Alberta’s failure to reform its history curriculum

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C.P. Champion, Western Standard, May 16, 2024

When I briefly assisted the Alberta government in assembling knowledge-based elementary social studies curricula in 2021, the government communications experts refused to defend what they had asked me to prepare.

Although they thought of the education ministry’s left-wing experts (and their CBC chorus) as terrorists with whom they (Reaganesquely) refused to negotiate, they also were not prepared to fight with them, either. And so the curriculum reforms that parents had been promised, didn’t happen.

Sadly, that means a better metaphor for Alberta’s education ministry ‘experts’ is not ‘terrorists’ but agents of Soviet ‘maskirovka‘ — or disinformation — because only determined and convincing outreach to the public could overcome the academic propaganda.

For indeed, biographical history and historical facts are today rejected by education experts seeding our collective doom in pursuit of their social justice utopia. Fundamentally the ‘History War’ that the contemporary Left inflicted on unsuspecting populations in the Western world is a replay, or extension, of the Cold War.

Centre-left governments appear to be content to let the cultural forest fires burn, sometimes piling on the fuel.

On the other hand, as I found, conservatives lack the courage and strategic and tactical agility to resist.

In many cases people have no idea even, that there is an ideological war going on and are unwilling to do what is necessary to fight it. Thus, ideological opportunists, reflexive activists, and other advocates of a purely negative view of history currently have the upper hand.

To confront the Soviet-style deception, lies, negative history, and character assassination emanating from the vicious “woke” activists who have infected parts of the Canadian Left, the only method that can possibly succeed is an overwhelming proactive factual information campaign to promote understanding and knowledge of the good and great foundations of our society, using every instrument available.

Consider colonialism. Contemporary people too easily fall into what they assume is good progressive thinking but whose origin is actually Leninist dogma: namely that colonialism was a “moribund” phase of capitalist exploitation, the last-ditch attempt of the rich to cheat the poor and of the white to oppress the non-white. In reality, some empires — French, Spanish, Portuguese and others in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia in previous centuries—took a spoils approach, while others, like the British, progressively developed their colonies economically and politically.

British colonialism should be differentiated from its regressive rivals. Most regressive colonialisms were based on conquest and brutal exploitation. Consider what would have happened to indigenous peoples had Canada been reached first by Spanish Conquistadors.

Moreover, no one can pretend that Mongol, Zulu, Chinese, Haida, or Haudenosaunee aggression, conquest and captivity were bereft of racial and sexual components. We should be surprised instead at the mitigation and comparative absence of these traits in history.

What is remarkable about the British Empire is not that injustices were present on many occasions, but that they were opposed vehemently, and often successfully, from within. Can anyone seriously maintain, if the Europeans had never colonized North America or Africa, with Christianity in their wake, that indigenous peoples would have abolished the slaving practices that were endemic to their cultures?

It is an uncomfortable thought that slavery and slaving have been near-universal practice at one time or another on every continent; slavery, albeit with cultural variations, is the historical norm.

Abolition, on the other hand, is an aberration that originated in the Anglosphere and which, had it not, showed few signs of appearing anywhere else. Even Marxist historians do not deny this fact, though many have belittled the religious and humane motives for abolition to insist instead that slavery was abolished for economic reasons such as the decline of profit. It irks progressives terribly that the heroes of anti-slavery, champions of freedom and natural rights, were 18th century small-c conservatives: liberals, Whigs, Tories, Baptists, and evangelical Christians such as William Wilberforce.

The abolition of slavery is a stumbling block to the liberal-left because it contradicts their ambition to impose a dreary, divisive, negative hegemonic narrative.

They deploy destructive scare-words (“racism,” “settler colonialism,” “white supremacism,” ad nauseam) to obviate the need to confront inconvenient complexity and basic facts, and the fundamental goodness and greatness of Western Civilization. Their scare-words are an easy tool to demonize anyone who questions their dogmas, let alone commends the extraordinary accomplishments of Europe and even the liberal Enlightenment.

And, possibly without realizing it, they commit one of the most fundamental intellectual errors: they fail to draw distinctions between different sorts of things — in this case, progressive and regressive expressions of imperialism.

What other empire, when its strength dwindled, left behind a free, organic association of states like the British Empire-Commonwealth: an entirely voluntary organization of countries that have chosen to maintain British ties long after the tide of Empire subsided?

Reflect upon the 20th century: “the Age of the ‘G’—guillotines, genocide, gaols, gallows, gas chambers and Gulags,” to quote the great Austrian Catholic reactionary, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, a perceptive critic of the horrors of leftism.

The cruellest, most destructive empires in modern times were Hitler’s Third Reich (1933-1945) and on a greater scale, the Communist empires of the U.S.S.R. (1917-1989) and the People’s Republic of China (1949-present), plus assorted client states like North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Cuba.

With the self-entitlement of a party vanguard to obtain power and impose a perfectly just and equitable society on the masses by any means necessary, utopian ideology typically requires stifling, and even murdering, dissident voices. Never in human history were more people persecuted, deprived of natural rights, starved, tortured, gassed, shot, or worked to death than by Party-controlled totalitarian atheist regimes. The societies repressed by the Communist empires are still struggling today to overcome their brutal legacies, including the unresolved fate of Ukraine.

By the standard of these regimes, it is difficult to understand the degree of condemnation that has been heaped on the colonial empires whose closing phase was marked by a valiant resistance to the spread of Communism in Asia and Africa, a case where colonialism was the lesser evil to Marxism-Leninism.

While there are imperfections, I would suggest that there is no society in the world in which visible minorities and indigenous people would have been better off than in the North American societies of recent decades.

That is because modern economic prosperity, which results from the gradual unshackling of capitalist potential first discovered in the Middle Ages and the Italian Renaissance, is the only system in the world capable of generating the vast surplus wealth necessary for low-productivity sectors of society to siphon off their existence, either through private charitable actions or by means of confiscatory taxation by incontinent governments.

If sensible and patriotic people are to resist the tide, then leaders must become better informed and must seek to educate the public about the fraud and hollowness of hateful activists’ simplistic but effective anti-historical themes.

Modern education technocrats and their simpleton curricula must be called out, resisted, and defeated by using effective communications, rallying well-informed parents and teachers, and replacing poisonous ideas with rich, engaging, and high-quality knowledge-based curricula.

 G.K. Chesterton observed, “all feeble spirits naturally live in the future, because it is featureless; it is a soft job; you can make it what you like. The next age is blank, and I can paint it freely with my favourite colour.”

He also said, “It requires real courage to face the past, because the past is full of facts which cannot be got over; of men certainly wiser than we and of things done which we could not do.”

That is a truth that should be taught.

C.P. Champion, PhD, FRCGS, is a senior fellow at the Aristotle Foundation for Public Policy and the author of “The British Colonial Achievement and Its Deniers,” in The 1867 Project: Why Canada Should be Cherished—Not Cancelled (Aristotle Foundation, 2023), upon which this article is based, with permission from the Aristotle Foundation.

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