On March 29, 2021, the Alberta Government released their draft curriculum for Kindergarten through Grade 6 in all subject areas including music.
A Grade 7-12 student who would choose to sift through this curriculum would be confused. There are a number of contradictions in the curriculum to knowledge and understandings they will have learned in their own music education up to this point. And they would be right to be confused. They would also be right to be concerned that these would be foundational concepts for learning music in their own grades.
There are many points in the draft curriculum that are simply wrong. Not philosophically wrong, not politically-motivated wrong. Simply wrong. As an example at first glance, accidentals do not tell a musician what scale a piece of music is in. That's not a philosophical issue or a politically motivated issue. That is simply wrong.
As a teacher, I am required by law to teach the curriculum the government gives me. While currently the music education curriculum is over 30 years old, there are no factual inaccuracies in it. However, should this draft curriculum not see some significant changes, I will be required by law to teach whatever is in the final published curriculum. Some teachers will be asked to pilot this draft as it is in the coming fall.
So I've decided to compile, for students' reference, a list of all the factual inaccuracies in the draft curriculum while I am still required to teach a curriculum with correct information in it. Some of the items I have identified may seem "nitpicky", but if a curriculum document has anything that confuses the truth, it needs to be clarified, regardless of how mediocre or minute the issue seems. I also offer thanks to Verna Ahner, Sarah Drew, Tim Janz, Eila Peterson and Sam Shumka, three music education colleagues who helped me to curate this list.
Please note that I will avoid issues of philosophy, pedagogy, perceptions of ideology, methodolatry (a term coined by Dr. Thomas Regelski), what constitutes "great musical works" and other subjective or critical pedagogical issues, as those items run the risk of appearing politically motivated, and while may or may not be valid arguments, are not issues of accuracy. It is not my job to take any sides, or even have the appearance of such. It is my job, however, to teach students facts.
(The only topic of subjectivity I approach is that of the definition of the term forte. It is commonly understood to mean either loud or strong, but the proper translation, and the proper approach to the term, is strong, not loud. However the word "loud" may be more appropriate depending upon the students' developmental level. I've selected the appropriate age level for using the definition of strong based on Piaget's stages of development.)
I have organized this information in the same way the draft curriculum is organized to make it easier for a student to find inaccurate information and identify it. I also encourage all Albertans to fill out the Have Your Say feedback forms as soon as possible, and share your thoughts on the curriculum with your MLA and your school board trustees.
Organizing Idea: Foundational Elements
Music literacy is developed through knowledge and application of Foundational Elements.Grade 1 Guiding Question: How can musical sounds be interpreted?
Music symbols are used to indicate the volume of sound, including f for loud and p for soft.
In Western music, dynamics are described by using Italian terms, including forte for loud and piano for soft…
Forte does not mean loud, it means strong. However, the alignment of the term “loud” is generally accepted depending on the developmental level of the student. It should be reiterated in later grades that forte is in fact “strong” instead.
A whole piece of music can include a number of sections that may be alike or different and can include AB, ABA, ABAB (sectional form), as heard in Camille Saint-Saëns, Carnival of the Animals – Fossils, in which the xylophone part is A and the clarinet solo is B
The descriptor of how the xylophone part is the A section and the clarinet solo is the B section is very inaccurate. While the original introduction of the xylophone part is an A section that happens to be repeated, there is an ascending piano/orchestral section immediately after it that would be identified as the B section, then a staccato arpeggiated section that could be identified as a C section, then the A section returns, all of which happens before a D section that would be the clarinet solo which is followed by yet another return to the A section. This is a rondo form, and the draft curriculum heavily oversimplifies its structure.
Tone has dynamics and tempo.
This is unclear, as the term “tone” has multiple meanings in music. Tone can refer to timbre and quality of sound, it can refer to a specific interval (usually an interval of a major second), or it can refer to a musical sound described as a pitch. When tone is referred to as a general concept, it usually refers to timbre and quality of sound, and in that regard a dynamic can affect tone, but tone has no relationship to tempo. A more appropriate statement would be “Music can have dynamics and tempo.”
Music dynamics that suddenly change are called accents and are indicated using the > symbol.
This is an inaccurate definition of an accent, which is an articulation, not a dynamic. An accent is not a change in dynamic, but rather a momentary emphasis on a note indicated by how the note is attacked by the performer (pressure on the bow or pizzicato tool of a string instrument, tonguing on a wind instrument, etc.). Unlike the statement suggests, it can never be a change to a lower volume.
A dynamic that changes suddenly is likely to be marked subito or sf or sp, or some variant thereof. Following such a symbol or musical direction, while the change may be sudden, it remains at that dynamic following the symbol or musical direction. Another alternative is sfz which, although is a temporary change in dynamic, is characterized by changing the volume of the entire note, not just how it is attacked. Following a sfz, the dynamic returns to the original dynamic.
The duration of a rhythm or musical sound can be extended by placing a dot next to a rhythm, such as a half note, to extend the duration of the note by one beat.
This is inaccurate. A dot next to a rhythm does not change the duration of that note by one beat. It changes the duration of that individual note it is next to by half of its original value. So a dotted half-note would match the curricular description, making the note 3 beats long (in a time signature where the quarter note gets the beat), but a dotted eighth-note is only ¾ of a beat long, not 1 ½ beats long as is suggested by the draft curriculum statement.
Dynamics direct how music should be played, and can be notated using a music symbol on the musical score, including mf to indicate mezzo-forte, which means moderately loud … ff to indicate fortissimo, which means very loud.
This is an inaccurate translation. Forte in all its forms does not mean loud, it means strong. It is developmentally appropriate at this grade level to use the term “strong” for this age group.
In Western music, Italian terms are used to label tempo, including allegro, meaning fast.
Allegro does not mean fast. It means quickly and lively. It is not only a speed marking, but also a style marking.
Music symbols (articulation markings) can indicate the duration of music notes, including; staccato and legato, phrase marks to indicate length of phrases, accents to indicate emphasis of a sound.
Articulations do not indicate the duration of music notes alone. Rather, they indicate the manner in which a note is to be played, which may include duration, but may also include emphasis and technique as well. For example, while a staccato is detached, an accent does nothing to the length of note but rather deals with emphasis.
Staccato and legato are not opposites, as is suggested by the statement in the draft curriculum. As a matter of fact, legato is not an articulation, but a style of play usually indicated by a slur. The articulation that is the best opposite to staccato is tenuto.
