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.