Little Fish in a Giant pond

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Black-Focused Schools in Ontario?

Where the Hell did this idea come from? Whenever I hear about an idea that sounds a little bit crazy and off the wall at first glance, I like to make a point of thinking about it for a while and seeing if I might not be giving it a fair chance. However, a recent decision by a Toronto area school board to create an "Afrocentric" school to help combat the dropout rate among black students absolutely makes my skin crawl!
In the interest of being objective, it sounds like officials in Toronto are facing a crisis. If the statistics furnished in the above news article are acurate, they have a 40% dropout rate among black males! That is sickening! But how do we know that black-focused schools are the solution to the problem? Are there any independent studies that suggest this is the way to go?
It would be hypocritical of me not to mention that Ontario has already created entire schoolboards to protect the French speaking and Catholic minorities (I am a graduate of a French Catholic high school - I am neither Catholic, nor of French heritage). However, this is hardly the same thing since both were put in place to prevent the cultural assimilation of our French speaking population (who were almost exclusively Catholic at the time of Confederation).
I see absolutely no problem with offering black history lessons, after all, it's a terrible thing to grow up not knowing anything about your roots. Just the same, until I see some proof that shows otherwise, I have a hard time believing that black-focused schools aren't just a little too drastic. Like John Tory's "faith based schools", they separate people from one another, and since blacks do not face the same dangers of cultural assimilation that Francophones do, I don't see how the benefits could outweigh the disadvantages.


  • This is a fine example of how anything can be rationalized to suit a viewpoint! You went to French-Catholic high school therefore you value it. I would have more respect for you if you valued other school choices. Who is to say which culture is in danger of "assimilation"? Certainly Catholics, who are one third of this province, are not in any danger of assimilation!

    We all pay taxes and every single one us deserves a government funded basic education for our children. Ontario funds Catholic, French Catholic, French, Ukrainian Eastern Rite, a few Protestant, Native, Gay-Lesbian, Arts-based, Sports-based schools, as well as many other alternative schools.

    Faith /culturally-based schools teach the general curriculum as well as character development, respect, good self esteem and a strong moral value system in addition to a particular faith/culture and often an international language. So long as the schools follow all government guidelines, why should they not receive enough funding to cover the general curriculum?

    Dr Fuller, a Black American professor, recently spoke in Toronto in support of Africentric schools. He resents the assumption that we need children to mix in schools in order to have intergration. Rather, efforts in integration should be in the market place (work place) and children should not be "used" in social experiments.

    Toronto, like the U.S., does not have integrated neighbourhoods and our public schools reflect their neighbourhoods. If we want true diversity in our public schools we must bus kids from Jane-Finch to Forest Hill - and the reverse!

    By Blogger Gila, at 9:53 AM  

  • Sorry Gila, but I'm not convinced. The distinguishing characteristic of Francophones of this province is the fact that they are French speaking. French speaking childdren, who are sent to English schools inevitably adopt English as their first language, and lose their mother tongue. French language schools exist in order to prevent this from happening, without them, Ontario's French speaking minority would probably be in much worse shape than it is currently in.

    As for Catholic schools, they are a historical reality here in Canada. It may be time to do away with them, but the thing about taking away a right from a minority is that it must be done with absolute care. If the Catholic community is not willing to give up this right, it gets very complicated.

    Interestingly enough, the only province to succesfully do away with Catholic schools, is Québec! I'm not really sure how they went about this, but it might merit some studying.

    Getting back to my point, I don't like the idea of faith based schools either, and the fact that we already have certain faith based schools being funded by the province does not give us license to agravate the problem by creating more of them.

    With all of the respect that is due to Dr. Fuller, I think he is a little mixed up. Africentric schools, and not integrated schools, are the social experiment.

    By Blogger Fish, at 10:37 AM  

  • Fish! I hope you don't honestly believe that Catholics are still the persecuted minority they were in 1867! As for the French losing their language in Ontario, that's exactly what the true minorities are trying to do - preserve their language and heritage for the next generation.

    Suggesting that integration will spontaneously occur simply by having kids in schools together is one of those ideologies that sound good until you realize that kids from Jane-Finch are in schools that are 95% visible minorities while kids in Thornhill are in schools that are 95% caucasion!

    Reread you own words - see how you are still rationalizing what you want??

    By Blogger Gila, at 7:32 PM  

  • Gila, whether you like it or not, my opinion is based on what I beleive is right or wrong. I beleive it is wrong to separate kids at such a young age based on ethnicity because even those kids who live in Jane and Finch (in fact especially those kids!) have to learn to get along despite their differences. I can promise you that I didn't always get along with my French-Catholic classmates, but we adapted.