The treble clef indicates pitches on the staff that begin at middle C and move higher.
The pitches on the staff indicated with a treble clef are not constructed from middle C. The treble clef, also known as the "G" clef, is called this because it identifies the location of G by the line the treble clef symbol encircles. One can determine where "middle C" is based on that information, but to suggest the locations of pitches are constructed from the middle C is inaccurate.
Pitches belonging on the lines of the treble clef are labelled EGBDF.
Pitches belonging in the spaces of the treble clef are labelled FACE.
These are not rules, but are rather mnemonics to help with quick identification, much like BEDMAS is not the rule, but rather the Order of Operations is the rule that BEDMAS helps out with. The actual rule is that the musical alphabet ascends and descends from each space to each line, and line to each space, starting from the pitch identified by the clef indicated. EGBDF is the resultant letter names for the lines on a treble clef, but this should not be the manner in which students identify notes on the staff, or it sets them up for failure when having to identify notes on ledger lines.
Two or more melodies can be combined or layered to create harmony in the form of a descant, partner song, or canon, as heard in; (descant) Johann Sebastian Bach, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, (round) French folk songs Frère Jacques and Alouette, gentille alouette
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring is not a descant. A better example of a descant would be the one that appears in Sir David Willcocks' arrangement of O Come, All Ye Faithful.
While Frère Jacques is oftentimes sung as a round, Alouette, gentile alouette is not a round, and therefore is a poor example for this concept. Instead, Alouette, gentile alouette is a cumulative call and response song.
Some pitched instruments can play chords, including keyboards, barred instruments, tone chimes, ukuleles, and hand bells.
Tone chimes and hand bells are not capable of playing chords on their own. This fact is even stated properly elsewhere in the draft curriculum. Tone chimes and hand bells are capable of only playing a single note, and therefore cannot play chords, but can layer with other singular notes to create chords. While this statement here is false, this fact is mentioned correctly elsewhere in the draft curriculum.
Instrument families in Western music include the strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion.
This is no different than the 30-year-old curriculum that currently exists, which was appropriate for its time, but is no longer so. The missing instrument grouping from this list is the electrophone, or instruments that produce sound by electronic means.
Components that contribute to rhythmic structures include … double bar lines, repeat signs …
Double bar lines and repeat signs do not impact rhythmic structures as presented in the draft curriculum. The draft curriculum presents "rhythmic structures" as organized by the duration of beats within measures and measures within a phrase. Double bar lines and repeats have no influence on these structures.
The structure of the pentatonic scale omits the fourth and seventh degrees of the scale.
While this is true about the relationship between a pentatonic scale and a major scale, it is not in fact how pentatonic scales are constructed. Pentatonic scales are constructed using a series of five consecutive tones in a Circle of Fifths, and then condensing them into a single octave.
As an example, one version of an E-flat Pentatonic scale includes the E-flat, B-flat, F, C and G, all the next tones in the Circle of Fifths, then reorganized into a single octave as E-flat, F, G, B-flat and C.
It should be noted that not all pentatonic scales are constructed using an ascending Circle of Fifths, and there are many other options available as well.
There are numerous ways to structure a melody using intervals that move by steps, skips, and repeats.
Repeats are not intervals, but rather formal indicators of sections of music that are to be played multiple times. In the context of this topic, the word that should be used is "unison", not repeat.
Music symbols can be visually represented to direct how a piece of music should be performed, including: dynamic (articulation) markings, including phrase, accent, legato, and staccato; dynamic range of soft sounds, including pp, mp, and p to indicate pianissimo, mezzo-piano, and piano; dynamic range of loud sounds, including ff, mf, and f to indicate fortissimo, mezzo-forte, and forte
As stated previously, legato is not an articulation but rather is a style of performance.
As stated previously, any iteration of the term forte means "strong" as opposed to "loud". Although "loud" may have been developmentally appropriate for Grade 1, that is no longer the case in Grade 4.
The bass clef indicates pitches on the staff that begin at middle C and move lower.
The pitches on the staff indicated with a bass clef are not constructed from middle C. The bass clef, also known as the "F" clef, is called this because it identifies the location of F by the line that the dots of the bass clef surrounds. One can determine where "middle C" is based on that information, but to suggest the locations of pitches are constructed from the middle C is inaccurate.
Pitches on the lines of the bass clef are labelled GBDFA.
Pitches on the spaces of the bass clef are labelled ACEG.
These are not rules, but are rather mnemonics to help with quick identification, much like BEDMAS is not the rule, but rather the Order of Operations is the rule that BEDMAS helps out with. The actual rule is that the musical alphabet ascends and descends from each space to each line, and line to each space, starting from the pitch identified by the clef indicated. ACEG is the resultant letter names for the spaces on a bass clef, but this should not be the manner in which students identify notes on the staff, or it sets them up for failure when having to identify notes on ledger lines.
Music symbols and abbreviations of terms can be illustrated on a musical score and direct how to play music, including; articulation markings, including phrase, accent, legato, staccato, and fermata, … dynamic range of loud sounds, including ff, mf, and f to indicate fortissimo, mezzo-forte, and forte, … (dim) to indicate diminuendo or decrescendo
The term diminuendo may indeed be indicated by the dim. marking, but decrescendo does not share the same abbreviation. Instead, decrescendo's abbreviation is descresc., and to ignore the potential for its use is inappropriate.
As stated previously, legato is not an articulation but rather is a style of performance.
As stated previously, any iteration of the term forte means "strong" as opposed to "loud". Although "loud" may have been developmentally appropriate for Grade 1, that is no longer the case in Grade 5.
Structures for organizing rhythms can include; … double bar lines, repeat signs, … codas, introductions, first and second endings.
None of these tools organize rhythms. Double bar lines, repeats, codas, and first and second endings simply indicate where the completion of significant sections of music are and/or which sections need to be performed multiple times, but they cannot impact how you read the rhythms on the page.
Introductions are not rhythmic structures, but are instead formal structures that may include harmonic, melodic, and/or rhythmic structures.
