Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Proportional Representation and Public School Curriculum

If public schools would shoulder more of the responsibility to educate students about electoral systems then graduates of those schools might not be so easily fooled by people who purposely manipulate the public’s lack of knowledge of electoral systems.

Often the public must be first educated on various electoral systems before they can clearly recognize the unfairness of Canada’s electoral system, and be motivated to change it. Therefore, if public schools would shoulder more of that education responsibility, then that would reduce the burden of work for advocates of electoral reform: It would free up more of their time and money to focus on things like reform advocacy (ie. Fair Vote Canada), and the Charter Challenge for Fair Voting.
How is the curriculum developed? (Education is the jurisdiction of provincial governments.) If there is a certain government in power with a certain agenda, can a public school curriculum be politicized?

Good question: In 2015, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives criticized a certain sex education curriculum as ideological and later scrapped it when they formed government in 2018. Parents will now be able to exempt children from some of Ontario's new sex-ed curriculum. (Nevertheless that new curriculum is similar to the 2015 version.) See link.

So how much do public schools teach about electoral systems?

Here is some research into the current Ontario Secondary School curriculum called “Canadian and World Studies”:

At this link look at the left sidebar, see PDFs.

PDF: Grade 10 CHV2O – Civics and Citizenship (compulsory course):

Main Heading: B: Civic Awareness; Subheading: B2. Canadian and Indigenous Governance Systems

Pg 13: B2.8: “[By the end of this course, students will…] demonstrate an understanding of the electoral process”

PDF: Ontario Curriculum, Grade 9 and 10:

Main heading: A - Political Inquiry and Skill Development; Sub heading: A1 – Political Inquiry

Pg 158: A1.7 [Assignment (optional topic ideas)]: “…a debate on alternative electoral processes…”

Main Heading: B - Civic Awareness; Sub heading: B2 - Governance in Canada:

Pg 161, 162: 

B1.4 - communicate their own position on some issues of civic importance at the local, national, and/or global level (e.g.,….electoral reform…)
B2.5 - identify Canada’s form of government and demonstrate an understanding of the process of electing governments in Canada (e.g., the first-past-the-post electoral system)……“Why does the popular vote not always give a clear indication of the number of seats won by the parties?”

PDF: Ontario Curriculum: Grade 11 and 12 (not compulsory):
The words “proportional representation” are found in these two places:

Main heading: E. Rights And Power In The International Community; Sub heading: E.1: Influence, power, and decision making:

Page 540: E1.4 Explain the requirements for a democracy, and describe the characteristics and the strengths and weaknesses of different types of electoral systems used in democratic states (e.g., single-member plurality, proportional representation, run-off systems)…. Why are some groups trying to introduce proportional representation to Canadian electoral politics?

Pg 568 (Glossary):

proportional representation. A voting system in which the number of seats held by each party is in proportion to the number of votes each party received, rather than, as in a single member plurality, the number of ridings won by each party.

Here’s another possibly relevant point that relates to the Charter Challenge for Fair Voting:

p 456, Human Rights: “Which Charter right ensures that Canadians have the opportunity to participate in regular elections?”

I’ll close with this question: Are other provinces doing better or worse than Ontario on this? Could other provinces learn from this Ontario curriculum?

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