    Nonetheless, there are exceptions to every rule, and I think I have already explained in sufficient detail why I think French schools should be an exception.

    As for the Catholics, I never said that they were still a persecuted minority, quite the contrary (perhaps YOU should reread my words!). I merely said that the rights to a Catholic education is historic and requires a constitutional amendment to be removed. I am just apprehensive about taking away any group's right because such things must be handled delicately. I'm going to ask one of my colleagues in Québec if he knows how the Québec government did away with publicly funded Catholic schools.

    By Blogger Fish, at 6:08 AM  

  • Brian my good friend, I am in complete agreement with you regarding your disapproval of black-focused high schools. In fact, this "race-based institutions" initiative constitutes a fundamental aberration from our society's core values which, might I add, are underpinned and corroborated in large part by the Unversal Declaration of Human Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Yes, that is what this amounts to the creation of: a race-based establishment, whose admission requirements relate to innate characteristics of race and ethnicity, and which, by its very nature, sets aside the primacy of our equality, irrespective of innate characteristics. There is no place or justification for this in 21st century Canada, unless of course our government has given up on freedom and equality as the core values of our society.

    There is, in actual fact, only a partial relationship between the "black-focused schools" issue and the "funding of faith-based schools" issue. The faith-based schools idea and the black-focused schools idea must fail in my view because they constitute a fundamental attack upon our schools' principal mandate, that is, to serve as a core unit of public socialisation aimed at integrating all of our children into a pluralistic society composed of individuals of every ethnic origin and who are, each and every one of them, an equal member of society. It is incompatible to explain to our children, on the one hand, that "we are all equal and will thrive and integrate successfully into society based on the effort we invest in our activities, not as predetermined by the God we pray to or the colour of our skin", and then on the other hand, to say "As we all resemble each other a bit more, as our sub-culture disposes us to act in such or such manner, as we all pray to the same God, we should go to a school where our faith/language/colour will be the principal aggregating constant, and we'll succeed better that way". To subscribe to the second vision effectively annihilates over a century of judicial and political activism aimed at destroying the gamut of heresies based on the supposed racial superiority-inferiority dichotomy, the segretationist assimilation politicies instituted against aboriginal Canadians (another travesty that deserves further commenting in a future discussion), and linguistic and religion-based ghettoisation and marginalisation of individuals from achieving their fulfillment of their aspirations in society.

    The public coffers have no business to subsidize religious schools, nor do they have any obligation or mandate whatsoever to support race-based schools. Should someone wish to institute a private school catering principally to a group or another - well, unfortunately that's not my business, insofar as that establishment respects the Ontario curriculum, ensures that students are proficient in one of our nation's two official languages, and is not financially supported by the Government. I am not extremely friendly to the existence of these schools, but the significant difference here is that these schools base their enrollment on a religious code - which is protected by the Charter - and not on the genetic code - which is fundamentally incompatible with Canada's values. One can change his or her religion, one can believe and then not believe, one can even be struck by an epiphany at some point in life, and that is all fine and good, and fully compatible with our freedom of conscience, and a recognition that we can all do this as human beings. However, the black kid cannot become white, and the girl of asian descent can no more become black. It is perhaps because of a certain realization that establishing schools that effectively segregate by race - whether or not initiated by people of that very same race (the hight of irony, I say) - that the black-focused schools' proponents choose very carefully the vocabulary used. You'll hear "black-focused", and "afro-centric", and emphasis on "black culture" (whatever happened to Ontario and Canadian culture?) but certainly not "race-based". But that's what it is, dear readers. The sheep's clothes fit so very poorly on this wolf, yet our government has shown surprisingly little reaction on the matter. For shame, and to our peril.

