June 12th, 2024

Proposed social studies curriculum a roadmap for manipulating student values

By Letter to the Editor on July 18, 2018.

I recently reviewed a copy of the proposed K-4 Social Studies Curriculum put out by Alberta Education. It is obvious now why Alberta Education has been so secretive and reluctant to allow public access to it.

I was a teacher of K-12 for 23 years, a school principal for 11 years in both rural and urban Alberta, I have received Excellence in Teaching Awards from the province of Alberta and my local district, I have been a curricular consultant for Edmonton Public School District. All of my training and experience tells me that the new proposed Social Studies Curriculum no longer reflects an educational document for a program of studies, but a procedural roadmap for manipulating student values. Indoctrination, might be a better term.

Why do I say this? First it sets students up to be their own authority on all things Social Studies. Guiding questions focus on “I,” “Me,” “We” introspection and how the world fits into a student’s narrow view of it. Second, it relies heavily upon group to influence thought processes and conclusions. Words like “generating,” “sharing,” “discussing,” “investigating,” etc. all point to a “group think” process typical of the current fads of “discovery learning” and “me first individualism.”

Study of historical events, geographical facts, economic trends, government structure, ancestral detail are largely missing. Instead the term “conceptual knowledge” has been reduced to interpretation and analysis of selective snippets of history in isolation called “stories,” psychological and sociological inward reflection, identifying human “diversity,” “fairness” and exploring relationships.

It used to be that social studies examined the functioning of society and social relationships through a study of external factors. Students reviewed historical events, geographical formations, government documents, ancestral contributions in the manner it was originally reported, attempting to discern fact from fiction in an unbiased manner. Only after examining as much evidence as was possible over a reasonable time, did students begin to interpret, identify, analyze, and otherwise develop opinions about the social relationships involved. And often as further evidence came to light late in their studies, their views and opinions changed, became more sophisticated. Then, individual values and one’s place in Canadian society began to take shape.

The current curriculum seems to begin with a biblical proverb (taken out of context but demonstrates a truth) Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old he will not depart from it. Prov. 22:6. So the designers of this curriculum begin by shaping beliefs and values within each “self” or individual. After all, if you achieve conformity of values about diversity, fairness, quality of life, sharing resources, aboriginal love of the land by age 9, the views on future problems are predetermined. History or facts be damned. What need for knowledge to inform the current debates we now struggle with? They will know what they believe! Let politicians and public opinion define students’ values for us. This document creates conformity not diversity as characteristic of Canadian/Albertan Identity!

Richard Dietrich

Medicine Hat

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[…] The final phase one version was posted online in October and retired teacher and principal Richard Dietrich blasted it as “a procedural roadmap for manipulating student values. Indoctrination, might be a better term.” […]