Should students be taught that fossil fuels are the enemy of humanity?
That natural gas isn’t part of the solution on climate change?
That wearing an “I love Alberta oil and gas” T-shirt is akin to loving the idea of human extinction?
All of these notions are pushed by Edmonton climate change activist Chris Gusen on his Twitter account. Gusen is one of the activists who blocked commuter traffic on the Walterdale Bridge for a few hours last October.
Twitter is absolutely the perfect place for Gusen, but I’m pretty sure there’s little to be gained by allowing him regular access to Alberta school students. Gusen now gets that as a guest speaker at the City Hall School program.
When asked about activists like Gusen in schools, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said it’s up to individual teachers and boards to set the standard on whom should be allowed access to students. When discussing the critical issues of the day it’s important to present arguments on both sides, LaGrange said. “I have great faith in the majority of our teachers that they are doing that.”
At the same time, LaGrange worries about what she calls extremist views in the classroom.
“Extremism has to be looked at,” she said. “We’re going to have to look at certain groups and evaluate whether they are extreme or are they providing a balanced approach.”
Gusen isn’t the only activist regularly welcomed into Alberta schools to preach the gospel of climate alarmism. Toronto’s Steve Lee is also popping up all the time.
Indeed, embracing leftist activism in public education has been the rage with many education professors, bureaucrats and teachers for years now, so much so that the NDP’s first public draft of the new K-4 social studies curriculum reflected a strong bias towards populist leftist ideals.
Before I write another word, I want to stress that I’m not against left-wing or right-wing ideas being studied and held under a microscope in class. For example, high school students should study the horrific impacts in the 20th Century of communism and fascism. That said, I no more want social justice warriors to take over the system than I want stifling social conservatives to take similar advantage.
The point of education isn’t indoctrination, it’s the pursuit of truth. It’s finding out about the historical pros and cons of socialism, not being told collectivism is the answer to all our problems. It’s learning about sexual reproduction, not that abortion is akin to mass murder.
Jason Kenney’s government — which has a social conservative bent that needs careful scrutiny — was elected with the promise to bring back a focus on the acquisition of knowledge and high academic standards in our schools. I’ve now interviewed LaGrange about any progress.
One of the strongest pillars of transparency and accountability in our outstanding public school system has long been our system of provincial achievement tests (PATs). Under the NDP, those were wrong-headedly slashed in Grade 3, but LaGrange said a Grade 3 PAT or something like it is coming back.
The most recent results from international PISA testing shows that Alberta schools are still strong but that results are flat and still troubling in math. In 2003, just 7.4 per cent of our students were innumerate, essentially unable to do basic arithmetic. That number is now, tragically, 16.2 per cent.
Under the NDP, a few excellent steps were taken to end this slide, such as banning calculators on a section of the Grade 6 PATs. But LaGrange promises more. “While it was a good first step, I do believe there’s more that we can do more and my department is confident that we can do more.”
On Wednesday, LaGrange’s 11-person panel of experts will report back with recommendations on the new curriculum. This curriculum has been in the works for more than a decade now, but she promises the new one will come out under her watch.
As for allowing extremist indoctrination in schools, LaGrange does well to consider the government’s options here.
I expect that the vast majority of Alberta parents want their children to study climate science. But I also suspect parents want this information presented carefully, that it be prepared by actual subject area experts in economics and climate science, not activists.
As for the teachers who have already permitted non-expert activists to demonize the oil and gas industry in class, they would do well to promptly dig in with their students into how oil and gas has helped raise billions of people from desperate poverty into welcome prosperity.