nor should “Nationalism” be taught as a tedious “-ism” with sermons about equality, discrimination, and the menace of ideology. Instead, tell the story of Cardinal Richelieu putting the state ahead of the church; of Napoleon, his wars, and the nations’ backlash. Tell the romance of Bolívar and the South American Republics; Garibaldi vs. the Pope in the Risorgimento; or, more ominously, Bismarck and German unification. Teach that ideas have consequences; that peace comes at a high price; that all of this lay in the background when Canada was cobbled together and mounted its own make-or-break colonial adventures in the West. “Ideology” be damned!

‘A.J.P. Taylor believed that if you sacrificed narrative, you opened the floodgates to laziness, for it was no longer necessary to take enormous pains organising a moving structure into which everything fitted’

— Paul Johnson

The ongoing fad is that we need “more” First Nations “perspectives.” Far from being new, this must date from at least the 1970s if my own repetitive West Vancouver experience with oolichan, cedar masks, and trickster stories is any guide. The plug must be pulled on the deplorable agitprop of the “KAIROS Blanket,” which brainwashes children into thinking  of themselves as “settlers” stealing the land — the kind of “truth and reconciliation” that is not evidence-based but relies on “knowledge keepers” to “foster truth.” The scientific tradition is that truth is discovered and authenticated. By contrast, the “truth” of Indigenous Elders sometimes contradicts the evidence.

Thematic history seems ideally suited to transmitting left-wing dogma. Is this fair to students? Better to equip them with the great stories and give them a key life-skill by the end of high school: the capacity to think critically about men and ideas and their place in history, as opposed to imposing sterile doctrines of race and “gender.” As my old Latin teacher was fond of saying, “He who marries the Spirit of the Age will be a widower in the next.”

If more proof were needed that educational approaches are in crisis, it is that today’s publicly-schooled millennials have negative impressions of the role of capitalism in history. They seem never to have been exposed to the idea that markets are probably the only system that has ever lifted the mass of people out of poverty. Instead the kids accord high notional support to — of all things — socialism.

Talk about turning the clock back! Oddly that is what CBC Edmonton reporter Alexandra Zabjek now accuses Kenney of doing in Alberta Views magazine. She sees a conspiracy to “grow the privatization movement … to encourage more Albertans to educate outside the traditional public system.”(2) But surely it’s an overly-powerful public monopoly that should be made a thing of the past.

The CBC fired a dud rocket when they called for a “focus on competencies” and “inquiry and discovery — not just the dissemination of information and recall of facts.”(3) Yet contrary to the CBC, one has the impression that facts and recall have been passé for decades.

They shouldn’t be. Elementary-age minds are sponges for memorizing poetry, stories, songs — and yes, dates. Canadian children have a right to know our stories, and by heart. Elementary graduates should also take home with them their own compendious time-line of European and North American history with hand-coloured maps and drawings, from something like 2500 BC to 2000 AD. This could be a project begun in Grade 4 and attentively improved and revised up to the end of Grade 7. Canadians especially need Classical, European, and US history because North American societies are offshoots of Europe’s, particularly those of Britain and France. Of course there is value in other cultures but we can never truly appreciate or evaluate foreign cultures without first knowing our own.

When it comes to content, part of the solution may be to film Ted Byfield’s Alberta in the Twentieth Century, an illustrated series of twelve oversize books, published between 1991 and 2006, that is already approved for use in schools. It’s a comprehensive analytic narrative of the Province in the context of historians’ debates and Canadian and world history. As Byfield told me when he recruited me in 1994 to work on Vol. 5, his dream was that the set would one day become a Ken Burns-style documentary like “The Civil War” on PBS. I’m sure the books could be spun into a few compelling Netflix dramas too, if competent directors can be found.

Once filmed, the documentary could be required for mandatory testing, perhaps in Grade 11. Watch Episode one at home, discuss with your peers, take a supervised test at school. Test the teachers while you’re at it. If you fail, you get to watch the video again and retake until you pass with 85%. Watch Episode 2, repeat. This alone would increase students’ knowledge of the past and provide counterbalance to the prevailing, politicizing social justice tendency that has already gone too far.

