What motivated Toronto board to approve an all-black school?

Editorial & Opinion, Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Toronto school trustees have approved a black-focused school. What can I say to that other than “huh”?

To say I am perplexed is a severe understatement. I know this may not be a popular opinion but I think we have to step back and ask some serious questions.

Will this benefit the students? Is this right for the community, our province, and the nation? This reminds me of the last question of the Rotary Four-Way Test that has stood the test of time since 1932, and is still quoted in textbooks today.

Straight from the Rotary.org website: “The test is one of the hallmarks of Rotary . . . it has never ceased to be relevant. Its four brief questions are not based on culture or religion. Instead, they are a simple checklist for ethical behavior. They transcend generations and national borders . . .Of the things we think, say or do:

1. Is it the TRUTH?

2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?

3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?

4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?”

For me, this decision does not pass criteria two, three, or four, and as such would be considered unethical as a path forward. If this type of homogeneity in schooling catches on, my children will not be exposed to the diversity that makes this country special.

Canada is richly woven from yarns spun around the planet. I want my family exposed to different colour skin, different religions, different ideas, and I want them to assimilate the best of each culture into their lives.

If the alternative school moves ahead, the students of Toronto will attend a black-focused public school. Then what, a black-focused university or college? Then off to the labour-market to find a black-focused job and live in a black-focused community? No.
Schools are learning institutions, and should be reflective of the city surrounding them. Cross-cultural interactions are part of that learning process, to say the least.

Educators must prepare students for the real world beyond their doors.

Canada’s melting pot will only continue. Immigration is a national priority, borders are all but eliminated by technology, and there will soon be no one group in minority, we’ll all be equally in the minority.

If the graduation rate of black students is the problem, address that problem with appropriate learning resources and centres within schools, more teachers, smaller classes, more one-on-one time with students having difficulties – regardless of ethnicity. They are not the only students who require additional support.

If the content of the curriculum is the problem, tackle that head on, within the system, and enrich the education of all Ontario students.

How could the school trustees vote this way? Were they afraid that they would be considered racist if they didn’t support the black-focused school? Did they think that this would make a good announcement for black history month? I’m sure they thought they were doing the right thing, but look at the path forward.

What precedent does this set? Why should there be a curriculum and teaching environment focused on black culture? Why shouldn’t Latinos have their own schools? What about Asians? And let’s ask the question that no one wants to ask, what would the outcry be if someone asked to set up an all-white school, perhaps just for blonde-haired, blue-eyed children (wait didn’t someone already try that one with disastrous consequences)?

I don’t think that this is a ball we want to start rolling; otherwise, it might not stop with skin colour – which I must say I find a highly arbitrary distinction to begin with when you consider the cultural diversity within one skin-colour group alone.

I can only hope that the residents of Toronto will stop the creation of the school by appealing to the board and that the community will resolve their problems within the system.

A list of trustees can be found on the Toronto District School Board web site at: http://www.tdsb.on.ca/boardroom/trustees/ including contact information for the trustees, hint, hint.

Quebec asked to separate and we as Canadians said no, you are part of Canada. Many believe that John Tory just lost a provincial election in large part for his support of faith-based schools because Ontario said no to further silos in education. So as the Toronto school trustees say yes to a black-focused school, I again, emphatically say “NO.”
Nadine Robinson is a freelance writer and a marketing and communications consultant. Her column appears every other Wednesday. Contact her the.ink.writer@gmail.com

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