    Finally, to clarify on the constitutionality of funding catholic schools, the measure reflects a societal choice, made in 1867 and ratified anew in 1982. We could change this, we could remove this, we could just as well leave it alone. This falls well within the purview of what is legal, and reflects a choice made by our constitution's drafters on the direction our society was to take, and the values it was to give a certain primacy. It's a positivistic argument, granted - but it fairly reflets the legality of catholic school funding in Canada. As for Québec's renegation of that feature of the constitution, that was permissible as it was a legislative measure affecting that province only. The Québec legislature availed itself of section 43 of the Charter, sought support of the House of Commons and the Senate, and obtained the desired change. Ontario could do the same...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:42 PM  

  • I earn the same as a Catholic Optometrist. Please explain why I must pay for Jewish Day School (a mainstay of Jewish culture and survival for thousands of years) while Catholic Optometrists may send their children to public Catholic schools at no cost. Please don't insult me by saying that's "our history" since our history was denying women the vote and slavery - somehow we found the political will to make those changes!
    I would like my education taxes to be directed to my children's education in my school choice. Either we have school choice in this province or not - we cannot continue to fund some choices and not others - particularly if their is inequality in the funding of cultural/religious education.
    We are becoming a laughingstock internationally on this issue. The UN Human Rights committee is preparing its third ruling.
    Due to the publicity surrounding the last election, their have been articles written on our "faux" multicultural society, where non-Catholic religions are discriminated against, all over Europe, China, and Australia to name a few.

    By Blogger Gila, at 7:57 PM  

  • I've always found the relationship between race and culture a curious one.

    I think a lot of the stereotypes (or "racism") that abound are more to do with cultural behaviour than literally the colour of one's skin.

    One of the questions at stake in the school discussion is quite simply: is "black" a culture?

    If it is, then how many "racists" could be reclassified as simply unsupportive of a set of cultural practices?

    I really think that race relations have less to do with the sheer colour of someone's skin, and more to do with the culture associated with that colour.

    By Blogger Darcy, at 9:00 AM  

  • Of course sharing a race does not preclude sharing a culture which is why the alternative school being proposed is described as 'Africentric' meaning focusing on African culture, spirituality and history. What get's complicated is not so much the relationship between race and culture, as between religion and culture! Sharing a religion does not necessitate sharing a culture -Catholic schools have students from many races and cultures.

    How can we claim to support multiculturalism if we do not aid people to preserve their culture and heritage?

    By Blogger Gila, at 6:56 PM  

  • Wow Bri, way to piss people off! How very controversial of you...I agree though...race based schools? Is that not a form of segregation? Did black people not fight to be allowed in to "white" schools? And how would they define who's black and who's not? I mean, what about people of mixed heritage?

    By Anonymous Blythe, at 11:18 PM  

  • Blyth, read the proposal! It is not a school FOR blacks but ABOUT a black culture, i.e. Africentric. The school would have open enrolment just like many other publicly funded cultural/religious schools across this country. Apparently, a non-Jewish boy went to the publicly funded Jewish school in Alberta and studied Hebrew and Jewish history; he went on to be an ambassador to Israel!

    By Blogger Gila, at 6:53 AM  

  • Just goes to show you people (me) can't be bothered to read the details :p

    If it's just "afri-centric" and not race-based then who cares. This is just good old fashioned Canadian "multiculturalism" at work.

    I was under the impression it was being arranged as a black-only school, by the way people have talked about it.

    One does have to wonder though what the hell the difference is between an afri-centric school and your regular public school. I mean, religious schools usually incorporate faith into teaching and make room for religious practices (prayer sessions or whatever?).

    What practices/teachings are considered "african" ?

    By Blogger Darcy, at 1:33 PM  

  • Africentric Schools:
    They will focus reading material by black authors about black struggles, etc. They will focus on black history and current issues important to their community. They will try to arrange for positive black role models and mentors.
    Celebrate African culture, heritage and holidays. I am also assuming they will try to deal with the kids in a manner that they feel works best. They obviously have some ideas. What I was told a couple of years ago by a white petite teacher is that she can't believe how tall some of the black kids are in grade six and how they get in trouble in some classes for blocking the isles with their legs and slouching in desks that are too small... larger desks? Shouldn't be so difficult!

    So, what happens next? People say: why not teach that in every school? We have arts-based and sports based schools. We have french immersion schools. Why don't we just have africentric, arts, sports and french immersion schools all rolled into one?!? Because it can't work; they can't have so much to 'focus' on and have to choose.

    School choice is when you choose the focus that best suits the child. Most of the time the choice is plain old regular public school but... sometimes it is not!

    Thanks to all who have read thru Fish's blog! Visit or to watch my 11 minute mini documentary on Ontario school funding.

    Quebec and Alberta have exceptional school choice - why can't Ontario?

    By Blogger Gila, at 7:05 PM  

  • Hello everybody,

    I look at the story from a different angle: Fish, this is not your business to decide what other parents consider as best for their children, as long as the choice in not a danger for the sociery. They pay taxes - they are entitles to the choice.