— C.P. Champion

Source: https://nuzzel.com/subscriptionstory/08282020/dorchesterreview/albertas_little_history_war?e=6707902&c=6ZpMrqxwRZjsQ21ty4Q3ZNz5DgUMIGhgcRJEW6skW9&u=davidakin&utm_campaign=newsletter_subscription&utm_medium=email&utm_source=nuzzel

Senator criticizes Alberta proposal to shield younger students from lessons on residential schools

One of the better articles soon the Alberta proposed revised curriculum, reminding me of some of the internal discussion regarding the citizenship guide, Discover Canada, steered by the same political staffer to Jason Kenney:

The former chair of the commission on residential schools says a proposal from government-appointed advisers in Alberta to shield younger children from that dark history would be a “terrible mistake” that would leave them with a distorted view of the mistreatment of Indigenous people in Canada.

Senator Murray Sinclair, who led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said children can handle information about the difficult topic of residential schools when it is presented in an appropriate way. If the education system waits until they are older, as contemplated in a leaked curriculum proposal, he said that will perpetuate a “wall of mythology” about Indigenous people and their history that will be next to impossible to undo.

“It’s not only a terrible mistake, but it would be an act of discrimination against the Indigenous people,” Mr. Sinclair told The Globe and Mail.

“It would be, in fact, a continuation of the white supremacy which the residential schools and the public schools have historically perpetrated against the Indigenous people of this country. And we should call it what it is and we should fight it when we can.”

An advisory panel appointed by the United Conservative Party government has presented the Education Minister with a package of recommendations, published Wednesday by the CBC, for the kindergarten-to-Grade 4 social studies curriculum. The document argues that information about residential schools should not be taught to children in Grade 3.

Instead, the document says that material should wait until students are older, potentially in Grade 9, and with residential schools presented as one example of “harsh schooling.”

“The ugliness of Dickensian schooling, boarding schools, 19th-century discipline methods, and residential schooling that applied to some Indigenous kids can probably best be saved for later when learners are more mature and are less emotionally vulnerable to traumatic material,” the document says.

“For example, there could be a Grade 9 unit about benign vs. harsh schooling in the past, inclusive of all cultures not only Indigenous, but with regard to the particular problematic of residential schooling even if it applied only to a minority of Indigenous children.”

Mr. Sinclair rejected that idea, and said it is possible to present the history of residential schools in a way that that is appropriate for young children.

“We’re not asking them to start holding up bloody pictures and demanding that they cry,” he said. “What we’re saying is, talk about it from the perspective of children. Talk about it in ways that they can understand, that they can utilize. It can easily be done.”

Mr. Sinclair, who has called on provincial education ministries to ensure students learn about residential schools, said young children already learn about potentially upsetting topics, such as wars.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange stressed the ideas in the document are merely recommendations. She said residential schools would be taught in elementary school but she declined to say at what age that would start or how that information would be presented.

“We are absolutely committed to truth and reconciliation and to ensuring that the truth about residential schools is in our K-6 curriculum. That is non-negotiable,” she told reporters at the provincial legislature in Edmonton.

She noted that a larger working group that will include teachers will examine the curriculum this fall and a draft will be ready for public feedback next year.

Richard Feehan, the Opposition New Democrats’ critic for Indigenous relations, said teaching all students about residential schools should be non-negotiable.

“They worry that young children can’t hear that story, and yet here we are approaching Nov. 11, when we go into every grade in school and talk about the history of World War One and the history of World War Two,” he said.

“But somehow, when we talk about Indigenous children being harmed or being killed, it’s somehow too much for children to handle. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report in 2015 described the Canadian government’s long-running policy of removing Indigenous children from their communities as cultural genocide.

The report also found that abuse was rampant within the residential school system.

“Child neglect was institutionalized, and the lack of supervision created situations where students were prey to sexual and physical abusers,” the report said.

The commission called on ministers of education across the country to include the history and legacy of residential schools in kindergarten-to-Grade 12 curriculums. In 2014, the Progressive Conservative government of the day publicly committed to ensure students at all grade levels learn about the legacy of residential schools.

