The Alberta Educational Department has partnered with the Canadian oil and gas industry in drafting new educational curricula for its elementary schools according to a document posted to the Alberta Education website. The new educational program is expected to take effect in the 2016 school year and reform the curriculum of grades K-12.
Despite Canadian support for tar sands oil projects and the Keystone XL pipeline falling to 52 percent in December from 68 percent in April, the decision to include the oil and gas companies in early education is supported by Education Minister Jeff Johnson. Johnson believes that in order “to build a relevant education system, we need the voice of the employer, the business community, economic development — we need those people at the table.” Seated at Minister Johnson’s table are Suncor Energy Inc., Syncrude Canada Ltd., Stantec Inc., and Cenovus Energy. Syncrude, Stantec, and Suncor will be directly involved with reformations from kindergarten to third grade while Cenovus is included in grades four through six.
In addition to bringing their knowledge of economic growth to the discussion of shaping education in Alberta’s communities, these companies also carry with them the impacts of tar sands oil extraction. Locally, tar sands have been connected to an incurable cancer that is afflicting a First Nations community in Fort Chipewyan — and they are known to emit three times the amount of greenhouse gases of conventionally produced oil.
Deron Bilous, of the New Democratic Party (NDP), was highly critical of the decision to include the oil industry and believes that “having Syncrude and Suncor as explicit partners in the redesign at least gives the impression that the table is not balanced.” Bilous and his supporters can look to Ohio to find a recent campaign successfully ended a Radio Disney educational tour that was completely funded by the oil and natural gas industry.