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Big Oil Has No Place In Alberta School Curriculum Redesign: Critics

Big Oil Creeping Into Classrooms

Major oil companies should not have a say in the redesign of Alberta's school curriculum, say critics.

A document posted on the Alberta Education website this week shows companies like Cenovus Energy, Suncor Energy, Stantec, PCL Industrial Contractors and Syncrude Canada have been recruited to "help draft Alberta's future curriculum for our students."

The partnerships are part of a two-year education curriculum redesign, announced last month by Premier Alison Redford.

NDP Education critic Deron Bilous told the Calgary Sun the move is "appalling."

"We've got corporations sitting down and redesigning curriculum. It's no longer educators and experts. Is the purpose to develop, or is it to make young workers for the oil companies?" he asked.

Specifically, the plan includes Suncor Energy and Syncrude Canada consultation in the K-to-3 redesign, which doesn't sit well with Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema.

“It’s time that the Alberta government realizes that what’s good for the oil industry isn’t what’s good for the rest of Alberta and especially not our children. While oil may run our cars for now it shouldn’t run our government or our schools. Ever," he told DeSmog Canada.

However, Education Minister Jeff Johnson told the Edmonton Journal the province welcomes the opinions of critics and parents and it's possible the model could change in the future, depending on the feedback received.

We want the economy involved in the education system,” Johnson said Tuesday. “If we’re going 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.”

Oil and gas companies have shown increased interest in curriculum design in recent years, eager to partner with schools and teachers.

Canada's largest oil and gas lobby group, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), partnered with the Royal Canadian Geographic Society to create 'Energy IQ' — an in-class learning curriculum designed to "teach Canadians about growing demand, the energy mix, emerging technologies, regulatory requirements and much more."

In a blog post written for Huffington Post Canada last year, Cameron Fenton, National Director of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, said 'Energy IQ' focuses on the positive aspects of Canada's energy industry, ignoring other parts of the conversation.

"As a private company CAPP has a right to try and spread their spin by buying up advertising. As a publisher, Canadian Geographic has the same rights to work with whoever they want in putting out their magazine. They are more than welcome to erode their own credibility by putting out a magazine with CAPP, but neither of them have a right to bring Canada's biggest oil lobby and public relations organization into schools."

The Alberta government expects the curriculum changes to be rolled out by the 2016 school year.

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