The duration of a rhythmic pattern can become more complex by adding dots, ties, or combinations of rhythms, including ... syncopation, which combines eighth notes with a quarter note
This definition of a syncopation is erroneous. A syncopation is any rhythm where the strong notes are played, in whole or in part, on weak beats or "off-beats". The exemplar this draft curriculum provides for a syncopation in the subsequent statement to this one is George Frideric Handel, Water Music: Suite No. 2 in D Major, HWV 349, II. Alla Hornpipe, which doesn't use eighth notes or quarter notes at all, but is rather a series of half notes that are off the standard compound metre beats in 3/2 time, demonstrating how not all syncopations combine eighth notes with a quarter note.
Further, a rhythm such as a quarter note followed by 6 eighth notes would fit the definition provided here, but is most certainly not a syncopation.
Duple metre, or 2/4 time, is a grouping of two beats per measure and alternates one strong beat with one weaker beat. Triple metre, or 3/4 time, is a grouping of three beats per measure and starts with one strong beat followed by two weaker beats. Quadruple metre, or 4/4 time, is a grouping of four beats per measure with an accent falling on beats one and three. Compound metre includes 6/8 time, where the six beats are divided into groups of three and an accent falls on beats one and four.
Duple, Triple and Quadruple metres are separate concepts from Compound metres (and their counterparts, Simple metres) in the same way that the number of legs a creature has is a separate concept from whether or not those creatures are mammal or bird. To speak about these concepts properly, we must group Duple, Triple and Quadruple metres into one concept, and Simple (never defined in the curriculum document) and Compound into a separate concept.
Duple metres are groupings of two beats, however this is not limited to 2/4 time; 6/8 time is also often played as a duple metre. Triple metres are groupings of three beats, but can also include 3/2 time or 9/8 time in addition to 3/4 time. Quadruple metres are groupings of four beats, but can also include 12/8 time in addition to 4/4 time.
The terms Simple and Compound metre clarify these differences. Simple metres are beat groupings that can be further subdivided by duplets, allowing each beat to include the equivalent of 2 sub-beats (two eighth-notes per beat in 4/4 time as an example). Compound metres are beat groupings that can be further subdivided by triplets, allowing each beat to include the equivalent of 3 sub-beats (three eighth-notes per beat in 6/8 time).
So 2/4 time is in fact Simple Duple metre. 3/4 time is in fact Simple Triple metre. 4/4 time is in fact Simple Quadruple metre. 6/8 time is in fact Compound Duple metre.
Melodies based on pentatonic scales omit the fourth and seventh notes of the scale when played, including: C major pentatonic scales, which omit the notes F and B; F major pentatonic scales, which omit the notes B and E; and G major pentatonic scales, which omit the notes C and F
This belies how pentatonic scales are constructed. Pentatonic scales are not constructed from major scales. Pentatonic scales are constructed using a series of five consecutive tones in a Circle of Fifths, and then condensing them into a single octave. As an example, a G Pentatonic scale includes the G, D, A, E and B, all the next tones in the Circle of Fifths, then reorganized into a single octave as G, A, B, D and E.
Melodies constructed on a pentatonic scale are not first constructed on a major scale, and then adjusted to omit certain pitches. It may be fair to compare major and some pentatonic scales this way, but to characterize pentatonic melodies as adjustments to major melodies is inaccurate. It should be noted that not all pentatonic scales are constructed using an ascending Circle of Fifths, and there are many other options available as well.
Pentatonic scales used in musical works can include Claude Debussy’s La fille aux cheveux de lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair).
This piece is a horrendous choice for a piece exemplifying a pentatonic scale. Within the first four measures there is the use of diatonic pitches characteristic of a major scale, and then the next four measures include a variety of accidentals indicating borrowed chords of major scales. Teachers should never use this piece to exemplify pentatonic scales.
A better selection would be the traditional Korean folk song Arirang, or Richard Johnston, Chippewa Lullaby from Folk Songs North America Sings which is a great example of a pentatonic scale that cannot be compared to a major scale in the way the previous statement in the Draft K-6 Music Curriculum indicates.
A music symbol called an accidental is placed at the beginning of a musical score to define the scale name, including; B flat to indicate an F major scale, F sharp to indicate a G major scale, no accidental to indicate a C major scale
This is wholly inaccurate. What is being described here is in fact Key Signatures, not accidentals. While this is described accurately in the Grade 6 draft curriculum, here it is falsely defining accidentals. An accidental need not appear at the beginning of a musical score. It can appear at any point in music, and indicates a change in pitch from the key signature for that measure only. Accidentals do not define scale names.
Accidentals are visually represented as the black notes on a keyboard.
This is also not true. The black notes on a keyboard are only used as accidentals in pieces of music where the black notes are not already included in the key signature. The black notes are more accurately identified as semi-tones between the absolute pitches of ABCDEFG. For that matter, it should also be noted that there is no black note between BC and EF, and that accidentals can be used to identify white notes on the keyboard as well. This is part of the concept known as “enharmonics”, where a pitch may have multiple names (D-sharp is also known as E-flat), and that those do not always indicate a black note (E-sharp is also known as F-natural).
Improvisation is a way to structure music.
Improvisation is in actual fact the absence or avoidance of adhering to a structure of music, be it temporal, harmonic, melodic or otherwise, or any combination thereof. Improvisation can be based on already introduced structures in a piece of music, but even in such situations it is an intentional departure from any number of the original structures provided.
The structure of a melody changes when the rhythm changes.
This is not always accurate, particularly when being considerate of songs with lyrics. Strophic songs are the best exmaple of why this is not always accurate, as the melody is repeated, but the rhythm is adjusted to reflect the syllabic structure of the new lyrics. The basic structure of a melody is still the same, and the rhythm adjusts to lyrical syllables.
A triplet rhythm structured with eighth notes is played in the space of one beat.
The grammar issues in this sentence make it impossible to say with certainty that it is accurate, especially in the context that it follows the statement about 6/8 time immediately before it. A more appropriate statement may be "Triplet eighth notes are a rhythm where three notes are played in the space of one beat."
A basic 12-bar blues chord progression is structured using a pattern of I, IV, and V chords of any scale, as heard in B. B. King’s The Thrill is Gone.
This piece is not a strict example of a 12-Bar Blues chord progression, as it is a minor blues with a borrowed chord from its relative major in place of the V chord. The Thrill is Gone in fact uses i, iv, VI and v chords, making it a poor example. Better examples include John Coltrane’s Blue Trane, or Duke Ellington’s C-Jam Blues.
