Chris Champion and the Curriculum Review

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.

Mr Kenney

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While he was at it, Mr Champion deleted historical references to the contribution of diverse communities (First Nations, Metis and Inuit) that shaped culture, politics, economics, health and education.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?

Happy history

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.

Racists?   

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   

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26 Responses to Chris Champion and the Curriculum Review

  1. Valerie Jobson says:

    Hi, good post as usual. Sorry I can’t RT it, I’m suspended on twitter (@softgrasswalker).

    His PhD from McGill is in History, not Philosophy. Still not relevant to the curriculum, though.

    Strange that he doesn’t give the title of his PhD thesis, but I suspect his 2010 book was based on it.
    https://ca.linkedin.com/in/chris-champion-162a5011b

    This book might explain what he is trying to do with the curriculum, to inject more Britishness into it, and to defend against criticisms of colonialism, etc. Note the reviews tab includes a quote from Kenney.
    https://www.mqup.ca/strange-demise-of-british-canada–the-products-9780773536906.php

    • Valerie Jobson says:

      Here’s his PhD thesis: Champion, Christian Paul. “Nova Britannia Revisited: Canadianism, Anglo-Canadian Identities and the Crisis of Britishness, 1964-1968.” Thesis (Ph.D.) 2007.
      https://www.mcgill.ca/history/graduate/phd/theses#D2003

      • GoinFawr says:

        I wonder how many highly qualified Canadians refuse to serve in public office, including the military, specifically because they are currently expected to pledge allegiance to an outdated, increasingly irrelevant remnant of a colonial institution, rather than taking an oath to serve Canadians themselves.

        After all, for some,

        “…supreme executive power is derived from a mandate from the masses, not some farcical, aquatic ceremony!”-M.Palin

      • GoinFawr: this is an excellent point. I was listening to a CBC interview with Rick Wilson, a former Republican, now a leader in the Lincoln Project, who is doing everything he can to ensure Trump does not get re-elected. He said a number of staffers and former staffers in Trump’s administration have contacted him looking for a way out. He tells them it’s hopeless, they sealed their fates when they joined Trump’s administration and no one worth their salt will hire them, ever!
        This is something those in the premier’s office should consider.

      • Thanks for this Valerie, I’ve made the corrections.
        I pulled up Mr Champion’s PhD thesis. The thrust seems to be that Canadian politicians, particularly Pearson and Pierre Eliot Trudeau, attempted to eradicate Canada’s ties to Britain (Pearson replaced the Red Ensign with the Maple Leaf and Trudeau brought in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms), but Britain still plays a defining role in Canada’s identity.
        When I read it I was reminded that other conservative politicians like Harper and Kenney cleave to Britain at every opportunity. Harper loves the monarchy, Kenney still persists on calling the July 1 holiday Dominion Day. And of course Champion’s recommendations for the K-4 curriculum, particularly in the early years, are heavy on the Queen, Buckingham Palace, Parliament at Westminster, etc. I don’t know why these conservatives are so preoccupied with the monarchy, but it’s strange.
        Here’s the link to Champion’s thesis: https://silo.tips/download/nova-britannia-revisited-canadianism-anglo-canadian-identities-and-the-crisis-of:

      • Mike in Edmonton says:

        to GoinFawr and Susan, your comments on Kenney’s effect on staffers’ job prospects may be more relevant than you knew. An occasional contributor to rabble.ca had this to say:

        https://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/views-expressed/2020/10/albertas-united-conservative-party-staffers-may-soon-catch

      • Thanks for the link Mike. UCP staffers should pay heed to the “Trump stink” experience (an apt term used by the author, history prof Erik Strikwerda). It seems to me that many UCP staffers have dug themselves an even deeper hole than Trump staffers because many UCP staffers seem to have no qualms about bullying Albertans on social media. It’s disgraceful behavior, but what can we say, they’re just following the lead of their bosses.

  2. Sarah Bristol says:

    …Not to mention the bullshit I’m the new curriculum that pretends most Canadians are Christian and claims bible verses will be taught as “poetry”, my ass! Religious teachers will be spouting that shit as “fact”, guaranteed, our schools are supposed to be SECULAR. Try inserting poetry from Satanists or the Quran and see how that crap flies with the Christians! If they won’t tolerate poetry from those other “controversial” groups, then they should see why bible verses are offensive to the rest of us non-religious and non-Christian-religions. It’s NOT today to spend our tax money indoctrinating kids. Either teach them *ABOUT* ALL religions without bias, or none at all, and don’t pretend this is anything less than indoctrination.

