September 25, 2018

Infographic: Where Do Political Parties Stand on Quebec’s non-inclusive History Curriculum?

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June 20, 2018

Positive Changes Regarding Indigenous History; Stubborn Refusal to Fix Serious Problems with Representation of Minority Groups

CBC’s Mike Finnerty discusses the most recent changes with the Quebec history curriculum and the changes that still need to be made:

Press release:

June 18, 2018
Montreal, QC – The Committee for the Enhancement of the History Curriculum in Quebec (ComECH-Quebec) will
hold a press conference at June 19th at 8:30AM at the English Parent’s Committee Association office (7875 Chemin de la Côte-de-Liesse). We will respond to a memo the Ministry quietly sent to schools on May 31st announcing that the secondary three History of Quebec and Canada textbooks distributed to schools in the fall of 2016 would be replaced next year in order to better respond to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“While we are encouraged that the Ministry seems to be taking concrete steps to listen to Indigenous communities, Image result for inclusive history quebecwe hope that it is the entire curriculum program that will be fixed and not merely the textbook, as was the case with the Sec 4 program” said ComECH-Quebec chairperson Robert Green. “We also hope that the Ministry is not intending to cherry-pick the TRC Calls to Action and leave out important recommendations such as the call to establish senior- level positions in government at the assistant deputy minister level or higher dedicated to Aboriginal content in education.”

The members of ComECH-Quebec will also describe their frustrating experience attempting to convince the current
Government of Quebec to address the very serious problems with the curriculum’s depiction of Anglophones and
other minority communities.

“We met with Greg Kelley, the Premier’s liaison to the English community and we had two meetings with
representatives from the Ministry” said Green. “We provided page references showing how this curriculum demonizes Anglophones, omits much of the history of Black Quebecers, reinforces negative stereotypes about Muslims, whitewashes Quebec’s history of xenophobia and antisemitism and fails to acknowledge the positive contributions to Quebec society of any of its minority groups. Not only did this government refuse to take action to fix these problems, it refused to even acknowledge that these were problems to begin with!” Continue reading

February 20, 2018

Black history gets short shrift in new Quebec textbooks

Published Feb 15, 2018 in the Montreal Gazette

By Robert Green

It seems a year doesn’t pass where we are not painfully reminded of the ignorance that large segments of our population have with respect to the history of black people living in the territory we now know as Quebec. From opposition to changing racist place names, to the public defence of the all too frequent donning of blackface, to the denials of the need to address systemic racism, in each case we hear a familiar refrain: Quebecers are not racist, and to suggest otherwise amounts to Quebec bashing.

As a teacher of Quebec history, I am always saddened by such reactionary sentiments. If we knew the truth about our own history, I believe such insensitive and defensive reactions would be far less frequent. Others might instead open their minds to the perspectives of their black fellow citizens, and in the process, help to create the kind of society where the voices and contributions of all citizens are valued, regardless of ethnicity or skin colour.

Indeed, this very sentiment was expressed in the preamble of the National Assembly’s 2006 proclamation of February as Black History Month in Quebec. It states that raising awareness about black history “helps to encourage the full participation of all in Quebec society, to promote inclusion and openness to pluralism and to strengthen intercultural rapprochement between all Quebecers.”

When the new government-approved Secondary 4 history textbook arrived in November, I was therefore curious to see to what extent it would reflect the National Assembly’s powerful words. Continue reading

January 23, 2018

Quebec’s new history text fails in portrayal of Muslims

This textbook, Reflections, does not seem likely to build understanding and empathy, but rather, reinforce intolerant and divisive views.

By Robert Green, Published Jan 19, 2018 by the Montreal Gazette

CBC Homerun interview:

In responding to the heinous shooting in a Quebec City mosque last January, Premier Philippe Couillard made a series of comments that seemed to be coming from the heart. “Spoken words matter. Written words matter,” he said, “they can of course express an idea, but they can hurt. They can hurt very much. We should all be cognizant of that.”

This is particularly true with respect to the words we use with our young people. Such words can reproduce existing attitudes that harm, divide and exclude, or they can give young people the tools to build understanding and empathy. As a teacher, I am acutely aware of the heavy responsibility I have regarding the words I use with my students.

This is particularly true with respect to the words we use with our young people. Such words can reproduce existing attitudes that harm, divide and exclude, or they can give young people the tools to build understanding and empathy. As a teacher, I am acutely aware of the heavy responsibility I have regarding the words I use with my students.

While there are numerous problems with the textbook, it seems fitting, with the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 29 mosque shooting approaching, to focus here on the way Muslims are depicted.

As historian and literary theorist Edward Said identified long ago in his classic book Orientalism, Islamophobic stereotypes tend to be centred around associations with terrorism and misogyny. Sadly, rather than helping students to deconstruct these stereotypes that have been so harmful to Quebec citizens of Muslim faith, the textbook reinforces them.

