Mixed views on “black focused” schools

160_tdsb_gpx_070921.jpgAs of late, the TDSB (Toronto District School Board) has voted for a “black focused” school. I have from the start opposed the idea. I can remember just as some of you in the Toronto area seen a Somali-Canadian cry on television being appalled at such decision. It was just a reminder of how it was like in the southern United States back in the 1950’s where Jim Crow laws were rampant. Who in their right mind would want to go back to those days (except those who still believe that other races should rule and other should just serve and sadly they do exist in 2008 but are not as vocal)? I talked with a colleaugue at work about the issue. What  I extrapolated from my colleague’s argument was he was saying forget about the issue about segregation because he contended that it is not really about that but the real issue of blacks being marginalized in society and it is time to stop taking small incremental steps to rectify it. A black focused school would be psychological beneficial to students because they would actually see a “black principal” and black teachers—black authority figures for a change! The curriculum would be the same, my colleague argued—for example math and science, let’s say would be identical to the system set in all Ontario curriculum but there would be black studies courses in the mix.  Even let’s have a dress code (no baggy pants—makes sense to me!) Interesting and a pleading case. Did I change my mind because of it?  Well I am for black youths learning about their history, getting exposed to black authority figures and positive role models and for even a dress code to discover a new found sense of self-respect and professionalism. The question I direct right back is: Why do we have to seperate students into achieving that directive? Another question I direct is: Didn’t we have a similiar argument about faith-based schools in last October’s Ontario provincial election??? I still have doubts. This may not be segregation in the Jim Crow sense but this is a form of “ghettoization” and this, of course, is still problematic. Plus the black community (I have always believed that there is no such thing as a black community but individual black people and their families) is not a monolithic community. We have in Toronto blacks who trace their ancestry to the Carribean, those who trace their ancestry to runaway American slaves and of recent, blacks from all countries in Africa. As one person aptly put it, “Africa is NOT a country but a CONTINENT.” There are some who want to maitain a fantasy (and a dangerous delusion) that we are a monolith and those who want to preserve this collective monolithism do more damage than good. Where do I go from here? It is best that the black community (if we are talking about those who trace their ancestry from the Carribean who are majority here) that the directives of empowering black youth should be best tried and innovated in an “integrated” school system where all races, colors, religions, denominations and creeds learn together to prepare themselves in a multicultural workforce. Too bad nobody had outlined a plan and/or details of how this can be implemented in the public school system. Thankfully, the discussion is not yet over.

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