Change and Community: a response to recent comments

I am finally back online at home and am able to respond to some recent comments to my post:

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

The response became so long that I’ve decided it merits a post of its own. If you want to know what I am talking about when I address specific people, go take a look at the comments to the original post, linked above.

Here we go…
@ Jose – help me to understand…why Yikes?

@ Marc – better special ed programs, eh? That doesn’t sit easy with me at all.

I’d agree with you if you said better programs in general. One of the issues I have with much of our education system is the segregation that goes on within it under the guise of special ed classes. Instead of recognizing differences in learning amongst different populations, those who learn differently are placed into special programs – a prime example of teaching subject matter and not students.

I’d like to think that if we look at changing how we teach in general, to recognize difference and see how we can harness it to achieve common goals, then things would make much more sense than creating more special ed classes.
(see this conversation re: in-school segregation)

@ Elona – interesting comment. Would they be windows? Let’s look at the present situation in Montreal. The dropout rate for black students in Montreal is even higher than in Toronto. Recent numbers show it at 49%, I believe Toronto’s is very close, at 40%. What do we see through that window?

I would like to think that by creating schools that represent communities and answer to their needs we may at the same time create a society that does the same.

@ Chris – I agree in theory, though I’m not so certain that reality reflects the theory. For instance, you write about the fact of plurality in Canada. Our population is certainly composed of many different kinds of people who have many different kinds of beliefs, but do our social systems (like schools ) address needs in a pluralistic way? No.

The more I write about this topic, the more I realize that I am more in favour of it than not. No question – our school system (both American and Canadian) needs radical change. In order for change, real change, to take place it needs to reflect the real needs and concerns of the people who will be directly affected by it.

Creating schools that respond to community needs – in this case the need to motivate learning in a particular community that has long been marginalized and disregarded – is a step toward real change.

My dream – to see all schools a reflection of the communities they are in, with a goal of strengthening  community through education.


  • elona says:

    Today on the CBC I heard an interview with a young black student who said that an after school program about rapping helped him discover himself and gave him the pride to tuen himself down. It was amazing what he rapped about. I think the program is called Lost Lyrics. The young man said that people listen to rap all the time and are use to the way rap lyrics are written and ” get” what’s being said better. I think that is some thing that could be happening in classrooms to engage kids and help them feel included in the classroom. I don’t know much about rap, but I intend to find out.I’ll ask my students to teach me about rap. I want an inclusive classroom, and I try my best to do that. I’ve found that the strategies I learned when I took Tribes training most helpful.

  • Tracy Rosen says:

    Quick response in between classes…

    Community based schools are not segregation but reflective of the community in which they are in.
    Since this will be a public school, any student can choose to go – the curriculum focus will be on black history and society, therefore reflecting the community it is there to school.

  • Hi Tracy,

    You’ll forgive me, but I’m not certain how your response would work towards resolving a larger problem of insensitivity to difference in public classrooms. In an age that faces the fact of plurality it strikes me as strange to segregate different cultural groups on the basis that ‘reality doesn’t reflect plurality’. Isn’t this disjunct between the reality of society and the structure of public educational environments a core reason why teachers often identify monocultural impositions on diverse student bodies as a problem?

    You (if I recall properly) have mentioned that segregating ‘challenged’ students can have the opposite effect that is intended; by isolating them they are prevented from developing systems and mechanisms that would facilitate their participation in normalized social environments rather than facilitating their integration into ‘normal’ society (if you haven’t made explicitly this claim, I apologize for attributing it to you – I sometimes get my various news feeds/blogs mixed up :P). This isn’t to say that attention shouldn’t be directed towards those students’ needs, or that there aren’t perhaps some situations where a separate environment ought to be developed so that they can grow in an environment that is explicitly designed to accomodate their unique needs. This said, even if we adopt that position it seems a stretch to equate an entire cultural group as requiring a unique and segregated learning environment that students in ‘challenged’ classrooms are situated in. It seems like I’m just missing a core ‘bit’ of this debate, or that if I’m not that some factor of it doesn’t seem to conform with resolving the problem of plurality and is instead aimed at just ignoring it.

  • jose says:

    Yikes like this is a complex problem. A part of me likes to see the Black-centric curriculum precisely because most populations don’t get addressed correctly if at all. Another part of me wonders if that’s setting kids up to xenophobia i.e. now that we’re already segregated, let’s segregate ourselves (this isn’t a chicken-and-the-egg thing; the gov’t segregates first). Anyways, that’s why I say yikes.

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