Accidentals can be used to change an interval or to indicate pitches that do not belong to the key signature in which the music is written, including; sharps that indicate the specific pitch to be raised, flats that indicate the pitch to be lowered, natural signs which return the pitch that was changed back to a natural state
This error is likely grammatical only, but by saying accidentals indicate pitches that do not belong to the key signature, a natural sign does not simply return a pitch back to the natural state within that key signature. A natural sign indicates the pitch is to be played as an absolute pitch, neither sharp nor flat. Interestingly, that means a natural sign can indicate a pitch is to be raised or lowered depending on the key signature that it is in.
As an example, in the key of G-flat major, an A-natural would be a raised pitch from the A-flat that normally appears in that key signature. In the key of F-sharp major, an A-natural would be a lowered pitch from the A-sharp that normally appears in that key signature.
Therefore, the only appropriate definition of a natural is an accidental that indicates a pitch is to be played at its absolute pitch value.
A simple harmony consists of chords built with a few tones and chord changes.
This statement is confusing on its own, and perhaps could be solved simply by including an Oxford comma. Alternatively, perhaps the intent of this statement was closer to “a simple harmony consists of chords built with a few specific tones that change to accompany a melody.”
Western music choirs are structured according to group members’ vocal ranges, including bass, tenor, alto, and soprano, as heard in Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 8 in E-Flat Major (Symphony of a Thousand) Pt. 1
Mahler's symphony, although it includes voices, is an orchestral work, not a choral work. There are thousands of far better exemplars of choral literature, but one such example would be Ralph Vaughan Williams, Mass in G minor (1921).
Big band ensembles give jazz music a larger sound, as heard in; … Mart Kenney, When I Get Back to Calgary
Many people are concerned about the relevance of Mart Kenney as a reference for Big band music, simply due to the fact that our current Premier is Mart Kenney’s grandson, however an accident of genealogy does not preclude Mart Kenney’s music from being relevant. What precludes this particular example from being relevant is that it is not a full example of giving jazz a larger sound. A better example of such a thing would be Duke Ellington, It Don’t Mean A Thing.
Organizing Idea: Creating and Presenting
Ideas can be represented musically through artworks that draw upon foundational knowledge.Grade 2 Guiding Question: How can a message be represented musically?
The circle is a symbol that can communicate a message in music, including connection.
This concept is disambiguated from any context. A circle is a geometric shape that, without any context, bears no relevance to musical messages. Unless this concept is talking about First Nations circles or the Circle of Fifths, this statement provides no useful information for teaching music as a medium for sharing messages.
Organizing Idea: Appreciation
Recognizing beauty, goodness, and truth in music can be developed by understanding the complexity and richness of great works of music, the artists who create and perform them, and the historical and cultural contexts from which they originate.Grade 2 Guiding Question: How might cultures from the past and present contribute to an appreciate of music?
The strings for stringed instruments were made from the muscles of various animals.
While this statement is true, it is not commonly true. The most common material used for stringed instruments was not muscle from various animals, but rather the intestines of animals, preferably sheep and lamb. This is why such strings are called “gut strings”. To characterize animal muscle as the preferred material is inappropriate.
Religious music common during this time (the Renaissance) included the mass, motet, and laude.
Motets were not exclusively sacred, and in actual fact the Renaissance tradition of motets grew out of the secular traditions of motets in the Medieval era. The draft curriculum has separated religious from secular music explicitly, so it therefore implies the motet was strictly a religious musical form, when in fact it was not.
The Harlem Renaissance (1917–1930s) was a period in time where Black musicians felt free to express Black lives and identity through their music.
People of African American descent in the United States of America have never felt free to express Black lives and identity in any way, including through their music; this is a verifiable fact. Their music may have become more mainstream, but expression of their own lives and identity has never been the result of a sense of freedom.
In 2015 a man I developed a strong respect for as he ran for various political offices ran to become MP of my federal constituency. I had a long phone call with him one night. The most important question I asked him was “I’ve come to know you as a socially progressive, fiscally conservative man, but I’ve also seen such people enter the conservative world and either not be allowed to speak their social progressiveness or simply lose it altogether. How are you going to maintain your principles and prevent that from happening?”
At the time, John Barlow told me that nothing about politics was worth his character, and that he would still maintain it. So I told him “as long as that remains true, you have my support.”
I’m a man of my word.
In February of 2016, Barlow appeared beside actor Bernard the Roughneck, and that was my first glimpse that something was up.
In October of 2016, one year into office, he voted against including gender identity and expression in Human Rights legislation and the Criminal Code as prohibited grounds of discrimination, despite that vote being supported by other conservatives.
Another year later he endorsed Jason Kenney as leader of the United Conservative Party of Alberta.
Over the rest of the term thus far, Barlow has shown himself not to be a social progressive anymore.
This is important to note, because it provides evidence that you are the company you keep.
Jason Kenney’s leadership campaign is under investigation for fraudulent emails and votes. His campaign is also linked to allegations of a “kamikaze” Jeff Callaway whose only job was to siphon votes from competitor Brian Jean. So far a $15,000 obstruction of an investigation charge, and thousands of dollars of fines for irregular donations has been handed out. An application for an injunction to the investigation was quashed by an Alberta judge. And that is just so that Kenney could become leader of the new UCP.
It's not the only place this kind of nonsense has allegedly occurred. In my own backyard, former MLA for Highwood Wayne Anderson and Carrie Fischer (two people I have come to respect despite having lost to them in the 2015 election) have both submitted complaints of irregularities in the nomination race for Highwood. Alongside these complaints are allegations of sexual misconduct within the Highwood constituency association. Frankly, these allegations do not come as a surprise, because linked to both the Highwood constituency association and the kamikaze campaign is conservative operative Wendy Adam, who also once called the #MeToo movement an affront to her gender.
Across Alberta we see UCP Candidates being removed from candidacy for not having been forthright with their contributions, xenophobic comments and homophobia. Before that we saw many nomination candidates in hot water for xenophobia in Edmonton, Brooks-Medicine Hat, Calgary-Glenmore, Calgary-Shaw and Calgary-North, not to mention the homophobic attacks planned in Calgary-Shaw and the acceptance of illegal corporate donations in Red Deer South.