    Black school will surely help those in need and everybody realizes that, because it will be schools' specialization. Students need it, parents want it, society will benefit from it.

    Please be tolerant for those who don't think like you. That's their right.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:46 PM  

  • Alexander, you have a lot of nerve to attack me personally on my own blog. Feel free to disagree with me all you want, I'm anxious to hear other people's opinions, no matter how much they may differ from my own. The fact that I disagree with someone else's opinion does not make me intolerant. How dare you suggest otherwise?!

    If you've bothered to read this blog and the comments that have been exchanged between Gila, myself and others, you would notice that while our views are different, we have treated each other with nothing but the utmost respect. I do not share Gila's opinion, but I have a lot of respect for someone who defends her convictions with such passion and skill. And she has done so without attacking me personally.

    I do not allow people to use the comments section on my blog to insult or belittle other bloggers, nor will I suggest that another person does not have the right to an opinion. You on the other hand are implying that I am intolerant (which I find VERY insulting), yet in the same breath you also suggest that I do not have the right to express an opinion of my own on this matter. I think you're the one who needs to be a little more tolerant, Alexander.

    By Blogger Fish, at 6:24 AM  

  • I hope by the time I have kids there are rock-n-roll centric schools that I can enroll my kids in.

    By Blogger Darcy, at 6:39 AM  

  • Darcy, have I ever told you that you have a knack for saying the exact right thing, at the exact right time?!


    By Blogger Fish, at 6:41 AM  

  • Fish, when majority of population refuses something to minorities,
    when majority has it - it is not fair, and it is intolerance.

    If black people think that specialized schools will be better for them - they must have it. They paid for them already. Those who don't want to go - don't have to. Preventing people who want to go from going there is not right.

    Yes, case with ethnic schools was exactly the same. General public voted to support the recognized fact of discrimination by UN. How do you call it in nice words?

    You open your blog to public. Proving somebody's position as intolerant means attacking the position, not a person.

    Darcy, let's hope that by that by that time they not only will open schools for classic music, they will allow rock-schools as well.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:22 AM  

  • Backpedal all you want Alexander, but your words were very clear, you wrote "Please be tolerant for those who don't think like you. That's their right."

    If someone is not being tolerant, then they are being intolerant. It doesn't get much more personal than that.

    The last time I checked, I didn't actually have the power to deny anyone their schools. Premier McGuinty at least has the power to use influence, but has said he does will not intervene, the correct decision in my opinion.

    All I did was express an opinion, if you don't like it, fine, I'm anxious to hear what you think. You might even convince me you're right and I'm wrong. But don't tell me that I'm intolerant simply because I voiced an opinion. All I ask is that you follow your own advice and attack my position and not me personally.

    If we have to get rid of Catholic school boards in order to comply with the UN standards, then so be it. I'm uncomfortable with it, but if we must then we must. I don't think that going in the opposite direction by creating a different school system for other minorities is a step in the right direction.

    From the looks of the last provincial election results, in which faith based schools dominated the debate, even multicultural Toronto is quite apprehensive about the idea.

    By Blogger Fish, at 12:44 PM  

  • Fish, why do you consider not giving people what they want and paid for as the right way?

    Many people want Catholics schools - that's why they go there. Less people want not Catholic schools - as much as paying for them. People want Black schools, Math schools, Rock Schools, etc.

    They paid taxes - give them schools they want. Let them pay for specifics - religion, sports, math, black history, etc - but math and gym must be free for everyone.

    Mc Guinty is a Teacher Union guy. I would not rely on him in matters of ethics. Population supported slavery some time back - it did not make slavery ethical as well.

    Do to others what you want to be done to you, man!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:01 AM  

  • So let me get this straight, we should give the people what they want, but you're also saying that the people once supported slavery so we shouldn't trust them (I think you better read up on your Canadian history before you make such remarks, but that's not the point). If a multicultural center such as Toronto rejected the idea of faith based schools, is granting them black-focused schools really giving them what they want? Oh, no wait, now I remember, the people once supported slavery (not really, but according to you yes they did) so of course we should not listen to them. Brilliant logic!

    But let's just say, for the moment, that this is what the Black community of Toronto wants. After all, I can't tell you that it isn't what they want. For all I know, perhaps the elected officials on the board were elected with a mandate to bring about these schools. Since it didn't seem to sink in the first time I wrote it, I will repeat myself for you. McGuinty said he would not interfere. I think this is the right decision, since it is not his place to tell the schoolboard how to run its district.That doesn't mean I have to agree with the schoolboard's decision, and it doesn't mean that I don't have the right to express that view publicly.If you don't want to hear what other people think Alexander, you should stop surfing the blogosphere.

