Choice in Education? Alberta Programs of Study Series (Part 2)

One thing I do appreciate about the Alberta education system is the emphasis on the importance of choice in education. If you are familiar with the politics and the history of education in this province, you’ll know that it wasn’t always that way and that recent events show a continuing lack of true commitment to real choice.

When we take a closer look at the choices that we currently have, there is a pattern that we should be able to see:

If you go to public school, you’ll be following the Alberta Programs of Study.

If you go to separate school, you’ll be following the Alberta Programs of Study.

If you go to charter schools, you’ll be following the Alberta Programs of Study.

If you go to the accredited private schools, mostly likely you’ll be following the Alberta Programs of Study or in the least, some facsimile.

Blended programs have always been required to follow the Alberta Programs of Study.

ADLC online distance learning programs follow the Alberta Programs of Study.

Post-secondary admissions are largely based on the Alberta Programs of Study; and

Home education is often, if not usually, compared to or measured using the Alberta Programs of Study.

With all the options or “choices” that we have for education, all follow or reference the Alberta Programs of Study.

Think about this in terms of “ice cream”. Real options for dessert would be between ice cream, cake, pie, cookies, pudding, etc. If all I’ve given as options for dessert are different flavours of ice cream, I have told you that you will be eating ice cream. This is choice without control, which is really no choice at all.

There is another way we can look at this choice. If I threaten you with a beating, but give you the option of taking that beating in the hallway, bathroom or outdoors, have I given you any choice other than where you will take your beating?

Similarly, if we have an education system offering a “choice” of where a single option of programming will be taken, we are not offering real choice in education. It is more like giving you an option of where you would like to take your beating!

If all the choices that we have in education involve the Alberta Programs of Study and you determine to do something different in your home education program, you’re probably going to be challenged on it because we are not really free to choose. We are expected to abide by the status quo.

Remember that both the School Act and proposed new Education Act are committed to a single publicly funded education system. Obviously, that is what we have when a single option for programming is offered as choice. We may have a choice of venues, but not of programming.

What could be the objective of advancing a singular, secular program under the guise of choice? Back to the common values and beliefs mentioned in the preambles of the School and Education Acts.

Through its commitment to one public education system, the secular government limits our options such that most students will be exposed to the “common values and beliefs” determined not by the people or parents or students, but by the government.

The only place where real choice still exists is in traditional home education, where you are free to do something other than the government program. But, keep in mind that you are only free to do so, if you are informed of this option.

Considering that it is far easier for home education providers to normalize government programming than to educate parents, who are likely more familiar with doing things the school’s way, there exists the perfect opportunity to perpetuate the government’s version of what an education should be.

However, we must always keep in mind that if the government is committed to a single public education system with a single option for programming, how long will it be before it reaches into home education as well? What will you do, if or when that day comes?

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