Toronto Opens Black-Focused School

I got another email from my friend, Mark, forwarding me a link with this comment:


The City of Toronto has just decided to open up a “black-focused school.” This school’s main emphasis will be to teach Black History and other things that have a strong appeal to black people.Some are calling it segregation. Some are calling it a victory for the Black community.

I just want to point out that it will be a public school, and open to people of all races, creeds, and colours.

Toronto trustees vote in favour of black-focused schools

[I have quoted the text here, as I am unsure how long things remain available on CBC’s website.]


A proposal to create Canada’s first black-focused public school was approved by Toronto District School Board trustees Tuesday night.

They have recommended the creation of an alternative school that features a curriculum and teaching environment oriented around black history and culture.

The vote took place after an evening debate on the controversial proposal, which critics believe is a plan for segregation, while supporters believe it could keep more black students in school.

Trustees heard from a number of delegations including academics, parents, teachers and students.

A presentation was also made by the mother of Jordan Manners, a15-year-old boy shot dead in a Toronto school last May. Loreen Smallstood in opposition to the black school plan, calling it “segregation.”

“This black school thing … it ain’t right,” she told trustees, saying teachers need more help to engage with students in multi-racial classrooms.

Some parents have said they want to try something new because the current system isn’t working. As many as 40 per cent of black students don’t graduate from Toronto high schools.

Angela Wilson is a mother of two who has been at the forefront of a push for Africentric or black-focused schools for years.

“Make our education system better for everybody,” she said.

“It’s not a one size fits all education system. It’s actually working its way to be one size fits few — and the few that are successful do not look like me.”

Trustees were supposed to have discussed a report delivered last week that makes four major recommendations:

  • Open an Africentric alternative school in 2009.
  • Start a three-year pilot program in three other high schools.
  • Work with York University to improve school achievement.
  • Develop a plan to help failing students.

Supporters said those options will keep black students engaged and in school, but opponents said it will lead to greater isolation.

“I just feel being with a mixed group of people is better, you know, you get to learn different cultures, different aspects of different people, the way they live,” said Grade 10 student Terrin Smith-Williams.

Board chair John Campbell sees an Africentric school as just one option for dealing with the problems facing young blacks in Toronto’s education system.

“It should not be viewed as the sole solution to a problem, but should instead be seen as a response to a community request for action,” he said in a news release issued before the vote.

My thoughts:
(anything in italics I took from the article)

- “This black school thing … it ain’t right,” she told trustees, saying teachers need more help to engage with students in multi-racial classrooms. I do definitely agree that there needs to be more work done on getting teachers to engage in multi-racial classrooms, but how long should students have to wait for that to happen?

- I’m not entirely certain what’s wrong with a black-focused classroom. With all due respect, the classroom I went to was white-focused, and it wasn’t like every student in the class was white. White (colonial) history was taught, white (male) artists were taught, the default assumption was white. If a black-focused classroom is a bad idea, why is a white-focused classroom a good one?

- As Mark says, it’s a public school - there’s nothing stopping people from sending their kids there at all. Which doesn’t necessarily follow that that will happen, sadly. I wonder if it will. I wonder if the school will be successful in what it wants to achieve. I really hope there are many news reports on it, because I’d like to follow it and see what happens.

- I have to admit, I went to school in B.C., which meant a lot of East Asian people as opposed to black people. I didn’t see a lot of history focused on the third of the class that wasn’t white. In fact, I have no idea of much of went on in countries outside of Europe during the 20th Century. (My high school history classes were mostly about the 20th Century, and a lot of talking about Germany, which is where my history prof was from.)

- I really just wish we could have properly integrated schools that didn’t act like races other than white (and countries outside of Europe) didn’t exist, but I don’t know how long that would take to fix, and again, how long should students wait?

- I’m certain I’m missing some very important aspects of all of this.

- Actually, now that I think about it, there’s a lot of talk that goes on when there’s a move to segregate “women’s only” transportation (like buses and trains in Japan, for example) about how doing this gives an implication that women who decide not to ride in the women’s only area are indicating that they’re okay with the typical groping and other forms of assault that go on in “regular” train cars. I’m wondering if there’s going to be comments about how “if you want education about black things, go to the black school, you black person!” (which, of course, won’t be that polite) if there are complaints in the other schools. I mean, I never went to school in Toronto, so I don’t know what it’s like there in terms of teaching.

- Arg, can’t something be easy?

What are your thoughts?

One Response to “Toronto Opens Black-Focused School”

  1. Seth Says:

    I believe that things such as quotas and affirmative action, and such exclusionary themes in education as is laid out in the quoted article, are horrible ideas in a society in which everyone starts off on the same level and has the same opportunities for personal growth. Our society, however, is not such an egalitarian Utopia. To help make it so, or at least make it a bit closer to a world in which one’s dangly-bits and melanin content have nothing to do with their social status, such measures are often necessary.

    It is unfortunate that much of the objections to this move will stem from a fantasy of egalitarianism. People who will decry the school will think themselves noble, justified. But for the most part they will be in support of a system which is already geared against non-Europeans and non-males. Instead of expending energy protesting against the opening of this school, and so supporting the status quo, their efforts would be much better served by doing something to realize the fantasy of equality among humans that we are taught we have already achieved.

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