On Page 301, we find a section titled The Threat of Terrorism that sends the message that terrorism is exclusively associated with Muslims. The only examples given are an Islamist terrorist organization and a Muslim country. Meanwhile, Marc Lépine’s massacre of 14 women at École Polytechnique is not mentioned in this section. Where it is mentioned on Page 323, the act is described as “premeditated” and “politically motivated,” however the word “terrorism” appears nowhere. And not only are the FLQ not described as terrorists, the words with which they are described are euphemistic. On Page 258 we learn of Pierre Laporte being “found dead.” The perpetrators of this crime are then described not as murderers or terrorists, but as “abductors.”

On Pages 321 and 322, we find an extremely one-sided presentation of the so-called debate on “religious neutrality.” We learn that some believe that certain religious accommodations are “contrary to the values of Quebec society,” but nowhere do we learn about those who believe that inclusion and respect for religious freedom and human rights are Quebec values, enshrined in Quebec’s own human rights charter.

No mention is made of the extent to which these debates played on ignorant stereotypes about Muslim women, nor of the dramatic rise in xenophobic hate crimes targeting Muslims, and particularly Muslim women, provoked by this public debate. Once again, an opportunity to deconstruct ignorant stereotypes and promote an inclusive vision of society is missed, and instead harmful stereotypes about a vulnerable minority are reinforced.

Problematic depictions of the Muslim community are only the tip of the iceberg. Quebec’s new history program depicts black Quebecers, members of Quebec’s various immigrant communities, anglophones and Indigenous people in problematic ways.

There is an urgent need for the government to immediately go back to the drawing board to produce a history curriculum that is reflective of the sorts of values articulated by our premier and other political leaders in the days following the Quebec City massacre. If, as the premier said, “words can hurt, words can be knives slashing at people’s consciousness,” then we must be particularly vigilant about the words we are exposing our young people to.

June 10, 2017

Podcast: CBC Homerun asks if students should be paid $1000 to graduate

Millionaire businessman Mitch Garber has proposed to lower dropout rates in Quebec by paying graduates $1000. CBC Homerun host Sue Smith discusses this proposal with Westmount High teacher Robert Green.

While education professionals are ignored there is no shortage of hair-brained reforms being proposed by millionaires and celebrities.

May 6, 2017

CBC Daybreak on the call for a new inclusive History curriculum in Quebec

Members of ComECH-Quebec at May 2nd press conference.

Kativik School Board’s Robert Watt and ComECH-Quebec Chairperson Robert Green discuss the problem’s with Quebec’s recent History curriculum reform and the online petition calling for a new inclusive curriculum with CBC Daybreak’s Mike Finnerty:

 

Liberal MNA David Birnbaum attempts to defend the curriculum reform:

News release from Kativik School Board: The new History of Quebec and Canada curriculum is unacceptable

News release from ComECH-Quebec: Reforming the Reform: A Call for a New Inclusive History Curriculum

March 15, 2017

Podcast: Fundamental Problems Remain Following Latest Tweak to Quebec’s History Curriculum

Teacher Robert Green discusses the fundamental problems that remain with the Couillard Government’s latest tweak to the Secondary 3 and 4 history curriculum with CBC Radio Noon:

…and with CBC Home Run:

March 9, 2017

PRESS RELEASE: OMISSION OF WORK-FAMILY BALANCE IN COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT CALLED DISCRIMINATORY AGAINST ANGLOPHONE TEACHERS

For Immediate Release

Montréal, March 9, 2017 – The omission from their collective agreement of a work-family balance clause for Anglophone teachers in Quebec is considered grossly unfair and discriminatory, said a group of teachers who are calling on their union, the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT), to correct the omission.

According to two representatives of the Teachers’ Committee on Work-­Family Balance, Katharine Cukier and Anjali Abraham, the omission of such a clause is unacceptable, since QPAT inexplicably failed to explicitly negotiate this clause in the 2015-­2020 collective agreement, which was reached with the Management Negotiating Committee for English-­language School Boards (CPNCA). Representatives of the Quebec English School Board Association (QESBA) and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education sit on the CPNCA.

The Teachers’ Committee has circulated a petition that has gathered 50 signatures including teachers with family needs involving young children, children with disabilities, spouses with chronic illnesses and aging parents. A quarter of the teachers who have signed are men.

According to Ms. Cukier, since 2014, QPAT was made aware of the inexplicable omission of a work-­‐family balance (WFB) provision in its 2010-­2015 collective agreement. QPAT Executive Member Peter Sutherland indicated in 2015 and then in early 2016 that such an absence was an oversight by the QPAT negotiating team, and that it would be corrected in the 2015-­2020 collective agreement. This did not happen.

