EDMONTON, Alberta, (LifeSiteNews) – Alberta’s provincial government will pilot their new education curriculum for grades K-6 this fall.
The draft curriculum released this past March has moved away from “Discovery Learning” and integrated a “Knowledge-based” system that has some educational gurus rejoicing and woke progressives arming for battle.
In an interview with LifeSiteNews, Stuart Wachowicz, a former Director of Curriculum for Edmonton Public Schools and of Edmonton’s Confucius Institute, welcomed the government’s changes to education.
He described the “Discovery” methodology as “inane thinking that assumes you can just figure it all out for yourself [just] because you are interested, without the ability to have the repository of centuries of greatness in thought available to your brain.”
“You can’t think without knowledge,” Wachowicz continued.
“How do you think when you don’t know anything? Discovery Learning works very well if, and only if, you have a very strong and comprehensive knowledge base to work with.”
Having no knowledge about what you are trying to discover will result in not discovering anything, Wachowicz explained.
Alberta’s Education Minister Adriana Lagrange and her team have proposed this K-6 curriculum, one that focuses on mastering literacy, acquiring knowledge, and exposing the children to the great works of mankind. In other words, the curriculum is knowledge-rich.
The proposed curriculum doesn’t dismiss the big ideas in the old curriculum, nor does it keep children from wanting to discover. It simply gets specific and adds opportunities to explore the great works. Rather than learning generally about a subject, the proposed curriculum is specific about exactly what needs to be mastered. It is knowledge-rich.
The section on oral presentations in the English curriculum is a great example.
In the current curriculum the objectives for Grade 6 are as follows:
Use various styles and forms of presentations, depending on content, audience and purpose,
Emphasize key ideas and information to enhance audience understanding and enjoyment,
Demonstrate control of voice, pacing, gestures and facial expressions; arrange props and presentation space to enhance communication.
The new draft learning objectives for rhetoric and the expectations for the Grade 6 student far surpass the current targets in both rigour and quality. The students will now be expected to do the following:
Understand the different styles of speaking for different situations including formal, colloquial, and slang. Further, they are to understand how sounds and actions can be used to elevate the speech and the delivery.
The students will be taught how to engage in collaborative dialogue, how to give an oration and how to persuade with their speech.
The students will learn Aristotle’s three pillars of public speaking and study great speeches like those given by Cicero.
Thus, Grade 6 students of rhetoric will not just learn how to give a power point presentation but will actually study the art of public speaking and engage with the great speeches in history.
Mastery of literacy is another aspect of their new curriculum. The “whole language” approach to reading promoted by John Dewey has been demobilized, and Alberta’s Education Minister has directed teachers to return to phonics as the tool for teaching children to read.
“Literacy lies at the heart of education,” Lagrange stated in the public release of the curriculum.
“By mastering all elements of literacy children will gain the skills necessary for life-long personal growth and success.”
The curriculum also has very specific learning objectives in regard to grammar all the way from kindergarten through Grade 6.
“The new curriculum will expect teachers to coach children to constantly improve their literacy skills,” states the Overview.
It touches on the development of the English language and delves into a plethora of genres of writing. The students will even be expected to know the difference between types of Greek poetry, Greek tragedy/comedy, and dramatic works from the Renaissance.
The draft Social Studies curriculum has received the most attention from critics as it involves a return to memorization and mastery of historical knowledge, the study of ancient cultures, and a clear expectation that students will know the chronology of history, geography, economics, and civics. They will be able to tell the story of the province of Alberta, the nation of Canada, and the world.
In the curriculum proposed for the province, the students learn not just the history of Alberta and its indigenous roots, but how western thought formed Canadian culture. After learning about the indigenous peoples in Grade 1, the students will look in Grade 2 at our western heritage in Greek and Roman civilizations, how our current world has been shaped by Christian, Islamic and Judaic thought, and the origins of the Silk Road and its eastern influence on western culture. In Grade 3, the students study New France and the arrival of the European settlers to North America. After studying in Grade 4 the settlement of Alberta in in detail, and in Grade 5 how Canada is governed, they will delve into the topics of the displacement of the indigenous peoples and the residential schools.
The current curriculum is based on what is called the “Expanding Horizons” (EH) approach. This is where we see the focus of kindergarten being “me,” of Grade 1 “the family,” of Grade 2 “the community,” and so on and so forth. Lagrange has replaced this approach with the classical, chronological method of learning history.
Kieran Egen, a professor in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University, a Co-Director of the Imaginative Education Research Group, and one of Canada’s best known social studies scholars, wrote that the Expanding Horizons approach to learning is “based on the assumption that students discover the world by progressively moving further outwards along lines of content associations.” However, research suggests that students “explore reality by first making contact with its most extreme limits and then working inwards.”
Egen states further that the EH approach has done an “enormous disservice to students’ educational development,” and also that the approach “bore[s] most students out of their minds.”
University of Alberta professor and social studies expert Carla Peck, on the other hand, is a vocal critic of the proposed new curriculum. She writes in her blog that it is an assumption on Lagrange’s part that “before students can be taught how to think critically, creatively, or deeply, they must first amass a body of ‘core knowledge.’”
Peck believes that this is a “deficit model of thinking” and she “reject[s] it wholeheartedly.”
“As an expert in history education pedagogy I agree that facts are important,” she wrote.
However, Peck believes that since almost every student “has a computer in their hand, back pocket, or backpack, students can easily look facts up.” Students don’t need facts, she argues; students need to know how to “evaluate and critique the evidence they encounter.”
In response to Peck’s argument, Wachowicz stated, “This is a classic remark of an uneducated person. This is the classic remark of the Philistine … She is uncouth and barbaric in her thinking.”
He explained that this attitude was at the root of the problem and that, essentially, this is what makes progressivists “anti-intellectual.”
Greg Ashman, an educator and the Head of Research at Ballarat Clarendon College, weighed in from Australia on the debate over Alberta’s new knowledge-based curriculum. In his essay, he made the point that “knowledge is what you think with.”
Ashman explained that without foundational knowledge on a subject, it is difficult to evaluate and critique anything. He gives the example of the game of cricket. Without a knowledge of the game, it is very difficult to think critically and evaluate it.
Alberta’s new curriculum has a worthy aim. The goal of education for the government is not to educate the student so that he can graduate, get a job, make money, and then buy a lot of stuff. Rather, the goal of education is to turn the student’s soul towards learning. The new curriculum is geared to do just that. Lagrange and her team have provided a structure by which the students have the opportunity to master the tool of learning – literacy – and then they are exposed to the greatest works of man’s history.
The vision statement of the proposed curriculum describes it well. The student is to “recognize truth, beauty, and goodness through exposure to the best and most enduring art and writing across time periods and places.”
Unfortunately, this vision, which should be the wish of all teachers for their students, seems to have been lost on the teachers’ union. The Alberta Teachers’ Association has spoken loudly on behalf of the teachers in the province, publishing that the curriculum is “unsound and potentially damaging to the student.”
The Fort Vermilion School Division is one of the only Alberta school boards “daring” to pilot the new program in the ocean of woke pressure to bring it down.
“If the Premier doesn’t get this [curriculum] through, then private education and homeschooling are the only options,” said Wachowicz.
“How do you deal with a society that doesn’t consciously know it has a problem?” he continued.
“It is only done through leadership, and that leadership takes courage. I think [that] of all the provinces in Canada, Alberta is the only one with the kind of leadership that is needed, and it still has a window to do this work.”