The mind of a 7-year-old

Written by Brenda Schimke

My seven-year-old great nephew goes into Grade 2 next year and I’m just praying that his school trustees stand up and say ‘NO’ to piloting the new curriculum. 

If they don’t, my great nephew will be learning Socrates, Plato, Charlemagne, the Black Death, the Magna Carta, the Roman Empire and the history of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Did I mention, he’s seven years old?

At present my nephew is strong in math, but if his school trustees put him under this new learning regime, he will miss math topics that have been moved from Grade 2 to kindergarten and Grade one.  Specifically, three-dimensional shapes would now be taught in kindergarten and subtraction in Grade 1. That would mean teaching addition and its inverse, subtraction, simultaneously rather than sequentially—a sure formula for failure!

I haven’t heard any working or recently retired Alberta primary school teachers or professors, who teach education at our universities, extol the virtues of this new curriculum. Seems the ‘external’ crew assembled to design the new curriculum had a much different agenda than age appropriateness of materials and sequential learning priorities.

The general consensus is the material is too complex, too disjointed, too much content, presented too early, and too much of it is irrelevant. It contains learning concepts far above the abilities of youngsters. Take for example, teaching the Magna Carta of 1215 in Grade 2!

In his recently released book, ‘Values’, former Bank of Canada Governor, Mark Carney writes about the history of money, which includes the Magna Carta. In his words, “It (the Magna Carta) was a desperate (and probably disingenuous) attempt at a peace treaty between King John and his barons”. 

Seems the King was demanding too much money from the upper crust. Ironically, the Magna Carta was never enacted because King John convinced the Pope to annul the charter on the grounds that it had been signed under duress. 

Yet this ancient document has maintained its allure throughout the centuries because revisionist interpretations promoted it as the standard bearer for libertarian thought and freedoms. When, in fact, its entire intent was “to preserve the parochial interests of the rich”.

Imagine a six- or seven-year-old processing terms such as ‘barons’, ‘England’, ‘1215’, ‘decree’! Young primary children are just learning days of the weeks and months of the year! 

Plato talks about “democracy”, Socrates about “wisdom”, Charlemagne is a conqueror of Western Europe in the years 742 to 814. I can’t imagine how this is going to benefit my seven-year-old great nephew. Primary-grade children are just beginning to learn and understand family and community.

There is a strong push within the education field to teach more Canadian history. Yet this new curriculum doubles down on European and American history. 

I came through a school system in the 1960s learning far more about the United States and European colonial history than Canadian history. Today many baby boomers are willfully ignorant of Canada’s original peoples, our history, laws, governance, traditions or even our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Sadly, many of us are much more likely to think American laws, governance and traditions are ours as well.

We, the older generation, won’t take climate change seriously even though young people are begging us to. 

We continue to support governments that financially crucify our post-secondary institutions resulting in double and now some triple-digit tuition increases. 

And now, we’re being told to accept a new curriculum, prepared by outsiders, that brings back 1960s white elitist thinking and rote memorization of ancient facts.

It’s like we, the older generation, don’t really care, or even attempt to grasp, just how complicated life and the work environments are becoming for young people as technological changes and globalization advance at breakneck speed. 

Educating my seven-year-old great nephew by subjecting him to educational learning techniques used on me 60 years ago is simply uncaring and tragic.


Brenda Schimke

ECA Review

About the author

Brenda Schimke

Schimke is a Graduate with Distinction from the University of Alberta with a BCom degree. She has lived and worked in Alberta, BC and Ontario.