Even within the folds of the candidates who are remaining standing there is a litany of homophobes, xenophobes, climate-change deniers and misogynists. Start with one candidate who called homosexuality akin to pedophilia, move over to a candidate who sought to fund Nazi and anti-Semitic propogandists, carry on to another who claimed the United Nations was trying to take over Canada’s border, strafe to two candidates (and a failed one) who stood shoulder to shoulder with white nationalists, shuffle to a replacement candidate who seems to have supported a “gay conversion” program, slide to a misogynist demanding women give their husbands “respect and sex” to make their husbands better, shimmy to a climate-change denier who called environmentalism “unspeakable stupidity”, and glide to another candidate who called climate change a “hoax”. And don’t forget leader Jason Kenney has a history of his own in denying basic human rights to people who identify as LGBTQ+.
Moreover, each of the UCP candidates and their volunteers must be okay with all this attack on humanity. Kenney and the UCP Board have the right to deny any of these people from flying the UCP banner, but they don’t, and in some cases they even support the “diversity of opinions”.
There is a difference between “diversity of opinions” and “hate”.
Calling Muslims “Satan-worshippers” is hate.
Calling homosexuality akin to pedophilia is hate.
Denying homosexuals the right to visit their partners in the hospital is hate.
And this isn’t limited to the UCP, although obviously the UCP has the bigger budget. The Alberta Advantage Party makes no bones about wanting to do away with GSAs, and being selective about immigration.
So it comes as no surprise when we see swastikas, racism and phallic symbols drawn on election signs across the province.
If you can’t stand the NDP that much (which, frankly, I won’t blame you for, as they have some serious problems including a $2 billion electricity boondoggle, poor management of minimum wage, an incomplete pipeline with no solution in sight, and much more), there are other options that don’t require you to abandon your human decency.
If what you really want to do is stick it to the rest of Canada who doesn’t seem to give two beavers about Alberta, go for the Alberta Independence Party (although do be prepared for an infrastructure deficit as they move to get rid of all taxes).
If that’s not your main goal, but rather you would like to stick it to the NDP, consider the Alberta Party who have some pretty sound and researched policies (although do be prepared to have another government who wasn’t prepared to govern).
If you hate the corporate world, consider the Green Party, but don’t expect much more than environmental policy … they simply have no plan elsewhere.
For just a moment, forget that you hate the NDP. Forget the reasons why you hate the NDP. We as Albertans need to decide if we really are okay with homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, climate-change denial and electoral fraud.
Because if you are, go ahead, vote UCP, and be the company you keep.
Yesterday was Student Vote at my school. The conversation around it was quite enlightening.
One 13-year-old student actually broke down into tears because he was genuinely afraid that should the NDP be elected again, it would ruin our province.
I wonder where he learned that gross generalization.
A 16-year-old student also broke down into tears, because he was genuinely afraid that a UCP government would see his safe and caring school turn into a factory of test-takers.
He was a bit closer to reality.
It doesn’t matter who runs our province when it comes to the economy. Oil’s boom and bust is still going to continue, and so as long as our economy continues to be based on that we’re going to continue to feel economic lurches.
Albertans are highly educated innovators with the ability to drive our economy forward if given the opportunity. No elected government is going to stop Albertans from being who they are. It is Albertans who are going to bring our province to some form of economic stability through their innovation, not elected governments.
All we need, then, is for Albertans to be educated innovators. Our best investment in our economy, therefore, is our education system. That is where any elected government has the greatest impact on our province’s future success.
4 years after all the attacks had been put to rest as grossly uninformed politicians trying to tell teachers how to teach, they’re back for more.
The UCP dredges up the old “Taskforce on Teaching Excellence”, because it was so effective at whipping up discord 5 years ago, and that’s what the UCP wants, is such discord as to incite fear of the wicked NDP. The UCP’s platform includes 7 points on curriculum, each of which shows they put the same amount of research into what education is as did the “Taskforce” of 5 years ago; dangerously little. Yet here they are, doubling down on debunked data, and receiving the thoroughly politically-whipped former Education Minister Jeff Johnson’s endorsement for doing so.
It’s the Revenge of the Fifth, and the “Taskforce” is not with us.
They claim the curriculum review belongs to the NDP, despite being started by the PC Government, and that it was underconsulted and “secretive” when it in fact is among the best consulted curricular review documents in provincial history. They demand the use of teaching methods that produce the best outcomes without having done any research to find out what those methods are. They say that “phonics” are a proven method, but they ignore the fact that fonix wen yoozd alon iz not sufishent. They call for “proven math instruction methods”, but in the same document ignore some proven math instruction methods because they could be considered “discovery” or “inquiry” education simply because they don’t know what it is (it’s obvious they don’t know, because they later call for “open, critical debate and thinking as key to lifelong learning”, which is exactly what discovery and inquiry education includes). Refer back to my third installment of my series discussing why such strategies are not actually part of curriculum, but are simply strategies teachers use out of their vast toolbox of strategies to ensure every learner is given the best opportunity for success possible. The UCP, by telling teachers they can’t use one of the tools in their toolbox, are in effect being politicians who are trying to tell teachers how to teach.
The UCP also want to bring us back to assessment strategies that have been discounted by mounds and mounds of research, including Grade 3 Provincial Achievement Tests (or PATs), 50%-weighted diploma exams, and even adding standardized high stakes tests in each Grades 1, 2 and 3. They say they’ve walked those ideas back, yet they still sit firmly planted in their election platform. Make no mistake, when you vote UCP, you are voting for increasing anxiety for elementary students because they are being forced to take test after test after test. Grade 12 students will be set up at a disadvantage compared to all other Grade 12 students across Canada. We know these things don’t work, that is why the PC government started to get rid of them. That’s right, the PCs did that (you know, one of the UCP legacy parties), not the NDP.
The UCP want to see Alberta’s Education system “benchmarked” against leading global jurisdictions, yet they don’t have any clue how to do that. Alberta’s Education system is already at the top of the world, and the leading experts in our system, being the teachers, are constantly asked for advice from other jurisdictions. Why would we benchmark against someone else when we’re already a leader in education implementation and research? Often the UCP refers to PISA, an international “standard” organization, and fully ignores the fact that PISA has been thoroughly debunked as an education system assessment and political policy tool.
The UCP pull out recommendations from the Taskforce almost verbatim. Rather than detail in verbatim again why that Taskforce was so completely out of touch, I invite you to read my second blog on the topic. If you’re not interested in reading that far, suffice it to say teacher professional and practice review is already exceptionally rigorous, and that suggesting teachers require “testing” by a politician who has no educational expertise is demeaning and offensive, and that allowing for alternative pathways to teaching certification will in actual fact erode the quality of teaching and education in our province.
