The Demise of Progressive Education in Alberta

The continuing saga of how two governments have agenda-edly decided to limit the educative possibilities of all individual students in the province.

This began under the Conservatives who began introducing their ‘how to make money’ agenda with units on how students could become bean-counters, techies (foreshadowed by such events as the closing of the textbook bureau), and entrepreneurs (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every student went into business and opened a lemon-aid stand of their very own?). Their focus was just about making money, and grooming future voters to vote P.C., the party of business in this province.

And now, of course, we have entered the “Love everyone else and nature while learning to make money” reductionist-era of the NDP. What had once been primarily a progressive, subject-centered curriculum which promoted serious reading, open-minded critical thinking, books, and critical writing has become a limited/limiting politically-correct massage of agenda-ed, student-centered, technological-centered slush.

“How can we make it easier for kids, make it softer, more gentle” has become one of the main mantras of the curriculum review. Why that’s easy: do away with content and subject matter. Who needs facts, a wide variety of information, irony, ambiguity, symbolism, themes, ideas, conflicts, critical thinking, essay-writing, books, and that old nuisance senior-high subject English that lowers final grade 12 marks with irrelevant stuff like Shakespeare and poetry? It’s time to destroy any vestige of literature, history, the past, and that nasty old curriculum. Keep language, thought, and content simple. Real simple. Boil it/everything down.

No, Hamlet, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, and Romeo and Juliet should not be studied; they have nothing to say to us anymore: we who are so wise and all-powerful with our machines and phones. Kids don’t need to think about life (in any broad sense), evil, human nature, power and control, agendas, using and manipulating people, virtue vs. vice, stereotypes, discrimination and prejudice (ironically, despite the pc agenda), idealism, love and hate, irrational feuding, crime, murder, death, the individual vs. society, the importance of individual choices, and a zillion other significant themes.

Far be it that students in AB today should be challenged, should be raised and lifted beyond the limited commercials/ads level of response on all technological platforms today. Teachers in AB should just reinforce and support kids and let them explore whatever they choose and want. Keep it simple: keep ’em cozy and comfortable. (John Lennon’s “Nothing’s going to change my world” comes to mind.)

And how awful it is that students should learn to write legibly and clearly by hand so that others can read their scrawl or that they should declare themselves independently (without a machine) and responsibly in their own writing without a technological device!

No, life and education should just be about math, literacy exercises, and knowing how to make money, apparently. And we just need less content and subject matter, the minimally 50% ‘what’ of learning! By gar, that’s the solution! Less subject-centered (home)work and more focus on catering to student imagination and curiosity with kids running the classroom. The recent dumbing-down, which started under the PCs, has turned into an NDP runaway train with agenda-flags righteously waving. No, this is not education in the traditional or truly progressive sense of the word; this is just narrow-based propaganda and various agendas, nothing else. And Lord help and pity any kids in the ill-conceived, impoverished, debilitating, superficially `populist` line of fire that is selling true education and Alberta children so tragically short in this province.

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