December 3rd, 2021

Laying It Out: Nothing like cheating our way to a poor education

By Medicine Hat News Opinion on April 10, 2021.

– Medicine Hat’s two MLAs were among 15 UCP colleagues to come out against health measures this week, just as doctors and scientists were once again pleading for diligence, and just as the more contagious, more deadly variant strains of COVID became dominant in Alberta.

– A new local restaurant and bar owner is promising to violate public health rules, is vehemently against mandatory vaccinations that don’t actually exist and is apparently a follower of QAnon (which, as was revealed this week, is just some dope named Ron).

When I say it was hard not to take the bait to write another COVID-based column this week, you should know what an understatement that is.

But the fact is, getting our butts kicked for a year while governments fumble over pseudo attempts to please everyone is still going to be available for discussion on a weekly basis for a while to come. Unfortunately, what won’t be on the forefront of minds after a week or two – if for no other reason than another internationally-recorded face plant occurring like clockwork – is the United Conservative’s preschool effort at elementary school education.

The K-6 draft curriculum released by the province less than two weeks ago has brought us back into the national and international spotlight for – as usual – all the wrong reasons. As if it’s not bad enough having education experts point out where the curriculum fails to provide age appropriate learning, reverts to rote memorization that doesn’t stick and turns kids off, or gets historical facts wrong altogether, the people behind it couldn’t even write it without stealing from Google searches and Wikipedia entries.

As Sarah Eaton, a plagiarism expert from the University of Calgary, confirmed in a widely reported analysis this week, several parts of the draft curriculum were simply copied from the internet or (barely) reconfigured without crediting the source.

I realize I often show up Saturdays critiquing the UCP, and at some point it’s like, “We get it. You don’t like the provincial government.” But they’re the ones who turned governance into a series of Beaverton articles, leaving the rest of us sifting through satirical nightmares-come-true wondering where the humour is.

We can debate the curriculum’s content all day, but I’m inclined to defer to experts like Carla Peck, whose PhD in social studies education and pedagogy gives her concerns a lot more weight. And she says the “draft of the Social Studies curriculum sets Alberta Social Studies back decades in terms of quality and achievement in curriculum design.”

I’ll also let the actions of Medicine Hat’s two school divisions do the talking, as they both joined a growing list of divisions opting out of piloting the new model. Public school superintendent Mark Davidson told the News the draft is “poorly constructed,” citing “considerable challenges in terms of outcomes being placed at a grade level that is developmentally inappropriate for the children who would work in it.”

Enough said.

But as someone whose career could (and should) end the first time I use words that aren’t my own without proper attribution, I simply can’t let blatant plagiarism slide. It’s lazy and it’s theft. And, as any properly trained journalist knows, you absolutely never use Wikipedia as a source of information because its pages can be updated by anyone, at any time.

Honestly, couldn’t this government’s actions just be bad? Why do they always have to be bad and embarrassing?

If you’re not from Alberta, curriculum writers who need to cheat just to pass the grades they’re writing for is probably hilarious, but if you’re here and want to be proud of the place you live, this stuff is just depressing.

The province is becoming a laughing stock and we don’t even get the “jobs, economy, pipelines” part we were guaranteed to go with it. One could expect an ideological direction that claims to bring back the good ol’ days to drive society in reverse – and some of us have been saying so since the UCP arrived – but no one could possibly have seen them backing over so many mailboxes along the way.

Albertans chose Kenney’s crew because – among other things – they were sold on his economic plan and convinced he could attract investment. But that plan is an objective failure with empty promises of a better tomorrow, and there is nothing attractive about a province that spends this much time being laughed at.

If Albertans are as proud of being from Alberta as we say we are, then being made to look like fools should bother us.

Alberta’s education is world renowned and we built what others have emulated along the way. This new draft threatens to throw that all away and does so in the most lazy fashion imaginable.

Plagiarism says an awful lot about the person or persons committing it, and to make the matter worse, the government’s only response has been to suggest the plagiarism isn’t actually plagiarism.

If Albertans let the UCP implement this curriculum, in the midst of widespread criticism and preventable embarrassment, it will say an awful lot about us. And all we’ll have to excuse the detrimental result is to pretend it isn’t happening.

Scott Schmidt is the layout editor for the Medicine Hat News. Contact him at sschmidt@medicinehatnews.com

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balerbob
balerbob (@balerbob)
7 months ago

All this talk about education why don’t we start educating and stop indoctrination.