Mr Kenney handpicked Mr Champion, a historian, as a subject area expert to provide recommendations for the Kenney government’s revamp of the social studies curriculum for kindergarten to grade 4 students.
Mr Champion’s education and experience, while interesting, are utterly irrelevant.
He obtained an MPhil in International Relations from Magdalene College, Cambridge. It was the last college to open its doors to female students in 1988. He got a PhD in history from McGill. Neither degree makes him an expert in pedagogy.
But then again, who cares.
Mr Champion’s spent 11 months as Mr Kenney’s national defence policy advisor and 5 years in Kenney’s Dept of Immigration and Citizenship. He regularly espouses his devotion to conservative ideals in The Dorchester Review, a right leaning history journal he founded.
And that’s good enough for Mr Kenney who has no problem with Laurentian elites spouting off as long as they align with his beliefs.
Cover their eyes, block their ears
Mr Champion’s recommendations are grouped under the headings of civics/politics, economics, geography, culture, philosophy, religion, and history.
He believes the earlier students are exposed to “a sequence of basic events and issues” the better their persepective on the world will be when they graduate.
However, there is a glaring exception to the “earlier is better” principle: Anything to do with the impact of oh, let’s call them settlers, on First Nations, Metis and Inuit is verboten.
Any reference to residential schools created by Christian churches and the government to assimilate Indigenous children—the last of which was closed in 1996, two years after Mr Champion obtained his degree from Cambridge—must be erased because it’s ugly, negative, and only applied to “a minority of Indigenous children.”
Mr Champion says K-grade 4 children are too immature to learn “negative material about Indigenous Peoples.”
Apparently children reach the right level of maturity at grade 9, but even then such material must be softened, downplayed, buried in a section on benign vs harsh schooling (think Dickens and boarding schools) which is “inclusive of all cultures.” (Sounds like the conservatives ‘all lives matter’ response to ‘Black lives matter’, doesn’t it?)
While he was at it, Mr Champion deleted historical references to the contribution of diverse communities (First Nations, Metis and Inuit) that shaped culture, politics, economics, health and education. Why? Surely “contributions” aren’t too negative for delicate young minds?
Instead of cluttering young minds with an age-appropriate version of history, Mr Champion recommends teaching children they’re ruled by a Queen who lives in Buckingham Palace, and people organize themselves into systems of government and make laws in the Queen’s name. They do this by going into Parliament to “argue peacefully.”
Mr Champion assures teachers they need not be alarmed if children think of the Queen in the Pink Fairy/Blue Fairy sense. Reality check: The Pink Fairy/Blue Fairy books were written between 1889 and 1913, it is highly unlikely any Canadian child has heard of them, let alone would be confused by them.
And there’s more
Having disposed of the spectre of residential schools and the contributions of FN, Metis and Inuit to Canada, Mr Champion presses on.
For example, in the section on Columbus, Cartier, and other explorers he says: “Yes, the First Nations and Inuit were “already there” but it is still a major discovery by Europeans and Canadians who encountered the Indigenous peoples and their cultures for the first time.” Well, that sounds a tad defensive.
And in the recommendations around how First Nations addressed their needs and wants; he suggests children copy the painting Wolf Skin Mask (noting it’s on display at the Smithsonian). Wolf Skin Mask was painted by George Catlin, an American lawyer/artist who travelled to the American west in the 1830s. Why a painting by a white American of American indigenous people hunting buffalo is preferable to, say, a visit (in person or virtually) to Alberta’s UNESCO world heritage site, Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump is hard to fathom.
In the Legislature, Rachel Notley referred to comments by Mr Champion: he said that teaching First Nations perspectives is a fad, residential school survivors are preoccupied with victimhood and the blanket exercise brainwashes children into thinking of themselves as settlers stealing the land.
She asked Mr Kenney to denounce this attempt at genocide and to commit to keeping residential schools in the curriculum.
Mr Kenney replied, “You call everyone you disagree with “racists.”
Given that Ms Notley isn’t making a wing-nut request; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission asked provincial governments to make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, and Indigenous peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for K to 12 students; it’s fair to ask whether Mr Champion’s recommendations and Mr Kenney’s support of those recommendations are indeed racist.
But naming the problem won’t solve it. We need Mr Kenney and Mr Champion to know they’re violating the TRC call to action.
Please make your voices heard by signing the petition that appears at this link. https://www.thelearningteam.ca/shred_it?utm_campaign=scrap_it_petition&utm_medium=email&utm_source=albertateachers