I spent a lot of last week debating with friends on this whole Afrocentric school issue that is so much in the news here in Toronto. So much so that I'm actually a bit tired of the issue but I figured I still needed to blog about it, if only briefly, even though I already spoke about it in November in this post.
Last Tuesday, the Toronto District school board passed a vote approving the creation of one or more black focused public schools. Tight vote but passed by a 11-9 margin.
Now maybe my logic is faulty or I'm just not black enough or something but I have completely disagreed with this idea from the get go. However in the recent weeks I've been thinking about my stance after I saw some prominent and smart black folk in the community get behind this project. Had to analyze the stance cause well if folks like former Ontario MP Mary Ann Chambers can get behind this then maybe just maybe I'm wrong.
However, I've come to the conclusion that my stance shall remain unchanged for the short and most likely long term. Who knows maybe I am wrong but I still think this separate Afrocentric school thing is an absolutely terrible idea.
Now once again let me say that I think its great that someone has acknowledged that our black children are having problems in the present school system but I don't think this is the way to go about solving them. Apparently neither did the lone black trustee who voted again the proposal on Tuesday and was booed by the pro faction in the audience.
I'll give you a few of my reasons for being against this project.
For one, I think the entire school system needs to be fixed and I find this stance to be a small boutique like solution that wont help change the status quo as effectively as if we put some money into really fixing the entire system. Yes some kids may be helped but two, three schools can serve maybe 1000 - 1200 kids max when you have like 30,000 black kids in the system (saw that figure somewhere cant remember where though). This is really like throwing a pebble into the ocean isnt it? Cause don't try to fool me with this whole this system will be extended to all the schools in Toronto idea. Ya not going be able to do it!
Also just dealing with this from a curriculum perspective aren't we just basically saying black kids can't learn unless they have this specialized stuff? Well what happens when they go on to higher education? Do we expect the Universities and other places of higher learning to institute Afrocentric classes too? Actually how will universities judge the grades from an Afrocentric school when it comes to accepting its students? Will an 80% at Afrocentric school be translated as a 50% in a regular school? Who knows? Or maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, lets get them to pass high school first right.
Regardless I think we got to look at two things here well maybe three. One is the attitudes of teachers to black students. I think this needs to be changed and black students need more encouragement and to not be stereotyped and swayed down certain general paths to athletics and other pursuits which I'm sure those teachers probably think are the only things we have an affinity for. No recognize that black kids can do anything. Dont limit their options. Taking them out of the system and putting them in a specialized school may help some but all can't be put into segregated schools so I say change the schools and teachers mindsets that we already have.
Two, the attitudes and attention of the parents need to change. Get on your kids. Schools are there to assist in educating but you can't expect the schools to do everything. Instill in your child the respect for school and the urgency to learn and stay on their cases with what they need to achieve at school. Don't expect the teachers to do it all. Motivate man motivate. This is one of the reasons I really fear the failure of these black schools cause ya can change anything and everything but if the parents don't parent their kids properly all is lost.
Three. These kids have to realize for themselves that they need to respect school. Its not a game and you are not a little gangster. This goes for all kids regardless of color by the way cause I see your lil lawless asses on the bus every day acting a fool and pretending that you're cool. Yea cool has always been a teenage thing but y'all take it too far. Sorry to sound old here but this generation of school kids need to really assess whats going on.
Oh and for all those authority figures at the schools stop being afraid of these kids. I think a lot of the way some of these kids behave and are treated has to do with this fear that others have of black kids. We can't have the inmates running the institution I say. Treat them with respect but that doesn't mean fear them. Have them respect you too. But maybe thats just the general fear of a black planet that I see in this society.
Leads to another point. Ok, so I lied, there was one other thing, point 4, that I wanted to mention. We can't examine the performance of these kids in a vacuum as if this society doesn't exist. The drop-out rate is high amongst black youth but the entire blame cannot be put on the school system can it? If you are in an area with gangs even in the schools well its going to be tougher to be a success than if you're not int it? If you're not getting the support at home, as I mentioned before, its going to be harder to achieve. If ya hungry well brains need food too ya kno! If society is treating you as a failure a castoff before you even get out into the world saying you can only do this this and this but not that then it stifles creativity and productivity and motivation and why would you bother at school?
So lets not just look at curriculum. A lot more to getting these pass rates up than that.
To be honest some of the ideas I mentioned above are mentioned in some of the thoughts of what can go on in an Afrocentric school but I'm asking can't we demand more disciplined students, and teachers who wont fear them or stereotype them in the regular public school setting? Why must we segregate the students to institute these ideas?
Anyway for all the debate I had said from the get go that Premier McGuinty wasnt going to support Afrocentric schools and true to his word he hasnt. Which means although the school board has approved the project it may not even get off the ground cause they need $350,000 from the province to get this going.
And oh what happens if these schools do get implemented and they fail? Again for the umpteenth time I think the broader school system should be targeted. We're letting the Toronto school board off by demanding this small scale solution as changes need to be made globally to the system. And with our current demand for implementation of these schools to be honest I'm afraid that if they don't work the school board will be loath to listen to us again and try some other idea. Maybe it'll just harden society's minds even more into thinking that black kids are somehow dumber than the rest. This Afrocentric school thing better work.
Like De La said Stakes is high.