    PS I agree with the rest of the letter.

    • Sarah, you’re right that the curriculum review includes many recommendations around religion and they appear to be biased. For example in the K-4 curriculum Mr Champion talks about “three great religions that worship one God” ie: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
      If he considered religion from the perspective of how many people practice a particular faith, he’d have to consider Buddhism (respect Buddha but don’t consider him a god) and Hinduism (many many gods).
      Pew Research ranks the top religions by adherents as follows:
      Christianity (2.3B), Islam (1.8B), unaffiliated (1.2B), Hinduism (1.1B), Buddhism (500M), Folk religions (400M), Other religions (100M), Judaism (10M).
      As you said, if Mr Champion wants to put religion on the curriculum then he should have the decency to do it properly, and without bias in favour of “one god’.

  3. Dave says:

    I suspect Mr. Kenney hires these consultants mostly based on their views, rather than their experience, so it is not too surprising his experience is rather tangential. In case anyone wonders, where the heck he gets these people – it seems Kenney has a quite long list of names from his time with the Federal Conservative government of various consultants and hangers on and it seems keeping more than a few of them employed has now become a bit of cottage industry for the UCP in Alberta. I’m not sure this is a very good expenditure, particularly in these financially challenging times, but Kenney will probably just cut something else in the departmental budget to cover this – you know like spending on teachers and schools.

    I think more than a bit of the UCP defensiveness on curriculum comes from the situation that more than a few leading figures in the UCP government are devout followers of some of the religious institutions who ended up not looking so good on the issue of residential schools. So, I am not surprised they are going to some lengths to avoid teaching about it. However, I’m not sure avoiding an uncomfortable situation from the past serves anyone well. We all should be able to reflect on and learn from our history.

    • Dave, I agree with you 100%. We absolutely have to reflect on and learn from our history. When my kids went to high school in the US, the younger one was taught the Civil War was a dispute about property rights (the feds were encroaching on states’ rights), without anyone explaining the Southern states used this argument because they considered slave to be property. This was at a top notch public school in 2002.
      What troubles me the most about Mr Champion’s recommendations is Alberta may have had an excuse (maybe???) to get it wrong decades ago, but there’s absolutely no excuse to get it wrong again.

  4. therockymountainpictureshow says:

    MR. Kenney? “MR.” is an address of respect. Respect is earned, not innate. Kenney’s proper address is ‘Hey Asshole” . . .

  5. Paul Pearlman says:

    Once again Jason misses the point !!! The key to a good education should be teaching our children to think not what to think.Every week it seems to be the same Kenney clueless and surrounded by like minded people! I’m sure next week won’t be any different.

    • I agree Paul…according to scholars who write about authoritarianism, the best way for tyrants to stay in power is to ensure the population does not have the education to see through their sophistry and challenge their ideas. Given what Kenney is doing to education, including at the post secondary level, (according to the NDP he cut over $100M from their budget and gave back a paltry million) that’s been his intention from the getgo. Disgusting really.

  6. carlosbeca says:

    Well I guess I cannot post as a reply anymore because it just ignores it
    So this is a reply to TheRockyMountainPictureShow and Susan thread

    I agree 100% and I wish I could tell that on his face rather than just here.
    They will not allow me close to him because he is now a protected person despite the total disrespect for everyone except the CEO of those corporations that support his ego as well as his wallet. Amazing that these are the same people that claim their Christianity and in most cases point the fingers to those of other faiths like he did so energetically in the fight against the hijab when he was Harper’s minister. Donating 100 thousand of our money to Harper’s son for his extra expenses is more that alright but his God forbid helping those who have nothing on AIHS.
    This is revolting actually and I certainly hope that we as a province show this asshole what decency actually means. For those in his camp that read this (I am sure they do to make sure they can report back to the war room) Jason Kenney his a distinguished crook and I do hope that those that are helping him in this destructive campaign have the same faith as those in the White House that Susan mentions in her post. They will deserve the same treatment.

