I remember my grade two school teacher Mrs. Chalmers. She was an amazing educator. While she didn’t like my unfinished art project, she made me want to learn about our connection to the natural world and taught me about the importance of a healthy environment. In many ways some of the values I hold today came from what she let me explore. I wonder if that would have happened if she’d been working from a curriculum written by an oil company.
When I think of who should help direct our children’s education I think of people like Mrs. Chalmers. I think of parents, teachers, educational policy experts, school boards and principles. I don’t think of oil companies.
In Alberta, however, unless we raise our voice, that might be about to change.
Last week, Alberta public education authorities invited tar sands giants Syncrude, Suncor, and Cenovus to help draft ‘Alberta’s future curriculum’ from kindergarten to grade 12. Particularly concerning is that the draft Alberta plan lists Syncrude and Suncor as ‘key partners’ in the redesign of the kindergarten to grade three curriculum.
There is absolutely no reason why any company should be involved in designing our kids' education - especially during some of their most formative years and definitely not bythree of the most polluting corporations in the tar sands industry.
When Alberta’s Education Minister Jeff Johnson was asked about big oil’s involvement in the curriculum revamp here’s what he had to say:
“We want the economy involved in the education system,” Johnson said Tuesday. “If we’re going to build a relevant education system, we need the voice of the employer, the business community, economic development — we need those people at the table.”
What the minister needs to realize is that elementary, junior and senior high school education isn’t about economic development. School isn’t a big oil employment centre. Education is a place where we teach freedom of thought, where we help our children become critical thinkers and allow them the space to dream, create and explore free from corporate influence.
Kids are five or six when they start kindergarten and K-3 are some of the biggest growth years in a child’s life. This is the time where children are developing their world view, not the time they need ‘the voice of the employer.’
Whether you support the tar sands or not, hopefully we can all agree that big oil and other corporations have no place in our children’s classrooms - especially during their most formative years.
This isn’t the first time that Syncrude has tried to influence our kids -- it designed a video gamethat tries to tell kids how green the company is. But designing our schools' curriculum is much more damaging than a greenwashing video game.
We need to break these deeply disturbing links and keep our schools tar sands free.