They also pull out the old Education Act which was fraught with problems which, if implemented, would include free school until age 21 (go ahead and fail, taxpayers will still fund your education, and in rural schools you’d still be in the same building as kindergarteners), school fees coming back, removal of more rigorous teacher quality standards, and removal of protections for LGBTQ+ students.
Let me be clear; absolutely no person should ever be given the right to “out” a student without that student’s consent. This would be true if the child was being “outted” for being gay, or being “outted” for wanting to be a musician instead of a doctor, or being “outted” for choosing one religion over another. The Education Act would place that expectation in teacher’s hands, and it would relax requirements for private schools to accommodate LGBTQ+ students. Make no mistake, LGBTQ+ students in Alberta will not be safer in our schools if this were to come to pass.
Although it isn’t in their platform document, the UCP have also gone on record saying they’d seek to remove principals from the Alberta Teachers’ Association. They ignore the fact that principals are in such positions because they are teachers first, not because they are business managers separate from the teaching profession. The professional and pedagogical integrity of our schools is largely due to the fact that our principals are teachers, will always be teachers, and are considered leaders in our field. Yet the UCP wants to see them removed from our profession.
The UCP platform, plain and simple, is an attack on education. Even the Alberta Teachers’ Association, who is a world authority on education implementation and research yet is a non-partisan organization, released a statement refuting the value of the vast majority of the UCP education platform, a highly unusual move for the organization. It’s obvious the UCP have no interest in listening to educational experts.
Our children’s education is not only at risk, it is under attack, and our future economy cannot afford it.
It’s been an interesting ride since 2015. We knew the election of the NDP would mess with our orientation in Alberta Politics. But this has simply got to stop.
Since I heard about the specifics of Haley’s condition, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and learning. I’m no healthcare professional, but I have been able to glean some details that allows me to speak a bit more confidently about it. The most important detail is that the drug Haley needs, Soliris (Eculizumab), is not approved for use with her condition, despite reports of it working for the very few others around the world who have it. The pharmaceutical company who holds the rights to Soliris has no financial incentive to seek out the drug’s approval. And Alberta won’t accept it’s use because there isn’t enough data to support it.
It's a rare disease. Getting the research volume Alberta Health is asking for is simply not possible. But the research that does exist is more than promising.
Research or not, it's a $700,000/year drug. There is no way that Haley’s family can float that amount.
It’s not like it’s a drug that will incapacitate her with side-effects, either. There are side-effects, but not much different than some people’s side-effects to antibiotics.
But Haley’s life is on the line. I’m not being melodramatic about it either. Within 10 years of having the condition, kidneys shut down, so a transplant would be needed. Haley is in year 7. But the disease isn’t even in her kidneys, so she’d have a high likelihood of damaging the new kidneys, too. The medical regiment she would have without Soliris is significantly limiting, to the point where she may not be able to contribute to the society she so desperately wants to enjoy.
She wants to be a nurse. Because while under treatment, other nurses have been so uplifting for her. She calls it her vocation, her calling, to help other kids when they are in tough times. Something she can’t do if she isn’t healthy herself.
In a letter I sent to Health Minister Sarah Hoffman, I point out that this wouldn’t be the first time that Alberta has found funding for medication that hasn’t yet been approved in Alberta, for another child with a different rare condition. Other jurisdictions, namely the National Health Service in England, are seeking approval for Soliris for others with Haley’s condition. But for some reason Alberta isn’t willing to give Soliris, the only drug that has shown efficacy at all for others with Haley’s condition, a chance.
This is where Wayne Anderson has been called upon for help, and now Brian Jean is bringing it directly to the Premier.
Now credit where it’s due. Premier Notley rightly states that it shouldn’t be politicians making the decision, but rather healthcare professionals. Brian Jean was obviously reading from a script, and missed the point he should have made at that response.
That point was that it IS the healthcare professionals who are telling Haley to use Soliris. Dr. Julian Midgley, a specialist in the field discussing Haley’s condition, has recommended Soliris despite it not having received approval. Why on earth would a professional do that unless they were absolutely convinced it was the best, nay, the only way forward? Why is the Alberta Government not listening to this healthcare professional?
If this scenario was about someone asking for a drug that would simply improve their quality of life, certainly the conversation would be completely different. But this scenario is about trying to ensure that the basic health of a 17-year-old Albertan is maintained, and it is the health care system’s duty to ensure it. At this point it isn’t, not for Haley.
I’ve joined Wayne Anderson (and now Brian Jean) in asking the government to reconsider their position. There is precedent. There is supporting research. There are other jurisdictions seeking approval. But most importantly, there is a young Albertan with dreams and aspirations of her own, to help others who are sick. For someone going through what she has, there is no higher calling.
What more could the province of Alberta want?
When I started this blog series, I was trying my hardest to make the questions open-ended to let the candidates take it where they wanted, making their platforms apparent. Yet in doing so, some of my readers felt as though some topics were missed.
Knowing me, it's no surprise those topics I heard were the Arts and Youth. After all, I surround myself with Artists and Youth.
The Arts seems to have wide support amongst the candidates, but the different approaches are what sets them apart. Terry Coleman would like to remove barriers for Arts Initiatives as a way of working with the Arts community. Jamie Kinghorn touts his direct involvement, and recognizes that in terms of "Culture", we have a significant immigrant population that should be included in our concept of community. Sandra Wiebe points out that Arts are not just an aesthetic, but also an industry and an approach to the look and feel of community. Michael Nychyk discusses a potential financial solution led by Council to support the Arts in the form of a development levy that can be directed to Arts programming or capital projects. From the perspective of an Arts Advocate myself, each of these approaches are necessary for Arts to thrive; the question ends up being "which approach is more accessible for a 365-day Councillor?"
With regards to youth, there were a few similarities once again, but each had their own perspective as to the manner in which youth should be supported. First, it should be clear that each candidate seemed to agree that the term "youth" refers to people under the age of 30, and most discussed this category as young families. Both Coleman and Kinghorn referred to a Youth Committee and consulting them for ideas forward. Wiebe focused on the public spaces and safety for youth in those spaces. Nychyk referred largely to the need for economic development to encourage a youth population, pointing out that High River's youth population remains much smaller compared to other locations. However, both Kinghorn and Wiebe also pointed out that there is a plethora of activities available for youth.
