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Group consulted about Alberta social studies curriculum disavows new draft

A group of educators and researchers invited by Alberta Education to help develop the new social studies curriculum has “significant concerns” with the draft released this week.

An open letter from eight educators and researchers who were part of the K-6 Curriculum Development Specialist Group claims their input was “largely ignored.”

The government said it spent seven months consulting on the draft curriculum, including meeting with more than 300 teachers, Indigenous communities and other experts, as well as incorporating 12,800 public surveys.

The open letter was released on Friday, describing the UCP government’s draft curriculum as limited and saying won’t help students development important skills like critical thinking.

“We are deeply disappointed with this draft curriculum and concerned about the lack of transparency in the curriculum development process. As researchers and educators, we have provided critical feedback and constructive advice that could inform the creation of a high-quality social studies program for Alberta students,” the letter reads, in part.

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Click to play video: 'Ask the Educator: Rolling out the Alberta Educations new K-12 curriculum'

Ask the Educator: Rolling out the Alberta Educations new K-12 curriculum

David Scott is the chair of Curriculum and Learning at the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. He was also part of the group that was asked for feedback on the social studies curriculum.

“We spent from November into January working with Alberta Education. We provided a lot of direction, feedback, guidance, contributions. And in many instances, we were quite happy working with them and we felt we were being very much listened to. But unfortunately, when the new program was released yesterday, we found that a great deal of what we had offered was largely ignored. So we felt that we had no choice but to disavow our association with the new curriculum…”

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Scott is worried that the curriculum, in its current form, will negatively affect an entire generation of young Albertans.

“We know that if it’s just about textbook work and memorizing information and information that has no relevance to the world that you live in, the issues that we’re facing, that’s not going to be interesting. And the danger of this program to me is that it’s going to kill any love of social studies for a whole generation of young people,” he said.

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Scott described the curriculum development process as “rushed” and “opaque.”

The open letter points out several concerns with the draft curriculum, including a lack of opportunities for critical thinking, and hearing perspectives from diverse identities and cultures, including First Nations and Metis.

“The newest draft social studies program rightly acknowledges First Peoples and their longstanding occupancy on these lands. It is also absent of overtly racist references. At first glance, this is a marked improvement; yet, the unique knowledge systems, languages, perspectives and worldviews of local Indigenous peoples are noticeably absent. The social studies curriculum lacks the integrity needed to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and its recent stalling out.”

Click to play video: 'Expert decry Alberta’s latest social studies curriculum draft'

Expert decry Alberta’s latest social studies curriculum draft

This is the province of Alberta’s third attempt at replacing the 20-year-old social studies curriculum currently being taught in elementary schools. It comes after the NDP government’s 2018 version and the UCP’s 2021 attempt were both criticized and rejected.

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When releasing the draft curriculum on Thursday, Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said his government spent seven months doing consultations, including meeting with more than 300 teachers, Indigenous communities and other experts.

More than 12,800 surveys were filled out in the fall of 2023 by members of the public wanting to have a say on a new document.

In a statement on Friday, the education ministry stood by the draft curriculum.

“I am confident that the draft curriculum we released on March 14 for further public engagement is reflective of the significant feedback we’ve received over the last seven months,” Nicolaides said.

“We have worked hard to be transparent and comprehensive in our efforts to develop a new draft curriculum. Alberta Education has carefully considered feedback from all engagement activities and research to date, and will consider additional public feedback received through the survey prior to the new 2024 draft K-6 social studies curriculum being finalized this spring.”

Albertans are only being given two weeks to view and give feedback on the document. Public engagement will close on March 29.

School boards could then opt in to pilot the curriculum starting this September.

The K-6 draft curriculum is posted on the Alberta government’s website.

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