    By Blogger Fish, at 8:52 AM  

  • I would suggest that Alexander's first language is not English and that by "tolerant" he meant be more "open-minded" (as opposed to intolerant, meaning racist.)

    I would like to remind everyone that we already have public schools that specialize in music. While I would expect the focus to be classical/jazz/pop in nature, I am sure that many of the students are involved in rock/heavy metal and all types of music. Why not?!?

    This debate is really about school choice and why it's apparently okay for some interests and not for others in Ontario. As mentioned previously, Quebec and Alberta have exceptional school choices. The general curriculum is funded and the area of "special interest" is funded publicly and/or privately. Manitoba, Saskatchewan and BC have less choices, but still more equitable than Ontario.

    Africentric schools would be ABOUT a black culture NOT just for blacks. If this is what gets a community excited and involved in a school we should be supportive. Involved students, parents and staff (with additional community support and mentoring programs) is a recipe for success. Successful schools graduate successful students!

    I enjoy all the different opinions - we are ALL correct! There is no right or wrong type of school model. There are successful school models and then there are those that are left behind due to lack of supportive individuals, staff and communities with disinterested student populations.

    It is not all the differing opinions that I take exception to, it is the hypocritical positions taken by school board officials, teacher unions and our elected officials. For example, how does McHypocrite get away with standing in a Catholic school last fall and stating he does not support funding for faith-based schools (a student corrected him!)?
    How does he get away with stating he only supports funding faith-based schools within the public system while refusing to allow non-Catholic faith-based schools to join the public system?
    How does he get away with calling kids in faith-based schools "segregated" while he and his children attended separate Catholic schools and his wife teaches at one?
    And finally, how does he get away with refusing to allow non-Catholic faith-based schools to join the public system while allowing the TDSB to move forward with plans for an Africentric alternative school?

    By Blogger Gila, at 8:24 PM  

  • Fish, people in the world thought nothing wrong about slavery, meaning that they wanted to have slaves, but not to be the slaves themselves. Slavery was explained by meaningful slogans, watch Griffith "The birth of a nation" for instance.

    That is the same mentaility as to say: I want Catholic school or atheist schools or gay schools or rock shcools because I like/tolerate them, but I don't want THOSE weird folks to have THEIR schools, who cares if they paid taxes for it. Reason? They are just weirdos, while we are the majority and can dictate.

    McGuinty is right not to interfere. That's fair. Your reaction was that your "skin crowls". Sounds a bit different.

    Fish, I am sharing my views with you as you shared them with me, nothing personal.

    There are plenty of voices in all communities: Black, Protestant, Jews, etc. Some are pro separate schools, some are against.

    My point is: let those who want it - have it, and who don't - regular public schools.

    So, what do you think: is not giving people what they want and paid for as the right way?


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:54 PM  

  • Gila, according to Wikipedia, "Intolerance is the lack of ability or willingness to tolerate something".

    I don't care if this intolerance (lack of willingness to accept black or ethnic schools) comes from open-minded or close-minded person. Fish's skin crows upon hearing some folks getting THEIR schools - the ones he does not need.

    As of McGuinty - he is not intolerant. He is a politician. He knows that there are fewer people interested in faith-based schools that there are public teachers - and relies on the teachers. When he knows that black population is more numerous - he adjusts himself accordingly.

    Not sure of integrity, but as a politician he is doing great.

    I guess guys, I am out of this discussion.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:31 PM  

  • I get so tired of this " black, we white, they yellow" Crap.

    To be simple for sure.. but blunt, 80% of ALL ontario school studies should be science, arts, WORLD history, WORLD geography, etc..

    AND...10% French 10% elective cultural studies.

    Racisim will NEVER go away until ALL people stop preaching about thier right to thier own culture.

    Yeah Yeah, I am Irish way back, but that is just a small detail. The big point is I am Canadian. Period.

    Science speaks of reality and culture speaks of segmented, fragmented, heliocentric, egocentric crap. Get over it!

    Lets get into this new world I hear so much about in all the idiological rants that abound today.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:39 PM  

  • So if blacks are allowed to create their own segregated schools, will whites be allowed to form ours?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:03 PM  

  • ithink this is bad bllacks and whites well have to work together eventually hi guys

    By Anonymous mithell, at 10:54 AM  

  • my friend is black and said he wouldnever ever go to one

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