Common Values & Beliefs Committed To…?? Alberta Programs of Study Series (Part 1)

Now that we’ve established the importance of world views, we’re going to apply what we have learned by looking at government curriculum, known as the Alberta Programs of Study, in this province.

My twenty-five years of teaching in the public system and over forty years’ experience in education has provided me with insights that I want to share with you. I hope this leads you to be better informed regarding public education and programming.

Today, we are going to take a look at what government programming is; what foundation the Alberta Programs of Study is based on; and why we should seriously consider what we are getting into before we adopt it as part of our children’s upbringing.

Psalm 118:8 states that it is better to trust in the Lord, than to put our confidence in man. Being the central verse of the Bible, we can assume that this message is the central message of the Biblical narrative.

Applying this directive, we can question whether the Alberta Programs of Study is leading us to put our trust in God or to put our confidence in man. To answer that question we need only ask what place the Lord has in the government’s programming? Point zero something? Zero point one maybe, but zero would be a pretty fair average and certainly not in a positive light.

So, is it leading us to trust in the Lord or to put confidence in man? Who wrote it? Why was it written? Where is it taking our children? Upon what world view is it based?

To answer those questions we will take a look at what the Alberta School Act of 1988 has to say. Right in the Preamble, before anything else, it says, “Whereas the education community in making decisions should consider the diverse nature and heritage of society in Alberta within the context of its common values and beliefs.”

Similarly, in the proposed new Alberta Education Act, Section 16 (1) reads: “All courses or programs of study and instructional materials used in a school must reflect the diverse nature and heritage of society in Alberta, promote understanding and respect for others and honour and respect the common values and beliefs of Albertans.”

There are a lot of questions one can ask regarding this statement! Did you know that in Alberta we have common values and beliefs? I find this a rather interesting statement in light of the fact that we advance ourselves as a multicultural society, which, I am sure you would agree, is not fertile ground for “common values and beliefs”.

I’ll bet you, we could probably start a culture war right now, if we were to suggest what some of these common values and beliefs could be. Since they have to be based on culture and we are a province of many cultures, advancing one set of common values and beliefs essentially tramples on another!

If it is possible to have common values and beliefs within the province, what are they? Does the government actually believe we have common values and beliefs in the Province of Alberta or is it just as possible that it wants to establish them through its education system?

If we were to actually list these common values and beliefs, who would be able to contribute? Christians? Not likely!

The problem is, even if given the opportunity to do so, we can’t even agree on what Christianity is, much less find common ground that we could advance as our “common values and beliefs.” How do you think we managed to create so many denominations?

Besides, how well do you think the world would receive our common values and beliefs when quoting from the Bible? Advancing the common values and beliefs of one world view essentially trumps those of another. Our biblical world view may work for us, but it is not likely to work for others.

So, our first concern regarding the public curriculum is the stated but unlisted “common values and beliefs” upon which the legislation respecting education is based.

This legislation also says that we are committed to something. What, exactly is it that we are committed to? Let’s go back to the 1988 Alberta School Act.

Going right back to the same Preamble that claimed we have common values and beliefs, it also says: “Whereas the Government of Alberta affirms its commitment to the preservation and continuation of its one publicly funded system of education through its two dimensions: the public schools and the separate schools.”

The preamble to the new Alberta Education Act has a similar statement which reads:

“Whereas the Government of Alberta believes in and is committed to one publicly funded education system that provides a choice of educational opportunities to students and that honours the rights guaranteed under the Constitution of Canada in respect of minority language and minority denominational education through the dimensions of public, separate and Francophone schools.”

Is there any mention of private schools or home education in this last statement? Well, they’re certainly not part of the preamble. Could it be that neither is really as important to the government as a singular monopoly system that can make sure we are exposed to the common values and beliefs mentioned in this province’s School and Education Acts?

So the government is committed to one public education system, using one curriculum that establishes what the government deems to be our common values and beliefs.

If you’ve had any experience with government education officials, you should know that the government is very committed to its “commitment”!

Knowing how great an influence school has on children, the question of greater significance is, what is the government ultimately committed to?

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?

Why Home Educate? Alberta Programs of Study Series (Part 3)

So why are we home educating? When we ask people “Why are you home educating?” and we do ask them all, there are generally two answers.

The most common one is disappointment with the school system. Disappointment for one of three reasons:

They’re not teaching what we believe;
They’re not meeting the child’s needs, and,
The last one, of course, is bullying. You know, the old socialization issue that we are so often challenged on!

If you take a closer look at the answers, the three reasons that we get for people being disappointed with the school system actually reflect our human composition of spirit (they’re not teaching what we believe), soul (they’re not meeting the child’s needs), and body (children are being bullied). Using this perspective and reasoning, we can say that the regular school system is a complete failure!

The reason for home educating that I appreciate and approve of the most, is when people say that they were called to educate their children; that they’re doing so in obedience to God; that they’re really, truly convicted in their hearts that this is what God is asking them to do with their children. I believe this has to be the main reason.

I’ll tell you what motivated me. A long time ago, I was gazing upon the most remarkable miracle, the birth of my little baby girl, who is now home educating four children of her own, and realized the enormity of my responsibility for properly raising this child.

I suddenly started getting panicky because, if I was going to lead my children, I should really know where I was leading them. I realized that I would have one chance to do a good job and that in order to do so, I needed to be able to clearly distinguish between right and wrong.

I wasn’t a Christian at the time, but I certainly believed that there was going to be a day of reckoning. I believed that someday I’d stand before God and render an account for what I had done with that child or that I would be staring right back into what I had done. That was my big motivator and it sent me on a journey that continues today.