When it comes to First Nations, the proposed curriculum document focuses on teaching young children about the life and customs of Indigenous people, particularly before contact with Europeans. Topics include the structure of First Nations leadership, farming, hunting, Arctic survival and “warfare.”

While the document argues lessons about residential schools would be traumatic, it also proposes that students in Grade 3 be taught about ancient Rome, battles of the Middle Ages and slavery in the Ottoman Empire.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/alberta/article-senator-criticizes-alberta-proposal-to-shield-younger-students-from/

The RCMP’s atrocious response to racism in Alberta

Good commentary by Gary Mason:

A couple weeks ago, a group marching under the banner of the Black and Indigenous Alliance Alberta organized a demonstration in Ponoka, Alta. But it didn’t go so well: People drove by and called the protesters names, accusing them of belonging to “antifa.” Some reportedly told them to go back to where they came from. And then, the group alleges that a truck intentionally swerved into them, striking a protester. He was taken to hospital with an injury to his eye and later released.

When they reported the alleged hit-and-run, an RCMP spokesperson said that police didn’t have the video footage needed to investigate.

A few days later, on Sept. 14, alliance members, including the man who was allegedly struck by the truck, held a news conference at the RCMP detachment to alert media to what happened. As they tried to begin, a small group of counterprotesters began shouting the alliance members down. One of the men brought a megaphone to drown out anything the group was saying to reporters. They also hurled vicious epithets at the alliance members who were there.

It was an ugly scene. But it got uglier.

Rachelle Elsiufi, a reporter with CityNews Edmonton, asked the head of the Ponoka detachment, Sergeant Chris Smiley, why nothing was done to deter those who arrived to disrupt the news conference. “Are you suggesting one side’s voice is more important than the others? Because it’s not,” he replied.“So we let everybody say what they need to say as peacefully as they can and that’s how this country works.” According to Ms. Elsiufi, two men “with connections to hate groups in Alberta” were standing beside her, and “celebrated” the officer’s response.

But as disconcerting as that moment was, things would get even worse.

The following weekend, the alliance decided to hold a demonstration in a park in Red Deer, Alta. Soon after they arrived to begin their rally, so did a convoy of trucks carrying a group of men that appeared to be looking for trouble. Again, many were identified by reporters as wearing the symbols of hate groups such as the Soldiers of Odin.

It didn’t take long for things to turn violent. The men walked up to the alliance demonstrators, many of whom were people of colour, and screamed into their faces, telling them to go home. Video from the scene shows a couple of clear assaults on alliance demonstrators, one of whom was punched in the face. Footage later shows three RCMP officers standing off to the side monitoring the situation.

Initially, the RCMP said there would be no investigation into what happened at the park. When video from the scene went viral on social media, the RCMP changed its tune, saying it would open a criminal investigation into two alleged assaults. The police defended their initial decision, saying the violence happened before their officers had arrived.

It sure looks like the RCMP has a problem here. The fact that people with racist ties can disrupt a peaceful news conference and be defended by police is outrageous. No one’s voice is more important than another’s? Are you kidding me? When one of those voices is that of a bigot and white supremacist, it is not as important as someone peacefully advocating against racism.

Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu, who is Black, seemed genuinely upset by what happened in Red Deer. But I don’t think it’s enough to simply say it’s “unacceptable” and that it should never happen. He needs to have a conversation with senior officials in the RCMP about the type of people it has representing the force in the province and whether or not they are part of the problem here.

It sure sounds like they are.

It shouldn’t take long for the RCMP to lay criminal charges in the Red Deer incident. The people responsible for the assaults are clearly visible in the footage. But beyond that, the RCMP has to do a far better job of ensuring the safety of people who are demonstrating for a cause that police know will upset some who will then come looking for trouble.

The idea of a convoy of trucks arriving and disgorging a group of angry white men with menace in their eyes brings back terrifying images of the American South in the 1950s.

I realize police have a difficult job. But trust in the RCMP is undermined when some among them exhibit behaviour that makes us question whose side they’re on.