Defiance of one gutsy principal stalls government. Outraged gays demand minister act
Any way you look it, these last several months have not gone well, both for Education Minister David Eggen and also for his plans to gradually change the way Albertans think by changing the way their children think.
To accomplish this he must make radical changes in the province’s public school curriculum. This has been under way since last summer, but its credibility has been increasingly undermined by his insistence that the identity of virtually everybody associated with the creation of the new curriculum remain secret.
There can be only one possible reason for this. If the real authors are identified, the leftist ideological mission of the new curriculum will become so patently obvious as to render it largely useless as a curricular tool. Its purpose will be recognized as purely indoctrination, not education. Moreover, most of it will have been written before the undertaking even began. The 300 to 400 “experts” assigned to create it, were put there to say yes.
As I say, this becomes ever more evident as the identity of the real authors becomes ever more secret. However, even if all was going smoothly with the curriculum revision, there is another factor which Mr. Eggen must also contend with, and that is (as he sees it) the poisonous peril of active competition within the Alberta school system.
This competition was specifically encouraged by the Tories back in the Lougheed years and it took several forms—alternative and chartered schools within the public system, partial government subsidies for religious schools, nearly all of them Christian, recognizing that they relieved the public system of the cost of educating their pupils, and finally homeschoolers, also nearly all of them Christian, in which parents themselves did the teaching with the government grant covering a portion of the cost. The Tories backed this chiefly because they believed competition to be an altogether positive factor in education. The teachers’ union believed it an altogether negative one, not only because it measured the capability of the student, but chiefly because it reflected the capability of the teacher.
Now to win the socialist educational revolution which his party has commissioned Mr. Eggen to conduct, he must win both battles — the curriculum one, and the suppression of academic competition in the schools. It was in the latter particularly that his endeavours have gone sadly awry. He has made two major moves. The first was against the home schoolers. Last fall, without warning or prior consultation, he shut down the biggest home-schooling organization in the province, terminating there and then the education of some 3,500 home-schooled students.
The organization took him to court, which had the effect of forcing the government and the home-schooling organization to resolve their differences privately. Since his case against the organization was purely financial — and did not relate to the quality of parental teaching– it wound up at a negotiating table. This is certainly not the outcome the minister had hoped for. He wanted tghem closed.
Meanwhile, he had ordered all the religious schools in the province to make bathroom provision for trans-gendered students and to allow student-sponsored gay-straight clubs. Two small Baptist schools immediately west of Edmonton flatly refused to comply. Their principal Brian Coldwell made his case succinctly:
“There’s a big difference between protecting students and the promotion of a lifestyle.”
With that, Education Minister David Eggen had heard enough. In the voice of impending doom, he replied that he had no choice. He would appoint an Edmonton lawyer, Dan Scott, to make inquiries sand recommend government action. That was two months ago. Since nothing further was announced. Janet French of the Sun newspapers made inquiries. The mood, she found, had amazingly softened. “We’re working with it,” said the minister, “but it’s more complicated than we had originally foreseen.” He had received a letter from the lawyer for the schools, he said, and Mr. Scott had reported back in December. Both communications, however, must remain confidential
As usual, therefore, we are left to speculate. What seemed probable is that the school’s lawyer had cited the religious rights in the Charter. If a court should uphold the Baptist case, Mr. Eggen’s whole gay-straight program, including his pledge to help students against their parents, would fall to pieces.
To make things more lively, the gays are now loudly deploring his failure to act. Somehow, he has managed to alienate both sides. Now that takes talent.
So yes, it was a little more complicated than he had thought. A great many things seemed to be turning out that way.
However, he had one big card left to play. He could de-fund every religious school in the province. And it just so happened that various unions, many of which had previously expressed no interest whatsoever in public school education, had suddenly decided to start demanding the de-funding of independent schools. And they all spoke up at once. How fortunate. How convenient. How altogether asinine. But we’ll deal with that in the next column.
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.