The situation is unacceptable because the WFB is in the collective agreements of unions representing French-­speaking teachers, and that of English-­speaking non-­teaching colleagues. Only English-­speaking teachers and bus drivers are deprived of this clause and benefits, which leave them vulnerable to stressful negotiations on a case-­by-­case with a particular employer, exhausting union grievances, insecurity and financial disadvantages.

Ms. Cukier is an English teacher with 20 years of experience who has a son with severe autism. She experienced difficult situations at work in obtaining WFB arrangements, and considers the omission “disrespectful” towards the 8,000 plus teachers in the English-speaking sector, many of whom are women.

“It is bewildering that our union, which negotiates in cartel with the CSQ (Centrale des syndicats du Québec) would neglect one of the most pressing issues of the workplace when for the past decade. The CSQ has been in the forefront of mobilising the province to take action on work-­family balance,” said Ms. Cukier.

For Ms. Abraham, WFB arrangements will make a big difference in her and her family’s life. She is a senior mathematics teacher for 20 years of teaching experience. A WFB arrangement would help her balance marking and lesson preparation, and family care of her two young children when she takes on a full-­time teaching load in 2018.

“The omission of a work-­family clause means a failure to understand the nature of not only teachers’ work but also the demands of “family work”, and quite often, those of a woman’s work,” she noted. “This is 2017, and this is one of the top women’s issues of our times.” Continue reading

January 27, 2017

Comparing Sick Days and Special Leave Days in Teacher Contracts Across Canada

With Provincial negotiations finished, the local Teachers Unions are now consulting their members about negotiations over local contracts with school boards. Below is a table put together by Royal West teacher Katharine Cukier comparing sick day (provincially negotiated in Quebec) and special leave day (locally negotiated with school boards) provisions in collective agreements across Canada with those of teachers in the English Montreal School Board.

WonkaDolbecTo put the information in this table in context, a few words about salary. In recent years there have been two rigorous comparisons of teachers salaries across Canada. The BC Teachers Federation’s document compared the top and bottom of the payscale of teachers across Canada in two categories in 2013/2014. In three of the four comparisons Quebec’s teachers were dead last in terms of salary. A similar comparison covering the same year by Statistics Canada echoed these results finding Quebec’s teachers at the bottom of almost every category of comparison.

However, looking at the top and bottom of the payscale does not tell the whole story. There is also the issue of the number of steps in the payscale. While most provinces have between 10 and 12 steps on teacher payscales, Quebec has 17. To understand just how much this impacts teachers in Quebec, one can compare the earnings over 25 years based on the payscales in current collective agreements. Doing so reveals the following:

In comparing Quebec’s situation with respect to sick days and special leave days there are a few points to consider: Continue reading

January 21, 2017

Podcast: Financial Literacy at the Expense of Political Literacy?

CJAD’s Leslie Roberts speaks with teacher Robert Green about the Quebec government’s proposal to introduce a financial literacy course at the expense of the Contemporary World course. Click here to download the podcast.

September 18, 2016

Quebec’s rotten history curriculum is fault of both PQ and Liberals

By Robert Green | Published August 30, 2016 by Ricochet.media

Horrified by the Parti Québécois’s proposed Charter of Values and the conservative ethnic nationalism it represented, the election of 2014 saw large numbers of Quebecers turn to a corrupt, austerity-mad Liberal Party, hoping it to be a lesser evil.

https://images.thetrumpet.com/53875b37!h.300,id.10734,m.fill,w.540This fall, high school students throughout Quebec will reap the consequences of this short-sighted political calculation as they are subjected to a dogmatic, exclusionary and politically regressive history program that is as much the product of the PQ’s conservative ethnic nationalism as it is the Liberal Party’s myopic obsession with public sector austerity.

An ideologically driven reform

The genesis of this reform begins with the lobbying efforts of la Coalition pour l’histoire, an organization founded by nationalist historians Éric Bédard and Robert Comeau with the support of organizations such as la Fondation Lionel-Groulx, le Mouvement national des Québécois, and la Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal. Despite the fact that Quebec’s current curriculum contains numerous and frequent references to Quebec nationalism and the Quebec nation, the coalition sees it as its mission to stop what it calls the “denationalization” of Quebec history.

The politics of this coalition were laid bare in 2013 when the organization refused to meet with the members of the initial committee set up to reform the curriculum, because of the “divergent views” that would be present. Evidently the coalition members wanted a committee as monolithic in its composition as the view of Quebec society they sought to impose on Quebec’s students.

The PQ education minister of the day, Marie Malavoy, subsequently decided to meet privately with a small group of coalition supporters. Cancelling a meeting of the larger, more diverse committee was a telling indication of the direction she was intending on taking the program.

