Alberta’s education minister calls Kenney deceitful on school curriculum review

Alberta’s education minister says Opposition Leader Jason Kenney is being ignorant, deceptive, and deceitful when he brands the province’s sweeping rewrite of the school curriculum a Trojan Horse for NDP ideology.

“This isn’t constructive criticism. It’s a drive-by shooting on our curriculum and our kids’ education — and Jason Kenney really should be ashamed,” David Eggen told reporters Sunday.

“It tells us two things: number one, that the UCP and Jason Kenney understand very little about education, and number two, Jason Kenney is willing to stoop very low to, quite honestly, be dishonest about what’s going on in our curriculum process for the sake of scoring cheap political points.”

Eggen spoke a day after Kenney reiterated to party faithful in a speech that if his United Conservatives win the spring election they will take action on what they see as NDP worldview seeping into the curriculum review.

Premier Rachel Notley weighed in on Twitter, saying: “We’ve consulted and worked to update our kids’ curriculum — some of which is 30 years old! Throwing that work in the shredder isn’t good for our kids and it doesn’t make any sense.”

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Asked Sunday about Eggen’s comments, Kenney said he agrees the curriculum needs updating.

But he said his government would pause the curriculum process in order to consult with parents, teachers, and experts in order to make sure the final curriculum is a plain language document with measurable outcomes and with a “a strong emphasis on foundational competencies.”

He said he worries the curriculum being developed under the NDP under-emphasizes basic Canadian historical knowledge and geography and puts an “enormous emphasis on aspects of social history,” which he said doesn’t give young people “the kind of proper context, a balanced context.”

“We’re not looking to replace the NDP’s ideological approach with a Conservative approach. We’re looking for a balanced approach,” he said.

The review goes back almost three years.

Under Eggen, the province in 2016 began a sweeping review of curriculum from kindergarten to Grade 12 in six core subjects: arts, language arts, math, social studies, science, and wellness.

The work is split into three phases, with the new kindergarten to Grade 4 curriculum completed and set for testing in select classrooms this fall. The Grade 5-9 blueprint is not due until later in 2019 and the high school grades around 2020 to 2022.

The curriculum overview describes a holistic view to a child’s education. It stresses literacy, numeracy and adapting to the modern age with instruction in computer coding.

But it also focuses on broader issues of social dynamics and interactions: working with others, respecting diversity and minorities, embracing plurality and inclusivity. There is also renewed emphasis on the contributions of First Nations and Francophone communities.

Kenney spoke to reporters as the United Conservatives wrapped up a weekend of meetings and sessions with candidates.

Kenney has been making a series of policy announcements in recent days, and on Sunday said if his party wins they will move to cut salaries for MLAs and cabinet ministers by five per cent and cut the premiers’ pay by 10 per cent in order to show leadership as the province works to get out from under multibillion-dollar budget deficits.

Kenney in recent weeks has been rolling out the broad strokes of the UCP platform as all parties gear up to hit the hustings for the 28-day campaign.

Premier Rachel Notley can drop the writ at any time, but by law the vote must be held before the end of May.

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