Toronto's Afrocentric School: The Dumbest Idea since John Tory's Election Promise
Monday, February 4, 20084 Comments
Tory seemed to have justice on his side. He was basically correct to point out that the funding formula was outdated and unevenly favoured certain citizens based on their ethnicity or religion. However, the only truly just position would have been to support elimination of funding for separate schools all together. The only way to create real equality in publicly funded schools would be to make one inclusive public school board while discouraging the more exclusive ones. But then again, taking away Catholic school funding would have been political suicide for Tory and so he decided the latter option was close enough.
Ontarians knew that offering funding to other religiously or ethnically based schools would be one step forward and two steps back. While Catholic school boards were unfairly advantaged, it didn’t make sense to further diminish the power of the public schools. After all, it is the public schools which, for good or for bad, model the type of secularism that has allowed Ontarians to accept and integrate different groups into one big happy society. Tory’s resounding defeat confirmed the fact that secular values are something Ontarians are willing to stand up for.
Funny then, that less than a year since the election, The Toronto District School Board is willing to encourage greater division between teachers and students of different ethnicities. In order to address claims that moderately higher drop-out rates among African-Canadians are because they are not included in the Canadian curriculum - because they face systemic racism from whites in schools - the board voted last week in favour of creating an “Afrocentric” school. That is, a school will be built for people of one particular ethnicity to learn about just how different they are from other Ontarians, publicly funded and all.
The “Afrocentric” school plans to create ground soldiers to fight “Eurocentric” curricula which are supposedly causing lower rates of graduation among African Canadians. But assuming “Eurocentric” curricula are the problem, what good would it do to create something equally as racially biased, but simply biased towards a different race? It seems nothing could be more divisive – and yet the school will open next year.
In a country that attempts to accommodate differences between Canadians, it is our public education system which is entrusted with teaching Canadians that the values which make us the same can overcome the things which make us different. The values of diversity cannot be taught by pointing out differences between races and then separating students based on race or religion. People will never learn to accept diversity if it is merely an abstract theory too risky to be modelled and practiced at school.
Our values are too important to sacrifice for a segregationist experiment. After all there are all kinds of schools which are pre-dominantly one ethnicity or another. There are schools which are predominantly Chinese in Markham, predominantly Jewish in Thornhill, predominantly Muslim in Mississauga. No one can deny that there is a history of discrimination against these groups - and yet no talks about a 40% drop-out rate among students of these ethnicities. Why should Eurocentric curricula and racism be to blame for the higher failure rate of black students, when they are only one of many groups affected by racism historically? Do white teachers just hate black children that much more? I don’t think so. Perhaps the T.D.S.B. should consider that issues affecting the success of black students probably extend beyond the racial make-up of their classrooms. Either way, it is not worth risking a fundamental Canadian value - just because one ethnic group is calling the kettle black.