Self-seen czar of the school system is out to mould a new Alberta

His massive plan to revise the curriculum is a long-term plan to revise the people

All good school teachers keep  the two worlds in which they must live quite separate. For six or more hours of their every working day, they live among little people– little, that is, if not always in physical size, then little in their experience of the world. When school’s out, the teacher must  switch and join the realm of adults. Most teachers manage this duality with remarkable ease. But some fail. One such person is Alberta’s minister of education, a teacher for twenty years who persistently addresses the province’s legislators as though they were a bunch of children.

Even so, the legislators should listen more carefully to what this pedagogical gent is saying. So should the media. Example: In closing his address in reply to the Throne Speech last year, he twice referred to “my 61 school boards.” Notice the inescapable implication. He is asserting a kind of proprietorship. The school trustees may have thought they were responsible to the people who elected them. No, once in office, they report to him as minister. He will tell them what he wants done. What, one wonders, would the response be if, say, the minister of municipal affairs suddenly began referring to “my city council in Calgary?” He’d have to be either seriously deluded or possibly drunk.

But there’s a lesson here for Americans. Astoundingly, Canada’s most conservative province has elected its only sitting socialist government. That’s what can happen when an ostensibly conservative governments moves so far left that its rightwing forms a new party. The split ushered in a leftwing victory.

So now Albertans must watch their education minister repeatedly declare that “the biggest curriculum reform in the history of Alberta” is under way. “Who’s running it and how?” the public naturally wants to know. That must not be disclosed, says the minister. It’s confidential. The mind reels. He can’t be serious. It’s as though he appointed a royal commission to explore some pivotal governmental policy, but kept secret the names of the commissioners. Here we have a plan to fundamentally reconstruct what and how our children are taught, but who’s doing  this is being declared a state secret.

This exhibition of incomprehensible arrogance finally ignited the seemingly dormant opposition. Why this secrecy, they asked, ever so politely. The minister gave three answers in  a row: First, there are “three hundred individuals” involved in this revision. He could hardly name them all, and anyway some of them might not want to be publicly identified with it. Second, about a minute later: Actually “thousands” of people were involved in it. Third, a minute after that. “Thirty-two thousand” people were involved in the revision, says the minister.

The mystery deepens. How could thirty-two thousand people  reform the school curriculum? One envisions a huge stadium, crowded to full capacity with curriculum revisers, all there secretly, possibly wearing masks on ministerial order. “That lady up in the greys, the 16th row, fourth from the middle aisle, she would like to suggest changes in the Grade 11 literature course…”

Well, it won’t be done that way. You bet it won’t. The kind of curriculum  revision he envisions  could only happen under heavy-handed, ultimately dictatorial leadership. Whose are those heavy hands? We have every possible right to know, and it is categorically denied us. Not so, says the minister. “This is the most transparent exercise ever conducted in the education history of this province.” Transparent, except that we’re not told who’s running it, what is it supposed to do, and why. Only that it’s stupendous and historically unprecedented.

The reason for the secrecy, however, is not mysterious.. The minister is not out to revise the curriculum. He’s intent is to revise the Albertans. The aim is to produce over time a different people, not through education, but through indoctrination. In successive columns in this space, I’ll keep tabs on how he’s progressing with this.  

Two things, however, need be kept clearly in mind. Of all the myriads of people and organizations the minister tells us he is going to consult, not a single mention is made of the school systems in other countries that are consistently whipping and bypassing us on virtually every international test of academic proficiency. He doesn’t want to look at them because he already knows the answer. They are beating us by using the same educational techniques that his fellow revisionists of an earlier era threw away. Wouldn’t it be awful if that became widely known?

Second, whatever the minister might say about public input, you can be sure he will hustle this program through the Legislature as fast as he can. This haste is easily explained. A black cloud overhangs his government with two names on it: “Jason” and “Kenney. ” They identify a man with three tasks — to win the Progressive Conservative leadership, to create a single conservative party, and to drive this government from office in the next election. If Kenney succeeds in the first two, they’re out and they know it. So they must get this new curriculum so entrenched it will be difficult to remove. They know, that is, their government is a one-term wonder.

One last note. I haven’t yet named this minister of education, and for a reason. His name is David Eggen. But there’s a problem here. He wants it pronounced Eagen, not Eggen as it’s spelled. This is altogether understandable. Remember he was a teacher for many years. Children, especially boys, can be so cruel — Egghead, Eggnog, Eggen-His-Face, the possibilities are endless. So please. Eggen is Eagen, not Eggen.

Ted Byfield was founder and publisher of Alberta Report news magazine, general editor of Alberta in the Twentieth Century. a 12-volume history of the province, and general editor of The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years, a 12-volume history of Christianity. His column on education appears in The, a web journal. He has recently authored two little books on modern pedagogy: Why History Matters and The Revolution Nobody Covered


22 thoughts on “Self-seen czar of the school system is out to mould a new Alberta

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  1. Excellent report Ted – Thank you!!
    Our universities are graduating his disciples except those students who care to do their research and question the moral implications to their faith. I have joined Parents for Choice in Education so we have a voice in Government. Hope the Opposition raises hell over this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Serving in Parents For Choice in Education and helping them, is a very good thing to do. So is doing anything you can to rouse Albertans to their heritage and get the “trolls” out of the education department . TB

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you very much. I really appreciate you getting the truth out and I will definitely pass this on, but I think that last paragraph could be removed. It is not very helpful and doesn’t reflect at all the humble Christian attitude we want to portray.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the encouragement and advice. I thought for some time before including that paragraph. I decided to run it for two reasons.

