Black-focused public school in Toronto by 2009…What do you think?

Toronto trustees vote in favour of black-focused schools

cbc.ca -Tuesday, January 29, 2008

“A proposal to create Canada’s first black-focused public school was approved by Toronto District School Board trustees Tuesday night.

They have recommended the creation of an alternative school that features a curriculum and teaching environment oriented around black history and culture.

Some parents have said they want to try something new because the current system isn’t working. As many as 40 per cent of black students don’t graduate from Toronto high schools.

Angela Wilson is a mother of two who has been at the forefront of a push for Afrocentric or black-focused schools for years.

“Make our education system better for everybody,” she said.

“It’s not a one size fits all education system. It’s actually working its way to be one size fits few — and the few that are successful do not look like me.”

Trustees were supposed to have discussed a report delivered last week that makes four major recommendations:

  • Open an Africentric alternative school in 2009.
  • Start a three-year pilot program in three other high schools.
  • Work with York University to improve school achievement.
  • Develop a plan to help failing students.

Supporters said those options will keep black students engaged and in school, but opponents said it will lead to greater isolation.

“I just feel being with a mixed group of people is better, you know, you get to learn different cultures, different aspects of different people, the way they live,” said Grade 10 student Terrin Smith-Williams.”

hmmmm….not sure what I think about this yet.

My gut feeling is that it is a cop out. It is a way of saying we are addressing issues of student learning without looking at the whole system.

Or…perhaps it is a step toward a new system. Creating student-centred schools that focus on the different communities they are in.

Like I said…still thinking…

What about you? What do you think about this proposal…ready to go next year!

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6 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I’ve been thinking about it since it was first proposed. In theory it’s great; they get to concentrate on their own issues with their own communities and learn about their histories without a whitewashed version of their stories. HOWEVER, what ends up happening is that 1) if it’s too good, then they’ll change it so it’ll have a more “diverse” population. Yikes.

  2. I think these kids who are at risk for dropping out require a better special ed program for both themselves and their parents. these parents may not have established a supportive at home environment and they’ll need supportive help as well.
    martin luther king would roll over in his grave even though this nnew program is being called a segregated one…a horse by any colour is still a segregated program.

  3. Tracy,
    I’ve been thinking about this for a while now because I teach in a very multi racial school and here’s what I say; let’s try black focused schools. If they work great we’re on to something. If they don’t work great, now we know that isn’t the problem so we can look else where. The way I see it, it’s a win, win solution.

    I’ve heard it said recently, maybe on the CBC, that schools should be mirrors and windows. They should mirror the kids that attend it, and they should be a window to greater society. Black focused schools would be mirrors. Would they be windows? I don’t know. I think that’s something to keep in mind when creating the programs.

  4. This is perhaps a bit naive of me but how, exactly, is teaching black history and culture predominantly to black students a step in the right direction? It strikes me that a more balanced approach would be to diversify what is presently taught in high schools; I agree that an Anglo-centric education is likely to be unsuitable given the diversity in most schools, but is the answer to diversity found in isolating cultural bodies? Admittedly I look at this from a political theory perspective, rather than from experience in public classrooms, but theoretically I just can’t see the logical benefits when faced with the fact of plurality in Canada and the rest of the Western(ized) world.

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