In an open letter published by Le Devoir, the leadership of L’Association québécoise pour l’enseignement en univers social (AQEUS) scolded the minister for taking her advice from a committee of nationalist historians that not only excluded any participation from teachers and pedagogical experts, but also prevented one historian from participating because of his activism with Québec Solidaire. They also accused the minister of “instrumentalizing” the teaching of history for “purely partisan and political ends.”

Though the report that would serve as the basis for the PQ’s pilot program did eventually involve a modest process of consultation, the end result clearly reflected the coalition’s desires for the program. Coalition spokesperson Robert Comeau was quoted in Le Devoir as being “very satisfied.”

Minorities omitted from history

So what exactly is so problematic about the proposed reform? To answer that question, one must consider the things that have been omitted. Continue reading

June 21, 2016

Petition and Open Letter: Stop testing Grade 6 students in Quebec with a ridiculous exam.

By Jo-Ann Connolly

Plea to parents and educators,

As a grade 6 teacher who has just finished correcting provincial math exams, I am convinced that our government has taken the wrong path in evaluating knowledge that our children in Quebec society have grasped through our educational system.  The exam is divided into 8 parts, with one large situational problem and 6 shorter applications.There is also a traditional multiple choice and quick answer booklet.

os-ed-standardized-testing-front-burner-intro--001There is no sound pedagogy in what the government is requesting from 11 and 12 year olds.  The applications took anywhere from 1 to 1 and a half hours, rather than the 20 to 30 minute time limit the government wanted.  The situational took 2 days rather than the 1 to 2 and a half hours.The children could not do this on their own, despite discussion beforehand to clarify exactly what was being requested of them.  The government is asking them to work in isolation on a budget proposal scenario which frankly is irrelevant for most children, and the steps involved are too complex.  Most twelve year olds do not hold the purse strings in their families.  They are lucky if they have an allowance.  Parents buy the necessities and children in poor neighbourhoods have never handled money. They may be able to find percents and calculate tax on an item when we scaffold the activities, but they have no idea what budgets and proposals are about.The applications are too long and the language is such that the child does not even know what is being asked. Continue reading

June 18, 2016

Quebec’s History Program Chaos

By Robert Green

This was an eventful week for Quebec’s History program. Thursday the Gazette published two excellent articles by Marian Scott about the reactions to the Education Minister’s flip-flop on his previous commitment to put the controversial new History curriculum on hold, and the decision of the English School Boards to implement this curriculum:

English school boards criticized for adopting Quebec history curriculum

Quebec lags in diversity education, comparison of history programs shows

I spoke with CJAD’s Tommy Shnurmacher about the History reform:

Later Thursday the CBC broke the story of the leaked essay question on the provincial History exam and the Ministry’s decision to not count the question:

Quebec students launch petition after history exam leak

I spoke with CBC Homerun’s Sue Smith about the history exam leak:

Friday the Gazette’s editorial board weighed in on the decision of the English School Boards to go ahead with the implementation of new History curriculum:

English school boards are failing history

June 4, 2016

CBC on Quebec’s Controversial New History Reform

An interview and an article from June 3rd:

https://images.thetrumpet.com/53875b37!h.300,id.10734,m.fill,w.540The Interview:
Robert Green speaks with CBC’s Sue Smith about the Couillard government backtracking on its commitment to postpone the implementation of its controversial reform of the province’s History curriculum. Stream the interview below or click here to download the mp3.

The Article:

Read Ben Shiller’s excellent article: English school boards to use controversial history course next year.

June 3, 2016

Quebec’s non-inclusive new history curriculum is a missed opportunity

By Robert Green | Published by Montreal Gazette June 1, 2016

Earlier this year, Quebecers learned of a reform to the province’s history curriculum that provoked a great deal of concern. Not only was the role of Quebec’s anglophone community reduced to that of a comic book villain intent on impeding progress, indeed the contributions of all of Quebec’s minority groups seemed to be systematically excluded. There was nothing about the anglophones who participated in the 1837 rebellions or organized some of Quebec’s first labour strikes; nothing about the struggles against discrimination faced by Jewish and Italian immigrants; nothing about the contributions of more recent immigrants, like the Vietnamese or Haitian communities.

However, perhaps the most significant omission had to dhttps://images.thetrumpet.com/53875b37!h.300,id.10734,m.fill,w.540o with the First Nations. This reform was being developed at the very moment the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made its recommendations. Specifically the TRC recommended that all levels of government “Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students.” Quebec had a real opportunity to be the first province to implement the recommendation. Instead, by ignoring the TRC and refusing to engage in any meaningful consultation with First Nations communities, Quebec instead chose to reinforce the colonial pattern of relations that has existed for hundreds of years. Continue reading