Fast forwarding, having discovered faith, we ended up home educating because when we sought God, as to what we should do respecting the education of our children, we were convicted that we should teach them, ourselves, at home, all the time.

You have to understand that this was a very big stretch for a public school teacher, but my commitment to God was greater than my commitment to the school way of doing things. Besides, I was inside that system and I did not like what I was seeing.

When I looked further into this by studying Scripture, I got the same message. Parents are directed to teach their children. There is no place in scripture that instructs us to send our children to professionals and certainly no opportunity for parents, dads in particular, to foist that responsibility onto others.

Raising, training and teaching children has always ultimately been the parent’s responsibility. Parents will answer for what they have done. No excuses or negotiation will be permitted when we stand before Him who has given us this responsibility.

Why Are We Using the Alberta Programs of Study? Alberta Programs of Study Series (Part 4)

So, why are Christians still using the Alberta Programs of Study based in unspoken, yet common values and beliefs designed to be delivered in a singular secular public education system that instinctively rejects private school and home education options?

First of all, we have much more faith in man’s institution of education than we do in the Bible. Because the school has been around a long time, we don’t even question it. However, do consider that the Bible has been around much longer than the school. Agreed?

People just send their children off to school. The children are crying. Mom is crying. The whole house has to adapt from freedom to school mode, but we believe we have got to do this.

Ask the question: “Who says we have to? Who’s making you do this?” We just do it, without even questioning why.

The main reason is because we really aren’t familiar with the education system. Most of you have been there as students. Some of you actually did okay, it actually worked for you.

But usually when I ask people how many of them look back at school with genuine fondness, how many hands go up? Very few, if any.

The next question is, “If you didn’t like it, do you think it’s any better for your children?”

Remember watching TV when you were little? Are the programs as good today as they were back then? Of course not. The content is increasingly less likely to be wholesome.

Do you think the schools are still the same as they were during the “Father Knows Best” era? Or do you think that they’ve probably changed and evolved the same way as TV has, which is now more likely to portray “father” as a bumbling idiot who most certainly does not know what is best, and so should enlist the help of professionals?

We have to understand that for the most part schools today are secular and Godless. Yes, even some, maybe most Christian schools. The programming, based on or following the Alberta Program of Studies, most certainly is.

In my experience, I got to teach at public schools, separate schools, and private schools, and they were all using the same curriculum.

Way back during my internship, when I was teaching in a Catholic separate school, I found it strange that we would start every day with prayer, and then turn around and teach biology with evolution presented as fact. Even as an unbeliever, I clearly saw the hypocrisy of a system that may have gone through the motions of being “Christian” but was advancing a man-centred and Godless agenda.

We’ve been created with an innate need to serve a god. If we’re not going to serve the one true God, we will end up serving a facsimile or false god, largely in the form of ourselves. Men naturally love to play that role.

Educational Freedom? Alberta Programs of Study Series (Part 5)

If freedom is defined as having choice and control, there is no educational freedom in school.

When you send your children to school, do you have any choice as to what will take place there? Do you have any control?

In my twenty-five years in the system, the only choice I could see that the parents had was whether or not they were going to sell hot dogs on the field day. That was about it.

Many Christian parents are not familiar with God’s promises and purposes. There’s a lot of doubt and unbelief because there is a lot of biblical illiteracy. And we know that where there is doubt and unbelief, God cannot work. Even Jesus Himself could not perform miracles in certain places because of the unbelief of the local residents.

The parents are not being stupid or unintelligent. They’re just ignorant in the sense of “not knowing”. They just do not know the difference, and that’s the reason why they use the Alberta Programs of Study at home, if they don’t just send their children to a school that uses it.

They are unknowingly seeking the approval of man because that is all that is being offered. And there’s a lot of pressure to do so. That’s why you will get the questions when it is discovered you favour home education and even more grilling when you determine to avoid using government curriculum.

You know, questions like: “What about socialization?” / “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” / “Are you certified?” / “Is this legal?” / “How will the children get into college?”. All kinds of questions to test you and your resolve.

People cannot understand why one would want to home educate when the government is so ready and willing to do it for them. Nearly everyone thinks that only the government’s way will work.

Maybe, people ask these questions in an attempt to disqualify your decision to home educate because this decision challenges their world view and that makes them uncomfortable. Perhaps in their hearts they know that what you are saying about government schools and programming is true and the thoughts of doing something other than follow as sheep is frightening.

People are usually threatened when seeing others doing something different from themselves, especially something as important and established as education.

As we learned from our study of world views, we naturally believe we are right and so expect others to believe as we do, even when we don’t question what we believe and why we believe it. Christians are just as subject to this characteristic of world views as anyone else. Even when in error or advancing heresy, it is done with the internal conviction of being right.

The population has been trained to be committed to a singular public education system that advances “common values and beliefs” that effectively replace God’s absolute truth and singular faith with relative values rooted in hedonistic beliefs.

These “common values and beliefs” accept, advance and celebrate everything… but the truth. Christian values and beliefs need not apply to what is “common” to all Albertans! Really? Common values and beliefs? I don’t think so! What a shame.

Paul says in Galatians 1:10, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”

There it is, black and white again: Who are you going to serve? Who are you going to please? What then will you allow your children to be subject to? Will it be what pleases God or what pleases man?

That is the real choice we are given. A simple choice that truly bears eternal consequences, one which is far better than the other, but most certainly not the easiest choice to live with.

Thank you for taking the time to examine this series. I pray that it has blessed you as much as I hope it has helped you understand what a public curriculum is and what it is intended to do.

May God bless and keep you.