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Northwest Territories abandons Alberta curriculum and embraces British Columbia’s – a powerful symbol of what went wrong under Jason Kenney

The Government of the Northwest Territories press release does not even mention Alberta, but it is still a powerful symbol of what went wrong in the Southern Province under the United Conservative Party government of the first. Minister Jason Kenney.

The press release released yesterday in Yellowknife said NWT Education Minister RJ Simpson and British Columbia counterpart Jennifer Whiteside were pleased to announce that the two Canadian jurisdictions have agreed to partner on a new curriculum Kindergarten to Grade 12.

There is not a word in the statement about how, for at least 40 years, the Northwest Territories has used its neighbor Alberta’s K-12 curriculum as the foundation of its system. public education.

Indeed, the Northwest Territories’ long educational partnership with Alberta could easily have continued quite comfortably for another 40 years without the election of Kenney and his UCP government.

It was in 2019, the statement noted, that the Northwest Territories Department of Education began to consider what it should do to modernize its curriculum “to meet the needs of students in a changing world. constant evolution ”.

It was also the year Premier Kenney, the descendant of a private school principal, became Premier of Alberta and had the opportunity to practice his eccentric notions of education.

He was heavily influenced by religious fanatics and their private school movement in the United States, and grasped the idea that students were “wired with collectivist ideas” by a liberal-led school system. “It’s a kind of cultural challenge for any conservative party”, he told his friend, right-wing commentator Ezra Levant, in 2016. “We have to find a way to break this nut. “

The Progressive Conservative governments of Alberta had been working for years on a curriculum review, work that the NDP government elected in 2015 had continued. It is likely that the curriculum, had the job been completed, would have been happily adopted by the NWT.

But a few months after the UCP election, Alberta Education Minister Adriana Lagrange, no doubt operating on Kenney’s instructions, boosted that work. She tore up a memorandum of understanding with the Alberta Teachers Association to collaborate on the curriculum and hurriedly began preparing a new curriculum that would meet the premier’s ideological criteria. No teacher participated in the drafting of the project.

The historian hired to advise on the social studies curriculum, a former political aide to Premier Kenney when he was a cabinet minister in the Conservative federal government, was known to downplay the importance of Indigenous child deaths in the system residential schools and rejected First Nations education. perspectives as “mode” and “agit-prop.” “

The partial result was the K-6 curriculum released by the Kenney government in late March, criticized by teachers, vilified by curriculum experts, and ridiculed internationally as inappropriate for age, obsolete. , Eurocentric, riddled with jargon, inaccurate, indifferent to the development of critical thinking skills. , and riddled with plagiarism from sources such as Wikipedia and the US Cotton Belt States textbooks.

Which brings us back to the Northwest Territories Department of Education, which researches and consults with educators, Indigenous governments, and the Northwest Territories Teachers Association. What they must have done about Alberta’s “reforms” was politely omitted from yesterday’s press release.

But to read between his lines, it’s quite easy to imagine.

“BC’s curriculum was very clearly the most aligned with that of the NWT,” the press release said, noting that it “relies on the natural curiosity, inventiveness and creativity of students. “.

In contrast, Alberta’s new curriculum emphasizes rote memorization of lists of facts and dates and seems intended to stifle creativity, at least if it causes graduates to reconsider traditionally policies. associated with conservative parties, according to Kenney’s remarks to Levant.

“Crucially, Indigenous worldviews, knowledge and perspectives are incorporated into all curriculum in British Columbia in a meaningful and intentional manner, and are reflected in the mandatory learning outcomes of students,” the Northwest Territories press release continued. “British Columbia has designed its curriculum and assessments to be flexible, which allows the NWT to tailor the curriculum to our territorial context and ensures that local Indigenous content can be incorporated into the overall picture. of the study program. “

“With a focus on Indigenous knowledge and an emphasis on literacy and numeracy skills, I am confident this program will benefit all NWT JK-12 students,” said Simpson.

“First Peoples principles, stories and ways of knowing are integrated into our curriculum and enable hands-on, career-focused learning to create equity and opportunity for all students,” added Whiteside.

“This is an embarrassing blow to Alberta’s reputation,” said Sarah Hoffman, Alberta NDP opposition critic for education. “Adriana LaGrange needs to explain: If this program isn’t good enough for the students of the Northwest Territories, why should we believe it is good enough for the kids of Alberta? “

Early March, Hoffman warned the Northwest Territories was considering change.

Now that it has happened, she said yesterday, “this decision by the Northwest Territories should be a wake-up call for the UCP.”

Shifting from the specific to the general, as it often takes to understand the impact of policy decisions, the Kenney program is a microcosm of many others that went wrong under the UCP government, from the abandonment of diversification efforts to the economy, the funding of post-secondary education, the ridiculous “Energy War Room”, the deadly mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sadly, this is a government that does not accept the premise of the wake-up calls it continues to receive.


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