Debate: Black-Focused Schools in Toronto

In the news recently is the Toronto District School Board exploring the idea of creating an “African-centred alternative school” from junior kindergarten to Grade 8. Toronto school board figures show that by age 16, more than half of black male teens are at risk of dropping out because they haven’t earned the 16 credits required by the end of Grade 10. It’s hard to see this coming to light again so quickly after the province of Ontario strongly opposed faith-based schools. Is race-based schooling any better?

You have to ask yourself why is the average Black youth failing? Are the parents to blame? Is it the portrayal of themselves in mainstream society? Is it purely the school system’s fault?

Maybe it’s just me, but the idea of having a black-focused school just makes me think that the majority of people out there in society assume the intelligence level of Blacks is sup-par. The idea that we need a separate school to keep up to mainstream society is something that I don’t want people to believe, because it isn’t true. I for one can attest that fact. I went to a Catholic school, with prominently white teachers, interacted with many students of different races and cultures, and excelled very well. Not to mention the fact that the community I lived in for most of my youth was one deemed as “disadvantaged.”

The black population in Canada is very diverse, and to have a “black-focused” school doesn’t seem very logical. Segregating black children, by having a separate schools takes them away from mainstream society. How well are these children going to get along later in life with members of other races in terms of socializing if they are isolated from exposure from other groups at school? Especially if it’s in their early childhood years.

Perhaps we’re going about finding a solution to this problem the wrong way. Maybe what schools need is more teachers of visible minorities, more inclusion of topics such as Black history and multi-ethnic equity into the main curriculum so that all races can absorb, more funded after-school programs to help disadvantaged youth. More programs initialized at current schools to help black youth will keep them in the loop and not make them feel like they need to be taken out of it, in order to succeed.

I was reading a local message board on this same topic and one of the members had a very interesting solution to this problem: forgetting about Black-focused schooling and promoting a school system which focused on lower-class individuals. Free breakfast programs, tutoring, addiction counseling services, after school programs to keep kids busy, apprenticeships and internships. I think this is a very good idea. Sure it’s another form of segregating a social group, but at least there’ll be more variety of people in this frame-set for children to relate to… a more realistic depiction of our world.

I honestly don’t think that race is the whole issue here. I think people are forgetting to get down to the basics of the situation. The problem most of these kids are having is in relation to their social and economical class and not necessarily b/c of the colour of their skin.

If a Black-focussed school was to open next year, what would be the criteria for acceptance? Would a child with a white mother and black father be allowed to join the student body? What if a white student wishes to attend? If the school is going to be publicly funded, then it must be open to everyone. Is this the beginning of other races starting to protest their own need for their own schools, further segregating our multicultural society? What about the many Muslim, European and South American students who are failing the school system? Shouldn’t non-Black races have the opportunity to benefit with the history of Black people?

Is this debate adding to the stereotype that Black people aren’t intelligent and need a special school in order to keep up with the current population? What if a very smart Black student were to attend a school like this instead of opting to attend one in the mainstream school system? Would their achievements be hindered because they are ‘ahead’ of the pack? Would a black-focused summer school or Saturday class be a more logical solution? Is this a step backward for our community from the days of civil rights?

When it comes down to it, if all kids want to be successful in school they have to be interested and engaged. Perhaps the current teaching styles need to be changed in the school system so that they grab the attention of youth (both black and non-black). There are students of all races that end up dropping out of school… there needs to be a program that will help all of them and not segregate them based on a social construct such as race.

What are your thoughts on the issue? If you’re in the Toronto-area, the next public meeting discussing the topic will be held on Monday at Northview Heights Secondary School (550 Finch Ave. W).

Recent artcle from The Star

Recent article from CTV

4 Responses to “Debate: Black-Focused Schools in Toronto”

  1. says:

    If the public school board isn’t going to offer a black-focused school, then someday if chartered schools are approved for Ontario, a private chartered school will offer the same program.

    I think that the TDSB wants to get ahead so that the private sector won’t get a chance to entice parents to send their children to chartered schools.

  2. another me says:

    Black-focused does not equal black only. We currently have a school system that is white-focused (have to call it what it is) and not enough people are up in arms about that.

    Many people immigrate to Canada from nations that are quite homogeneous in terms of ethnicity and race, do they have issues interacting successfully with other races?

    The creation of an Afrocentric school does not mean that the students attending will be achieving at a lower level. It seems that Afrocentric schools encourage students to achieve at an even higher level than students in public school, earning higher than average on standardized tests. Check out this article:

  3. Rick says:

    Re: Another me’s comments

    What a bunch of stupid comments from “another me”.

    First, idiot, what non-black student will send their kids to a “black focussed” school? Some perhaps, but not many. It will be a defacto Black only school.

    Second, idiot, it is not a “White focussed” school system. Many Asians, Africans and Indians do just FINE in the system, performing even BETTER then “White”, students on average. It is only the black slave descendants, primarily those from the Carribean (Jamaica in particular) that are failing in schools and embarassing their community.

    Third, idiot, no one in the outside community will think that the achievement level in “black only” schools will be higher then in regular schools. Everyone will assume the standards are at a minimum, different. I do not approve of this assumption, but it is reality.

    And finally, even IF black students performed better in “black focussed schools”, so WHAT? That still would not mean they should exist. What if Hindu students did better in Hindu schools? Or Sunni students in Sunni schools? It is opening a pandora’s box of schools to separate our society into its constituent parts. You know what…I dont CARE if you do worse because you have to sit with kids who dont look like you. Tough kiddo, the world doesnt look like you.

    It is not “black”, kids failing, but kids with bad parents and weak families. A disproportionate amount of these kids, unfortunately, are from “black” homes (usually slave descendants).

  4. Michelle Riley says:

    I can only say it is because of uneducated people like Rick that we need African focused schools to begin with , you clearly do not know very much about African history partly because of the European focused school you went to . Do yourself a favour and pick up some African history books before you leave comments that only make you look uneducated.

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