    • Carlos, you’ve raised some excellent examples of Kenney’s hypocrisy.
      So on top of all that, we just learned Cenovus is merging with Husky and this merger will save $1.2 billion, half of which will come from cost savings and the other half from staff cuts–that’s $600 million saved by laying people off.
      Furthermore Cenovus is paying $3.8 billion for Husky, this represents a 21% premium over the usual Husky share price. 21%!!! Makes you wonder where Cenovus got the money to go this high, doesn’t it.
      This government is a gong show.

  7. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Thanks for sharing another great blog. The UCP sure doesn’t pick winners, with their party, do they? It was much like the Wildrose, (who are one of the elements of the UCP party). The UCP wants to whitewash history. What happened to the First Nations and Metis in Canada, wasn’t a pretty picture, just like what happened to others in Canada’s not so spotless past. This is also reminiscent of a central Alberta teacher, Jim Keegstra, who was a high school teacher in Central Alberta. He was teaching his students that the Holocaust didn’t happen. To this day, there are former students of his who believe what Jim Keegstra was teaching. Christian Champion seems to be cut from a similar cloth. We have to learn from history, and our past, or we will certainly repeat it.

    • You’re right Dwayne. The thing that’s really disturbing about Chris Champion’s recommendations is he prefaces them with comments like this: “We cannot understand other people’s cultures unless we have a deep understanding of our own. History and geography in particular rely on a framework of integrated facts and understanding.” And then he proceeds to hack out the parts of our own history that relate to the abysmal treatment of Indigenous peoples because it’s too much for young minds to deal with.
      If he’s worried about traumatizing young people, he’ll have to cut out large chunks of the curriculum dealing with warfare, countless battles, Mongol invasions, the Riel Resistance, the 410 Sack of Rome by the Goths, the list is endless. The only distinction I can see is in the Riel Resistance failed and all the other examples happened on another continent so they don’t “besmirch” a conservative adult’s impression of Canada.
      Your list of FN, Metis and Inuit artists and musician was inspiring.

      • Dwayne says:

        Susan: What children (not all, of course), see on television, in movies, on the internet, with certain social media apps, and with video games, certainly isn’t the greatest. Lots of things there, which aren’t good.

  8. Dwayne says:

    Susan: We have many good First Nations, Metis and Inuit people in Canada, who accomplished great things. Musicians like Buffy Sainte Marie, Robbie Robertson, the musical group, A Tribe Called Red, Bryan Trottier, an NHL hockey player, Tantoo Cardinal, an actress, Peter Lougheed, who was Alberta’s premier from 1971- 1985, who had some Metis ancestry, musician, actor and philanthropist, Tom Jackson, Louis Riel, and Gabriel Dumont, Metis activists, and founders of the province of Manitoba, Susan Agukulak, an Inuit singer, and so on.

  9. terrywiens says:

    A lot of good points here and it is shameful that these things have to be pointed out to people who, if they took 2 minutes to think about it, would recognize the folly of restructuring history. Go to the Jewish community and tell them you are going to erase all educational references to the Holocaust because it’s “painful” to the off-spring of the victims. Maybe LaGrange should suggest to the African-American community and tell them you are going to remove all educational references regarding the history of slavery. Lets get even more modern and explain to me why, as a 10 year old survivor of the polio epidemic, I was met by a bunch of kids outside of Thorncliffe Elementary School who throw stones at me because they didn’t want to expose themselves to polio. This was five years after the vaccine so I look around today and see much of the same human behaviour I dealt with in 1960. Now I watch, as a retired professional, as this group of fascists in Edmonton (not even slowly) strip away all of the rights and forward movement that so many not only fought for but died for including James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. As an activist I can’t sit back while this government removes gain and more all because “we can”. I want my grandson (fortunately in BC) to have access to an education based on science and facts, not twisted ideologies and religious dogma. I thought my days of fighting for rights were behind me but apparently I’m wrong. I cannot let my fifty years of life challenges and accomplishments be swept under a carpet of deceit and systemic bullying. https://youtu.be/COMHtOmbicM

    • Terry, thank you for this. Your youtube clip is really hit home, especially when you described receiving a letter from the Alberta Eugenics Board and realizing as a young 16 year old who had been stricken with polio at age 3, what that meant for you.
      As you said, we cannot stand by and let the UCP attack and destroy everything we hold dear.

  10. Harry says:

    Another Tom Flanagan!!

  11. Valerie Jobson says:

    There’s a new interview with Carla Peck, PhD, about this which I haven’t listened to yet:

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