Finally, I gave the candidates an opportunity to sell themselves to the voter one last time. In their final bid for your votes, candidates once again showed their knowledge, experience and aptitude for the role. The differences between them in their final statements were more about nuance than about glaring differentiation. Coleman's experience outside of High River can be coupled with his experience inside High River. Kinghorn has a clear understanding of what the role entails, having done it before and having stayed immersed in it. Wiebe touts her communication skills, and the fact that she is "a citizen just like you". Nychyk has also remained immersed in the goings-on of Town, and claims to be a good fit with Council. With as many credentials, approaches and similarities as there are, it really leaves a voter wondering what it is they should do.
But that is for a different blog.
Candidates Responses Part 3
The Town of High River has a vibrant Arts community. What initiatives would you pursue as elected Councillor to support and grow the Arts in High River?
Our High River's Vital Signs report shows High River has a sizeable youth population. Yet youth find few activities and entertainment available to them with the exception of organized sport. What solutions would you promote for youth in High River?
Do you have anything to add that you think will make the difference in convincing voters to cast their ballot for you? This is your opportunity to market yourself.
It was likely an informative evening for the current Councillors who were in attendance as well. As I mentioned to one Councillor, it must be gratifying to hear how many things the residents support the current Council in doing, even if they didn’t realize Council was working on them.
For example, some residents didn’t know Council had already approved the removal of the 12th Avenue sandbags. Some residents didn’t know how taxes were calculated. Some residents didn’t know that user fees for the recreation centre are established by a committee of residents. Candidates were able to not only inform residents about how these things happen, but the questions showed that they approve of the current Council’s direction, even if they didn’t know they approved of it.
So how did the candidates perform? The good news is that they all performed very genuinely. Not a single individual at that head table came across as canned, plastic or curated. Voters can count on the “what you see is what you get” feel of their choice. Each of them are also very well-qualified in their own way.
I am excited to say that I could easily see any one of them in that vacant seat on Council, and feel confident with their work. But alas, only one gets to win, so …
One place where every candidate shone was on the highest contentious issue of secondary suites. A number of audience members spoke to the issue, and were joined by choruses of agreement from those who came to listen. Each candidate stated something unique about the issue, which shouldn’t be surprising considering its complexity, but in doing so each showed they had done some research into the topic. Wiebe first mentioned the Town Plan which seeks to increase density, but argued that secondary suites was not the way to do it. Coleman rightly pointed out that the “policing” of illegal secondary suites seemed to be largely inadequate. Kinghorn offered that it is a province- and country-wide problem that requires collaborative effort with other municipalities, and even suggested that a secondary suite should be classified as such if someone other than the family is living in a unit. Nychyk pointed out that it cannot be as simple as that, especially with a large immigrant population whose norm it is to have multigenerational family units in the same dwelling. The unfortunate news for voters is that there are no simple answers, and no single candidate will provide the silver thread that ties everything together into a nice tidy package. The great news is that they can be guaranteed that no matter who gets in, they’ve all considered it, and are ready to dive into those discussions head-first.
There were a variety of questions that ended up having similar answers throughout the night. How do you encourage businesses back in, boarded up houses to recover, young families to move in, additional facilities for Seniors, and the Arts? In each of these questions the answer was common; support the Economic Development department because through economic development all of these other issues will be addressed. That also means that each candidate is acutely aware of the necessary support Economic Development requires, and are ready to give that support.
In byelections, the best strategy for a candidate is to set yourself up as the one every other candidate is trying to beat, and forums help to solidify that stance. No candidate did that yet with a significant amount of certainty. If there was a candidate or two who had the opportunity to do that last night, they did not capitalize, and instead the other candidates closed the gap. This election is still anyone’s game, and anything can happen in the last week.
See all the installments of the Byelection series by WindyJMusic:
Stirring the Pot in High River
The 365-Day Councillor
Dance a Little Sidestep
Post-Forum Mashup: Keeping It Classy
Bonus Round: Taking Your Questions
What's a Voter in High River to do?
As a post-script, the byelection night was not without shenanigans. An audience member chose to grandstand in support of a candidate with obvious intent to shame the other candidates, and in doing embarrassed another audience member, devalued every community-minded citizen’s contribution to High River, and stunned the candidate’s panel and moderator. I’m not even sure the candidate receiving the support was even aware of what was going on because it was so out-of-place. Grandstands like that have no place in Canada.
I’m sure the vast majority of High Riverites do not need the reminder to stay classy. The respect each candidate showed one another was incredible and illuminated High River’s true nature. With leaders like these on our Council, we will have no problems remaining High River Strong. Let’s make sure we follow their lead.
As one would expect, the completion of the southwest berm is a priority for each candidate, with only Jamie Kinghorn suggesting the delay may mean a different plan may be necessary. But some similar themes emerged elsewhere in these responses, including accessibility for everyone including those with mobility issues must be maintained, and patience with the construction. However what we find in these questions about flood recovery, Downtown, secondary suites and community-led initiatives is that there are now far more differences between the candidates.
"Walkable" High River is a large target for the current Council, and each candidate supports it. Michael Nychyk rightly points out that the construction Downtown is not because we wanted to make town more "walkable", but rather that infrastructure required repairs following the flood; upgrading the look and feel of Downtown is simply taking advantage of the timing of the rebuild to reimagine a vibrant Downtown. Jamie Kinghorn, Sandra Wiebe and Terry Coleman focused on the economic impacts of the Downtown design, with Coleman being specific about not wanting the Downtown to be "a medical center". Wiebe and Nychyk also discussed the healthy-living and community components of a "walkable" High River.
The issue of parking shows the most significant contrasts between candidates so far. Kinghorn suggests that the vast majority of residents are disappointed with parking and is worried about problems amplifying with the completion of the provincial building. Wiebe and Nychyk, on the other hand, indicated they felt the issue of parking has been exaggerated, and encourage the physical activity of walking. Both Coleman and Nychyk indicated that communities are dynamic, and review would be necessary, with Coleman being quite specific about how that might look. Kinghorn, Nychyk and Coleman offered some ideas for solutions, but each referred to consultation to get to the best solution.
