Premier Notley, Jason Kenney clash over changes to school curriculum
'It's ironic that we are engaging in fear-mongering about history and education,' Notley says
Premier Rachel Notley says conservative leadership candidate Jason Kenney is deliberately sowing fear and confusion over Alberta's school curriculum overhaul — but Kenney says it's Notley who has a lot of explaining to do.
Kenney has been stepping up his attacks on the ongoing review of the social studies curriculum.
He points out the review outlines some important specific subjects — such as Indigenous history and climate change — while ignoring Alberta and Canadian history altogether.
He has suggested the review is an NDP government "social engineering" Trojan horse to teach students "political correctness."
'Complete absence of facts'
Notley and Education Minister David Eggen rejected those comments and said Alberta, Canadian and military history will be taught.
"It's ironic that we are engaging in fear-mongering about history and education on the basis of a complete absence of facts," Notley said Tuesday at the opening of a new school.
"Our politics deserve a higher level of debate."
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."
A year ago, the province launched a sweeping rewrite of what students are to learn from kindergarten to Grade 12, noting that some lesson plans are between eight and 30 years out of date.
To guide the social studies changes, the department has issued a 13-page draft outline of what is to be taught.
The document is a mix of broad learning strategies and concrete study topics like climate change, Metis settlements, social media, domestic and foreign conflicts, along with social-political concepts such as "action and activism" and "resistance."
Eggen said the scope document is big picture, and that the nuts and bolts of what students will learn are still being hashed out.
He said Kenney should apologize to veterans for suggesting that Canada's wartime history will be expunged from the classroom.
"Jason Kenney's continued blind rhetoric on curriculum is offensive to the brave men and women who have served and currently serve our country," he said.
'I'm not buying it'
Kenney, in an interview, said the government is trying to have it both ways with a 13-page outline that is a flawed, thematic mishmash of both broad concepts and granular detail.
"How do you get into the history of Metis settlements in a general outline but no reference to the First or Second World War?" said Kenney.
"I'm sorry, I'm not buying it. I think we've caught them trying to prepare a really distorted social studies curriculum.
"Any reasonable person would infer from (the outline) that Canada has a terrible history of oppression and injustice and wouldn't be able to figure out from what they read how we became one of the greatest, most prosperous democracies in human history.
"I'm not saying we shouldn't teach about some of the dark moments in our past, but it should be in context."
Kenney is one of four candidates vying to become the new leader of the United Conservative party, which was formed in July when the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties agreed to unite.
The curriculum is a key issue in the leadership race and is expected to be as well in the next general election in the spring of 2019.
Another United Conservative leadership candidate, Brian Jean, has not ruled out scrapping the entire curriculum review.
Candidate Doug Schweitzer said the review should ensure that students have strong math and science skills.
Candidate Jeff Callaway said the new curriculum must emphasize true history and contemporary events with context, math, and science skills and communication development.