With 10 days left to release the names of the revolutionaries, what will Eggen do?
Some time in the next ten days, Education Minister David Eggen will be required by law to lift at least one of the veils with which he has surrounded what he describes as the most sweeping reform of the school curriculum undertaken in the history of public education in Alberta. He will release “the names of the individuals who made up the curriculum expert working groups (known as the curriculum design and process) between last September 1 and December 15.” But we do not have Mr. Eggen to thank for this disclosure. The fact is he was forced into it by a reporter who works for the Calgary Metro News.
She is Ms. Lucie Edwardson and she is one smart lady. Instead of whining about the departmental secrecy imposed on the curriculum revision (like me and other old grouches), she spent $25 and registered a “Request for Access to General Information” under the provincial freedom of information laws.
The privacy commissioner ordered the information produced, but the minister was able to buy time under a provision in the law in which he says he was about to release the requested information anyway. The provision gives him 60 days to do it in. But that 60 days will be up on February 13, ten days from now. So behold, we will be allowed to know for the first time who is creating the government’s vast new plans to reshape the minds of our children. It will consist of 29 pages, says a letter to Ms. Edwardson from the privacy commissioner — unless, of course, the department’s legalists can find a way for minister to circumvent the law, which isn’t likely.
In the meantime, the question persists: Why the secrecy? For instance, why did the minister on December 15 (when Ms. Edwardson made her request) need 60 days to say who had been serving on the revision for the previous three and a half months? As always, secrecy opens the door to speculation. Could there perhaps have been arguments over who should and should not have been included? Were there sharp disagreements over the curriculum content, over the goals to be achieved, over the suppression of subjects like history and geography, over the “dumbing down” of standards? How much are the revisers being paid? Was it enough to sustain their participation– enough, that is, to keep their mouths shut after the names become public? Three hundred people are said to be serving on the committees. How do you keep secrets among three hundred people?
It’s necessary to understand that the government’s interest in this is far wider than that of mere education policy. By his own admission — or rather by the implicit admission of his party– Mr. Eggen is not conducting a curriculum revision at all. He is conducting what his party calls “a revolution in thinking.” In the very constitution of the Alberta New Democratic Party, it is spelled out with a candour that is truly frightening: “The New Democratic Party believes that only a revolution in thinking can lead to the establishment of democratic socialism.” Now a “revolution in thinking” must mean– in fact can only mean — a process of indoctrination. This is what Mr. Eggen is pursuing, and the reason for the secrecy is simply that he doesn’t want the general public to find this out.
His master strategy can be easily discerned. Create five or six enormous committees, carefully screening all the members to assure that as far as possible they are “doctrinally sound.” A few non-conformists will be allowed, provided they are unlikely or incapable of impeding the pace of the work, meaning of course “the revolution.” A key group on each committee, schooled in what’s known as educational constructivism, will browbeat the remaining participants into acquiescence. After a brief pretence at public consultation, the program will gain legislative approval and the revolutionaries will have two more years to begin producing the new Albertans.
When the Legislature meets for its next session on March 2, the Throne Speech will make much of the wonderful new program that over time will convert Alberta into a caring&sharing socialist paradise. Finally, about April the full program will be unveiled — in a beautiful book, glittering, heavily illustrated with page after page of happy caring&sharing school children, and accompanying pages of educational gobbledegook, utterly incomprehensible to all but the sanctified with the vital B. Ed after their names, and most of them won’t understand it either. But what does that matter? Everybody will “feel nice” about it, and under the new regime, feeling is what counts.
Thus all was in readiness. But then along came this dreadful Edwardson woman. Unless the minister can somehow squash it, the names will be out, and 300 people can’t be depended on to keep secrets. So the curriculum won’t be unveiled in a burst of starlight, but leaked piecemeal like a burst drain pipe. How to avoid this? Depend on it, that question must be uppermost in the ministerial mind this week. Let’s see how he handles it.
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 Christians.com, a web journal. He has recently authored two little books on modern pedagogy: Why History Matters and The Revolution Nobody Covered