Todd Colin Vaughan/Lacombe Express Editor

VAUGHAN: Critical thinking in the curriculum crucial to a functioning electorate

Students need to understand multiple perspectives in order to make informed choices

It seems our Education Minister’s choice to call out what she viewed as an un-Albertan curriculum question has turned into a disturbing pattern within the Albertan electorate.

Earlier this year Education Minister and Red Deer-North MLA Adriana LaGrange tweeted out a question from a Grade 10 social studies test. The question could be viewed as heretical to ardent Alberta’s energy sector enthusiaists. What the question was asking students to do was to use a literary source and then decide what the author probably thinks about the oil and gas sector — a lesson in critical thinking where students are asked to understand different perspectives that was put into the curriculum under a previous PC government.

The question intent was not to indoctrinate students against the oil and gas sector which — in most cases — responsibly provides thousands of jobs in the province of Alberta. The question, instead, asks students to understand and explain someone else’s opinion.

This methodology of thinking has seemed to fall further down the drain, with online parental outrage over a recent a Grade 4 social studies assignment leading to Wolf Creek Public Schools having to cancel a family Christmas dance at Iron Ridge Intermediate Campus in Blackfalds.

The assignment showed two different perspectives on land use to students, with one of the possible uses being oil and gas exploration. The students were asked to write an opinion assignment — once again a lesson in exploring perspectives and learning about critical thinking.

A parent from the school took issue with the assignment, leading to an online outrage which resulted in a different individual being charged under the Education Act for disrupting the proceedings of a school.

The pattern between these two issues is alarming and concerning.

Every day, we are forced as a society to empathize and understand each other in order to have a fair and egalitarian society.

Some people have an utter devotion to the Albertan oil and gas sector, while others have grave concerns about the environment as it pertains to the future of this planet — neither of these positions are the point of these lessons. The point is to give students all the information they need in order to make informed decisions on their own.

Accepting oil and gas dogma as absolute scripture should not be part of informed individual’s education; nor should we discount the livelihoods that the energy sector currently provides for Albertans.

Students — who will one day be part of the electorate that makes decisions for our society — should be equipped with all the information required to be good citizen. This means that understanding and — shockingly – empathizing with other people’s opinions must be part of our curriculum.

In essence, we don’t have to agree or like other people’s opinions, but our democracy is contingent on us respecting their right to have one.

It is on us as a society to ensure our schools are providing all the tools for students to critically think at early ages in order for them to be informed thinkers when they join the electorate — not simply an allegiance to one worldview or another.



todd.vaughan@lacombeexpress.com

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