      For one, I don’t think, and never have, that Jesus Christ can be accurately described as inevitably humble, meek and mild. He was certainly humble before God, gently healing with the sick, and patient with honest inquirers. But by his enemies he was seen as a dangerous firebrand. That’s why they executed Him, and if we are to follow His example, we too will have enemies, and we should make a point of praying for them, and loving them, and meaning it.

      But that doesn’t mean agreeing with them or failing to call attention to it when they are dead wrong. The philosophy behind this government’s education policy is socially and culturally a lethal poison, and we should not be afraid to say so, and point out why.

      However, as a Queen’s Bench justice has already made clear this man is what amounts to a bully.I will be writing about that in a column further along in this series. But being “humble” before a bully will only make him worse. So what can on e do? I remembered a certain line: “The Devil, that proud Spirit, cannot endure to be mocked.” The man who said that was Martin Luther. I’m not a Lutheran and don’t agree with everything he said. But on this point he was bang-on right. And that’s why I ran that paragraph. Thanks again TB.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Sorry Mr. Byfield, I’m a former Albertan and life-long disciple of Jesus, and I truly hope most Christians, regardless their political bent or the arguments you are entitled to make, will find your rationale to mock someone’s name as completely inconsistent with the teachings or example of their Saviour. Jesus was definitely placed on a cross, in part for being a firebrand. Absolutely none of it had to do, however, with name-calling. Though I still have an interest in the social, economic, spiritual and political scene of Alberta, I don’t know Mr. Eagen and have minimal intel on how much of a bully he may or may not be. But I do know that name-calling is a common tactic for bullies.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Mocking his name? Assuming you know how it “should” be pronounced? Disrespectful and unnecessary. Stick to actual argument, not hyperbole and suggestive interpretation. There could quote reasonably be many people involved in examining twelve years of curricula in a dozen or more subject areas. There probably should be. I expect better from you Mr Byfield.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When you don’t have much of an argument you must cook up bizarre points like telling someone how to pronounce their own name (while ironically using a pronunciation of math that is contrary to modern North American).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Why did the media fail to cover the Court of Queens Bench Justice’s decision about Eggen’s attempt to shut down the home schooling organization? I heard tons about it when he first accused the school of mis use of funds and even local Edmonton city TV producer was on mocking the parents who were not taking steps to enroll their kids in public school…. But heard no apology or widespread coverage when the “truth” came out…. I’m thinking that Republicans in the USA have a point in referring to ( left wing) media as a political opposition party! So blatantly obvious…. Especially CBC up here in Canada….
    Regarding your last paragraph, I feel we should model respect and not pubically engage in name-calling, but we can hold people accountable for their actions and call these as they are…. Jesus referred to some as brood of vipers I think…. We do not need to make fun of his name for which he has no control over- but we can label him by his deeds: antagonistic, intimidator, deceitful…..but I understand the temptation to call him those names because he has infuriated many conservative Albertans, school boards and parents….who does he think he is?! He needs our prayers! And we need a new government!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your note on the absence of media response to the judge’s observations on the Wisdom school issue is altogether valid. We have acquired the text of the judge’s assertions and are going to deal with the Wisdom phenomenon in another column. I defended my teasing of the minister on his name in a reply to an earlier article. I’m still not all certain it was the right thing to do, but the man is so given to bullying that, as you say, he makes a tempting target. Thank you again for the encouragement. TB

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Much of this post is fear mongering nonsense. As a retired high school teacher, who taught in this province under Conservative management, I know how much public or expert input Klein and his successors sought from qualified educators. They spent millions on testing what they didn’t teach, on paper bullying teachers with centralized exams that wasted time and money………and in many cases, distracted educators from their real business of learning.

    And they did this for reasons of CONTROL. That and I suspect they had conservative educators who wanted a leg up….out of the classroom and into something important like crafting government exams to discipline teachers.

    I supervised grade 12 students sitting the stupid things….I marked them…I sat in their little standardizing groups making sure that the perceived brights got the right marks…..and any lucky guesses by the perceived dumbs got eliminated.

    It was mostly junk science, which is what the right prefers…..and it certainly rewarded the mediocre middle. It also rewarded mediocre teachers, teaching to the tests instead of to the children.

    But politics and ideology aside….curriculum has to be revised and updated. The world doesn’t stand still, even if Mr. Byfield would prefer that. And it takes many people to do it…as any teacher who’s waded through those old conservative curriculums will know. Twelve grades Ted. Four core subjects. And what few options the conservative contempt for the arts have left in place.

    Make fun of David Eggen if you must….its the conservative substitute for real discussion; but don’t tell educators about the two worlds they must keep separate. I had one rule: Never lie to a child. And one manner of interaction: Loving respect for the person each young person was.

    We should try the same methods in the adult world, even if there, it seems to often fall on deaf ears and rusty old minds.


    1. Mary, while it is true that previous governments / education departments “managed” education in a controlling manner, that control has reached new levels. And it may also be true that curriculum must be revised and updated, but that is not what is concerning. This is not an improvement in teaching or content – it is an insertion of ideology into every subject area. Mr. Byfield is not fear-mongering; he is alerting us to the extent of the problem. Everyone who is purporting to care about (and never to lie to children) will recognize that this is indeed bullying and contempt for parental involvement. Tell the children THAT truth. (And…”conservative contempt for arts”? Really?)


    2. While I agree to some of what you say, you will have to agree that it is rather difficult to hold a “real discussion” with someone who refuses to say what exactly he’s trying to do, who’s helping do it, how were they chosen, what guide lines are being given them, and on and on. Why all the secrecy? Come on, Mary. Gimme some answers. TB


  6. I find the short life of comments that conflict your view of the world (even those that are thoughtful, well written, and by all means correct) very interesting.


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