By Jonathon Van Maren
Earlier this week, Canadian media outlets broke what we are supposed to believe is a hugely upsetting story. Curriculum advisers handpicked by Alberta’s government, they reported, had made a series of unthinkable recommendations. Professors were called upon to condemn the proposals; commentators struggled to catch a breath; the New Democrats in opposition were frankly hornswoggled.
The new recommendations, it turns out, include teaching seven- and eight-year-olds about ancient Rome, ancient China, medieval feudalism, and Homer’s Odyssey. The advisers recommended that many important names and landmarks be memorized, and that children as young as the first grade should be introduced artists such as Claude Monet and Georgia O’Keeffe. Most offensively, it was also proposed that first graders learn Bible verses about Creation as poetry (something that Richard Dawkins has proposed.)
Hilariously, academics such as Professor Keith Barton, an alleged “specialist in social studies curriculum and instruction” told the CBC that “to say that second graders are going to be learning about ancient China and ancient Rome, that they’re going to be learning the names of capitals — nobody does this.” Of course, the fact that “nobody does this” might be one of the reasons children are so woefully under-educated these days. My daughter had memorized entire Bible chapters before the age of three, and I know many home-schooling parents whose children can speak on a wide range of topics before the age of 10. Perhaps if those parents followed Barton’s advice, their children would be more appropriately ignorant.