EDMONTON — Premier Rachel Notley says conservative leadership candidate Jason Kenney is deliberately sowing fear and confusion over Alberta’s school curriculum overhaul.
“Our politics deserve a higher level of debate,” Notley said Monday at the opening of a new school. “It’s ironic that we are engaging in fearmongering about history and education on the basis of a complete absence of facts.”
Notley said the curriculum review is being carried out by teachers and volunteers, and is apolitical.
“To suggest that (the review) is anything else is irresponsible. And to do so on the basis of fiction is irresponsible from not only a governance point of view but also a political point of view.”
Kenney recently stepped up his attacks on the review, which is rewriting what students are to learn from kindergarten to Grade 12. The government says lesson plans are between eight and 30 years out of date.
Kenney is one of four challengers to be the next leader of the new United Conservative Party.
In a recent Facebook video he stated that among the missteps of Notley’s government, the curriculum update is “the worst thing they intend to do.”
He cited a 13-page document put out by the Education Department that defines the overall “scope and sequence” of what is to be taught in social studies.
The document is a mix of broad learning concepts, but also suggests concrete study topics such as climate change, Metis settlements, social media, domestic and foreign conflicts and social-political concepts such as “action and activism” and “resistance.”
Kenney called it an NDP government “social engineering” Trojan horse designed to teach students “political correctness.”
“(There’s) no reference to Canadian history, no reference to Alberta history, or to parliamentary government (or) Confederation,” he said.
The overview is a draft. Teaching plans are to be finalized starting next year and ending in 2022. There’s no date yet for actual implementation in classrooms.
Kenney said if the social studies draft becomes the curriculum, he would repeal it if he became premier.
He was not available for comment Monday.
Education Minister David Eggen, who was with Notley at the school opening, said the nuts and bolts of what students will learn are still being hashed out, but Canadian, Alberta, military and world history will be taught.
In a statement issued later Monday, Eggen added that Kenney should apologize to veterans.
“Jason Kenney’s continued blind rhetoric on curriculum is offensive to the brave men and women who have served and currently serve our country and the efforts by our teachers to honour Remembrance Day, Vimy Ridge and many other topics with respect to our military history,” said Eggen.
“I personally taught history for a dozen years in Edmonton schools. I am not only working to preserve our military content but strengthen it.”
Another United Conservative leadership candidate, Brian Jean, has not ruled out scrapping the entire curriculum review should the new party win power in the 2019 election.
A third candidate, Doug Schweitzer, said: “It’s unfortunate that some are choosing to use the curriculum review to score political points.
“A big priority for me is to ensure our kids have strong math and science skills so that they are ready for the jobs of the future.”