Parents, educators, and students held passionate—and sometimes tearful—protest at the McDougall Centre against what they say are coming harms to children from the province’s draft education curriculum.
“Ditch the Draft” rallies were held across the province on Saturday.
Protesters in Calgary joined those in Edmonton, Grand Prairie, Lethbridge, and Red Deer to call on the government to end their fall implementation plans.
“We now have a Frankenstein draft elementary curriculum that teachers parents and subject matter experts have declared an epic fail,” said Dr. Angela Grace.
The government is planning on introducing new K-6 physical education and wellness curriculum in September 2022. This will be joined by K-3 math and English language arts.
Grades 4 through 6 will have their math and language arts curriculum introduced in September of 2023.
Educators, experts at protest said curriculum is contentious
Dr. Grace, who is a psychologist with a specialization in the prevention and treatment of eating and body image issues, took issue with the province’s fall plans.
“In fact, the phys ed and wellness curriculum, which is my area of expertise, is worse now than it was a year ago,” she said.
She said that although the provinces made some changes from the initial draft, that in its current form it would cause harms to children.
Dr. Grace was one of the first callers to the Premier’s new weekly radio show. At that time, she asked Jason Kenney about its implementation, to which the Premier responded that he rejected the premise of her question. He said that the curriculum was a political football by left-leaning Albertans.
In response, during a speech at the rally, Dr. Grace said “if the NDP were pulling this crap I’d be saying exactly the same thing.”
“This curriculum was developed without the input of teachers and educators and therefore it was and is destined for failure,” said Bob Cocking, president Alberta Teachers Association local 38, which represents Calgary’s public school teachers.
“This draft curriculum does not have the support of the indigenous communities, nor the Francophone communities, nor black and Muslim communities or the LGBTQ communities, nor did it have to support 95% of school boards in the province of Alberta,” he said.
Cocking pointed to polling that said 91 per cent of teachers and 80 per cent of Albertans are unhappy with the draft in its current form.
He said that the curriculum has not been piloted sufficiently, and teacher resources have not been developed by the Ministry of Education to make planned delivery in the fall successful.
“How are teachers to deliver a curriculum with little or no resources and support,” he asked.
Real harms to children said parents, students
Curtis Buxton, a parent to a special needs child, spoke tearfully about the harms he said the draft would do to kids with disabilities. He read a statement from @HoldMyHandAB.
“Reading this draft curriculum it is clear that the kids we represent, the ones with additional learning considerations, were not even remotely thought of,” he said.
“Outside of changes in language arts, kids with disabilities aren’t even seen.”
Buxton likened the curriculum to handing out size eight shoes to all students, and expecting kids with bigger and smaller feet to somehow fit.
He teared up while talking about the why his, and other children with developmental needs, have not, he claimed, received appropriate resources from the government. He said that long-term these children face mental health issues, and harm to their well being without those resources.
Others were concerned about a lack of consent education.
“Currently, we are seeing so many students being impacted by sexual abuse and you can directly link this to the lack of education surrounding consent and our curriculum,” said Haley Bryant.
Bryant, a student at Western Canada High School, is one of the organizers for a national walkout for consent happening on April 4.
“As it stands in our current human sexuality and concrete column, consent is mentioned zero times—but abstinence is mentioned four times.”
She said that students need tools to navigate relationships safely, and that these need to be part of the curriculum.
“We call upon all levels of government to work with us to ensure that future generations don’t have sexual assault as a part of their learning experience.”