A top educator details the school system’s deep flaws but the big dailies won’t print it[Ted Byfield Blog] There’s a little-known but vitally significant fact in the recent history of education in the Canadian province of Alberta. In the closing years of the 20th Century a team of conservatively minded educators somehow gained control of the city of Edmonton school system. Within a very few years they sent Edmonton’s academic scores soaring so spectacularly on international tests that American systems, one of them California’s, conducted studies to discover the mystery of how they did it.
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One of the men chiefly responsible for this, Stuart Wachowicz, then director of curriculum in Edmonton, scoffed at the question. In essence all he had done, he later explained, was to restore the curriculum that had been in place up to the mid-1970s. Meanwhile, other extraordinary things were happening. The city’s famous “Cogito” schools emerged, as alternative and charter schools came into existence. Faith-based schools acquired state support. All these innovations had the effect of empowering the parent who could choose the school that best suited the his son or daughter.
Wachowicz was by no means alone in the movement’s leadership. Another key man was Richard Dietrich, principal of one of the Cogito schools, and an eloquent spokesman for the whole Edmonton phenomenon. Yet another was Leif Stolee, a founding vice-principal of Old Scona Academic High School, which became a showcase for the movement. Stolee’s witty spoofs on educational “progressivism” gravely irritated the progressivists, though most of them were too humourless to reply in kind.
Wachowicz himself says the chief role in the Edmonton experience was played by Emery Dosdall, who hired him as director of curriculum. “He was the spark-plug of the reforms by forcing issues of accountability using quantified measures,” says Wachowicz. “That’s something for which he was and is still hated by the granola eaters.”
Few realized, however, how wholly this Edmonton movement differed from what was happening elsewhere in the world of education. It was absolutely at odds with the dire changes wrought by the Sixties revolution in the universities whose aim was the destruction of the traditional. No longer, they ruled, were the schools to teach the appreciation of, and the functioning of Truth, Goodness and Beauty. All such concepts were now known to be purely subjective and transient “feelings.” The purpose of the school was to produce citizens who would acquiesce with whatever “the community” required. Learning specific skills and acquiring specific facts of our past– maths, grammar, history– were secondary. In fact, real history, as distinct from “social studies,” could be actively dangerous to this new ideology..
This article continues at [Ted Byfield Blog] The letter Alberta’s left-leaning print media don’t want you to see