Eggen’s yield to subpoena threat stalls his effort to wipe out biggest home school group
We continue here with our study of the man who’s out to change the way we backward, bigoted, hurtful, hateful, narrow, divisive, intolerant Albertans think. I refer, of course, to our minister of education, David Eggen. But how does he himself think? His handling of three issues that have come before him is instructive. We have already dealt with two:
First, we stand astonished at the iron-clad secrecy with which he surrounds what he calls his sweepingly new school curriculum. Who are these 300 people chosen to shape the minds of our children? How were they chosen, what materials were they given for guidance? All this must be regarded as strictly confidential, says the minister.
Second: we have his offer to champion the “rights” of students if their parents or teachers seek to obstruct their membership in one of his LBGTQ clubs? Is there any school check on what goes on in these clubs? For instance, can the clubs show porn films? Is watching them one of the rights the minister wants to uphold. Has he consulted the police about such clubs? None of this has been publicly discussed, so far as I know. He knows what he’s doing , or thinks he does, and will not see, or tolerate, or even recognize anything that stands in his way.
Which brings us to his third fit of monomania — his thwarted attempt to shut down the biggest home-schooling organization in the province. To grasp the minister’s action here, one must understand the utter horror with which educational constructionists view the spectacle of home schooling. To them, as far as I can understand them anyway, the real goal of education is produce a citizenry with an unwavering loyalty to adopted communal norms– meaning to forms of conduct approved by a select circle of academics, bureaucrats and acquiescent journalists. Acquiring an aptitude with words and numbers is good too, but definitely secondary to the “social” goals. The enemy, of course, are the traditionalists who see the teaching of specific skills as uppermost, including the skills of rational thought, aesthetic sensitivity, and moral purity as defined by what is called natural law.
Home schoolers, nearly all of them, fall into the second category. Alberta has by far the highest percentage of homeschoolers of any province, and offers the highest level of government funding for them. (How this conservative change came about in Alberta is amusingly recounted on page 13 of a little booklet I published in 2008 under the title Why History Matters. See footnote at the end of this column.) As soon as the socialist NDP took office in 2013, therefore, homeschoolers all expected the worst. Mr. Eggen emerged as just the man most likely to try to exterminate them. Last October, when he moved against Wisdom Home Schooling, shutting it down without warning, and ordering the parents of its 3,500 students to register them immediately in the nearest public school, it seemed at first that the end had come.
It hadn’t. A few days later, a Calgary lawyer, Jay Cameron, of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, appeared before Mr. Justice E.J. Simpson of the Court of Queen’s Bench, applying for an injunction to halt the minister’s de-certification order. Suddenly the office of the education minister was beset by an unaccustomed seizure of common sense. Negotiations between home schoolers and the education ministry were opened, the injunction application was shelved and an agreement swiftly reached on how to resolve the ostensible financial irregularities without disrupting the education of 3,500 kids.
Mr. Justice Simpson was not quite prepared, however, to let it go at that. “Over all, looking at this order,” he said, “I do not know why two reasonable people from each side could not have met at a dinner and in half a day come to something– exactly what is in this consent order.
“I am not impressed with either side,” said the judge. One “holds itself as promoting Christian values…You are all acting like heathens, as far as I am concerned.” Of one thing in the government’s case, he took particular note, however. Among much else, it accused the home school side of paying the funeral expenses of an employee. The “funeral expenses” referred to turned out to be $4.47 spent on a condolence card. The judge saw this funeral reference as a calculated “smear” by the government.
Take note, however, of the course of events here. The government orders an audit. It contains some serious charges. The accused parental group is not given a chance to reply. The minister shuts down the parental program and shuts down the education of 3,500 kids. The parental group is still not given a chance to reply. With the threat of a subpoena hanging over them the government finally decides to negotiate. Not even yet has the parent group been given a chance to reply, though their threatened subpoena forced the government to negotiate. Thus the accused is charged, convicted and punished before the case even comes to trial. Such is the mindset of the man who is going to change the way our children think.
One final point. When a Queen’s Bench judge accuses a government department of conducting “a smear” against a group of parents, this would seem to be news. But I couldn’t find it anywhere in the media. However, I don’t attribute this to biased reporting, but to the absence of any reporting. To compare the newspapers of today with those of 20 years ago is a dismaying experience. They’re going broke and it shows.
How are the mighty fallen. I used to envy and resent the big fat newspapers, like the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald in the years when I ran a pipsqueak weekly news magazine, somewhat in competition with them. But now that they’re gone, I truly lament their passing. They’ll never return, I’m afraid. But what fun it was while it lasted.
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. You can order both copies here.