Where the issue of secondary suites is concerned, once again there is a clear difference amongst candidates. Kinghorn demonstrated a strong understanding of many of the various sides of the issue, and suggests that the solution can't be found in High River alone, but must be done in collaboration with other communities. Wiebe was interested in supporting the existence of secondary suites to deal with affordable housing issues.
Each candidate points out that economic recovery for the community should encourage the rebuild of empty houses in "swiss cheese" communities, but the assessments of "the real problem" are what sets candidates apart. Kinghorn states a solution must be found because empty non-taxpaying houses impact everyone else's taxes, but solutions must be approached on an individual basis. Nychyk offers that the best solution is to keep the public areas around these properties in good repair, and that attractiveness will help. Each candidate suggests incentives are required.
Improved marketing and communications are the orders of the day according to Kinghorn and Wiebe when it comes to community-led activities. Coleman instead wants to get rid of reducing red tape and barriers to success, while also helping people to be stronger community supporters.
Many of my readers (and my students) have asked questions that did not get covered by candidates' responses in my original questions. As a result, I sent out another request for responses to candidates over the Thanksgiving weekend (and told them not to answer until they had turkey). So you will see a "Bonus Round" blog later this week to cover the questions you have raised.
In the meantime, on Tuesday night (October 11) from 7:00 to 9:00 PM you will find me at the Highwood Memorial Centre for the All Candidates Forum hosted by the High River and District Chamber of Commerce. It leads into my next blog in this series, the "Post-Forum Mashup".
Candidate Responses Part 2
The southwest berm has not yet been completed, and other flood mitigation projects are underway. Which of these projects do you deem most important, and how do you intend to approach these projects if elected?
Downtown is constantly under construction moving towards a vision of a "walkable High River". What, in your opinion, is the value of a "walkable High River"? If you support it, how exactly will you do so. If you do not support it, how will you see that issue addressed?
Another issue in the Downtown region is parking, or a perceived lack thereof. If you see it as a significant issue, do you intend during your term to address this issue? If you do not believe it to be an issue, how do you intend to address the fact that many have such concerns?
The Land-Use Bylaw, particularly with attention to secondary suites, seems to be an ongoing issue. What solutions are you hoping to achieve with respect to secondary suites, and how will you work toward those solutions?
Following the flood, there remains "swiss cheese" communities and business areas, where vacancies exist. What role will you take as Councillor in addressing these vacancies to help rebuild these communities?
Community-minded people build a sense of community. How will you, as Councillor, encourage the continued development of community through citizen-led initiatives? Are there any initiatives you envision that must instead be Town-led to achieve prosperity?
Perhaps I'm a little mean to the candidates.
I asked big questions. They required big answers. So to flush this out a little better, I've split their responses into 3 posts, this being the first.
To their credit, 3 of 4 candidates answered them as quickly and as completely as they could. I'm still waiting to hear back from the fourth. I also offer the candidates a chance to change their responses at any time, but once their first response is posted I will be clear about the changes they send me.
These first questions didn't do much to show the differences between the candidates positions, but their approaches are quite different. I provide a synopsis (so that if you are only reading this while on the toilet, you won't have to read too much), but if you want to get into the meat of their responses, they are further down this blog.
In the interests of full disclosure, I've also shared many of these things with my students, who provided me with their own reactions. Some of those reactions are reflected in this blog.
The first thing to note is that each of the candidates are strong proponents of community, and have volunteered in a wide variety of different ways. They are also apparent fans of the current Council's general direction. But that's where the similarities stop.
At this point, Jamie Kinghorn, Michael Nychyk and Terry Coleman are the candidates with a clearly defined vision for their 365-day term. As methods of providing incentive for economic recovery, Kinghorn focuses on the budget while Nychyk focuses on completion of outstanding projects. The budget gets debated right away at the end of October, so the new Councillor will be able to make their biggest stamp there. There are a great many started and unfinished projects though, and completing these will make the Town far more business-ready. Sandra Wiebe offers that she will simply learn where she is needed most, and go there. Coleman in contrast is focused on the Land-Use Bylaw, as with his 365 days he feels that is where he can be most impactful.
Kinghorn and Nychyk also look outside the Town to our neighbours, with Kinghorn focusing on intermunicipal committees, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) and the Province of Alberta, while Nychyk eyes the Calgary Regional Partnership and all levels of government to help with infrastructure. As the AUMA had a large gathering this week, that seems appropriately timed, and the AUMA has been very supportive of the Disaster Recovery Program Advisory Committee's work. Consideration of the Province with regards to the impending changes to the Municipal Government Act is also apropos. High River recently rejoined the Calgary Regional Partnership, and the most recent visible result is the town's participation in the On-It Regional Transit routes.
Neither Nychyk nor Wiebe have constructive criticisms to offer Council, but Kinghorn has a few words focusing on the construction of a major recreation complex, and on Council's willingness to listen to concerns about downtown parking. Kinghorn's views may be caused by a lack of movement on the Master Recreation Plan proposal presented earlier this year, and the fact that Council tends not to bend to the will of some naysayers. Meanwhile, Coleman is focused on safety with regards to hazardous materials transportation, traffic flow and Land-Use. This may be of significant importance, especially with all the construction going on, and the emergency bottleneck that is the Centre Street Bridge.
The differences in this first section seem small, until you ask about how they will work with non-government groups. Here, a chasm begins to open. Kinghorn points to his extensive volunteer resumé adding that he can be a voice for those groups to Council. Nychyk points out the fact that High River has as many community leaders as it does is in part due to supportive programming to help get them there. Wiebe suggests she would join or meet with groups when needs arise, and Coleman is concise in his desire to have face-to-face interactions.
This is just the first group of questions. The next group of questions are more issue-specific, including flood mitigation, walkability vs. parking, and secondary suites.
Watch for the next blog, where I try my best to at least feign impartiality.
Candidate Responses Part 1
Recently the High River Times published a biography on you. Is there anything you wish to add that the newspaper did not include that will help voters learn about what experience and expertise you will bring to the role of Councillor?
You only have one year in this term. What is your first and most significant priority during this term?
What are some of the directions the current Council is taking that you are most pleased with?
What are some of the directions the current Council is taking that you think require addressing?
What ways do you see yourself working with other government organizations (neighbouring municipalities, provincial, federal) during this term if elected?
How do you see yourself collaborating with non-governmental organizations in your role as Councillor if elected?