Loading articles...

Alberta selects advisors for new curriculum, sparks concern among NDP

Last Updated Aug 14, 2020 at 6:44 am MST

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — As the UCP government moves ahead with a revamped K-12 curriculum for Alberta schools, the opposition NDP is sounding the alarm about a new board of advisors appointed to assist with the changes.

There are eight advisors each tasked with focusing on different subjects, who will work alongside hundreds of teachers also reviewing the curriculum.

Earlier this month, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced more details about the review, after the UCP scrapped the previous curriculum plan that was going to be adopted by the NDP.

There was consistent mentions of focusing on “numeracy and literacy”, along with a quest to remove so-called “political bias” in the social studies curriculum.

When pressed by reporters, LaGrange could not provide specific examples of bias within the curriculum itself, instead offering anecdotes about singular examples in a classroom or purported by parents.

But the new list of advisors is raising eyebrows among some, as the person tasked with social studies edits a publication that has released articles questioning the harm done by residential schools.

C.P. (Chris) Champion, visiting research fellow at Queen’s University, also served as Senior Policy Advisor of Premier Jason Kenney when he was Minister of National Defence and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet.

He co-founded The Dorchester Review, a historical publication that in the past has included articles lambasting “left” governments and their role in the history curriculum, particularly around how Indigenous people are portrayed.

“Here in Canada the preoccupation with victimhood has mostly centred on Japanese Canadians and residential school ‘survivors,'” said an authorless piece republished in April.

This appointment has the NDP worried about what the state of social studies will be under this new curriculum.

RELATED: Alberta curriculum review urges focus on basic learning, standardized tests

“This is so alarming,” said MLA Janis Irwin, who is also a former teacher.

Irwin added that the advisory board does not accurately represent students either, as there are no females included.

In addition to Premier Kenney refusing to fire his speechwriter Paul Bunner, who wrote an article in the past also questioning the harm done by residential schools, Irwin said this represents a disturbing trend.

“We know how important it is that young people see themselves in curriculum. Quite frankly, what this move by Jason Kenney signals is that he doesn’t care about students in classrooms.”

Irwin doesn’t know at this point what role the board will play in actively dictating the final curriculum, which should be ready for the 2021 school year, but there’s little faith it will be positive after LaGrange struggled to provide examples of bias in the recent press conference.

“I’ve had countless teachers reach out to me and say this is absolute nonsense. Frankly, they were embarrassed to see an education minister up there in front of the media who couldn’t provide a single example.”

Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teacher’s Association, and shared the concerns about what is seen as a lack of diversity on the board.

“I am disappointed to see there is no representation of Indigenous perspectives or francophone. And it is shocking that we would have a list in 2020 that does not include women on it,” he said.

A statement from a spokesperson with the Ministry of Education said they are continuing to look for qualified individuals to join the panel who also represent a diversity of opinions, experiences and expertise.

On the concerns around Champion, the spokesperson said he is more than qualified so hold this role.

“While he has held political positions in the past, he is an established academic and has delivered lectures at multiple Canadian universities, including McGill, Concordia and the University of Ottawa. All of our advisors are providing unbiased advice based on their subject-matter expertise, and they were selected due to their experience in their fields of research.”

“We have full confidence in the subject matter experts and the nearly 300-member curriculum working group, and their commitment to a transparent and non-partisan approach to curriculum development,” they added.

This is a full list of the current advisory board, as provided by the Ministry of Education:

· Dr. George Georgiou – Literacy

o George Gerogiou is a professor at the Department of Educational Psychology and director at the J.P. Das Centre on Developmental and Learning Disabilities at the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. His research interests include reading development across languages, remediation of reading difficulties, executive functioning and home literacy environment. He is on the editorial board for many journals, including the Alberta Journal of Educational Research. He has received numerous awards, including the Alberta Teachers’ Association Educational Research Award. For his literacy work with children in Alberta schools, he has been named to the Royal Society of Canada. He holds a PhD in philosophy, a master degree in education, and a bachelor degree in education.

· Dr. David Chorney – Wellness

o David Chorney is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education – Secondary Education Department, at the University of Alberta. His research focuses on physical education teacher education and curriculum theorizing in physical education. David has won several awards for teaching and research, including the Information Technology Innovation Individual Award and the Rutherford Award of Excellence in undergraduate teaching for the University of Alberta. He has a PhD in curriculum studies, a master of education, a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of education.

· Dr. Vladimir Troitsky – Math

o Vladimir Troitsky is a Professor in the Faculty of Science, Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at the University of Alberta. His research interests include functional analysis and theory of operators. He has organized conferences with the Canadian Mathematical Society and Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences as well as Positivity IX, and the Conference on Geometric Functional Analysis at the University of Alberta. He is also a member of the editorial board for Positivity and Quaestiones Mathematicae. He holds a master of science and a PhD.

· Dr. Chris Champion – Social Studies

o Chris Champion is a visiting research fellow at Queen’s University, Centre for International Defence Policy, and is the editor of The Dorchester Review, which he founded in 2011. At the age of 46 he joined the Canadian Army Reserves while he was writing his second book Relentless Struggle: Saving the Army Reserve. He previously served as a policy advisor to the Minister of National Defence and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. While with the Government of Canada, he oversaw the production of the Discover Canada citizenship test guide. Chris holds a PhD in history, a master of philosophy in international relations and a bachelor of arts in history with international relations.

· William French – Arts & Literature

o William French is a barrister and solicitor. He is on the Board of Directors at The Shakespeare Company in Calgary, where he chairs its Education Committee and spearheads the development of education programmes, primarily emulating models learned during a 3-year immersion in classical theatre in the United Kingdom. He is an independent translation professional, providing translation services in Czech and English. He previously founded and ran a Czech NGO focussed on the reading and discussion of literature in schools. He has lectured at the Faculty of Humanities at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, and holds a juris doctor degree and a bachelor of arts.

· Dr. Cameron Macdonell – Science

o Cameron Macdonell is the department chair and an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at MacEwan University. His research interests include computing science education, operating systems and virtualization. He is also an instructor of software and data carpentry. Cameron has publications with ACM Annual Technical Conference on Computer Science Education, ASEE Annual Conference and Exhibition and the International Computing Education Research Workshop. He has presented workshops both nationally and internationally related to digital humanities, as well as dynamic webpages, data and software carpentry. His has a PhD and a master degree in computing science, and a bachelor degree in science.

The following 2 individuals are providing perspectives on diversity and pluralism:

· Dr. Marvin Washington

o Marvin Washington is the Associate Dean Executive Education with the Department of Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Management and a full professor with the Alberta School of Business at the University of Alberta. His research interests include strategic management and organization theory. Dr. Washington has worked with government and industry leaders in the countries of Botswana and Mexico, as well as the states of Texas, Illinois, Michigan and Oregan. He holds a PhD and master degree in organization behaviour and sociology, as well as a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering and management sciences.

· Dr. Onookome Okome

Onookome is a full professor of English at the University of Alberta. His research interests include African studies including Anglophone African literature and African popular culture. One of his seminal publications is Popular Culture in Africa: The Episteme of the Everyday and Research in African Literatures. Onookome has a PhD and master degree in cinema and theatre studies, as well as a bachelor of arts degree.