Monday, February 04, 2008

Afrocentric Schools

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.

19 comments:

Urban Sista said...

I hear you, I hear you. I was at a get-together this weekend and this was definitely a hot topic. Half of the people are for it and half are against. I'm sorta on the fence. Like you said, I'm happy that something is being done -- someone sees that there is an issue, but unfortunately, I don't think that this is the solution for a couple of reasons including the parents, the lack of sensitive teachers, children who have no respect for themselves or the people who are trying to teach them, people not taking responsibility for their decisions (parents and students) and, above all, the IGNORANT notion that an educated Black person is trying to act white or isn't cool.

I think the last point is the one that is hurting our community the most. I know I was singled out because I got good grades in high school. I did it because my parents would have skinned me alive had a brought home crap marks, but I had to deal with the "cool" Black kids who made fun of me because I was trying to succeed. That attitude has got to change or else you'll have a community like what you have today: a group of Black people who are doing extremely well for themselves and a group who are constantly struggling.

Bosie, dis cud be one long conversation -- chupse. I just hope we can find a way to help dese young people.

Charles Follymacher said...

Glad you brought this up again. I was too exhausted the first time you brought it up. I was one of the jillions who went out to one of the plenty-plenty school board sponsored townhall meetings and spoke up IN FAVOUR of the experiment.

I'll try to address your points a lil later on today.

Jdid said...

charles i look forward to hearing your perspective, maybe you can change my view

Radmila said...

This is such a loaded debate, and many may feel that I as a white person have no merit in contributing to this debate.
I however think that the entire curriculum must be changed to include afro-centric studies.
I think that the excuse of "something wrong with the schools, and that's why black students (particularly males) are dropping out" is a cop out.
There is something wrong with society, and the schools are just a small part of it. Perhaps this whole endeavour on the TDSB's part is to "shut up" special interest groups, and rid themselves of certain students, while at the same time looking like they're addressing the issue.
The issue is a lot more complex, and requires more integration rather than segregation. There are already schools in this city that are essentially black. You don't need to label them.

SimplEnigma said...

I've been torn on this issue for a while.

Here in the states they have the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). On the one hand, I read somewhere that entrepreneurship among blacks is higher for those that attended an HBCU (than those who attended an integrated college), but on the other, I've always thought that it gave the attendees a limited reference point in relation to the world. There are very few "afrocentric" (I hate that word) jobs, so going to an HBCU isnkt preparing one to interact in the real, diverse world. Which could explain why so many of them end up starting their own businesses.

On the other hand, there is something to be said about learning in an environment where you feel comfortable. I went to an all-girls high school in Jamaica. I think it worked better for me, because as a confused teen, I didn't have the additional distraction of boys to worry about. IMHO, an afrocentric school is no different from an all-male/female school; or a catholic school or even a Jewish school.

Here, they have specialized schools for arts, gays (yes, you read correctly), young mothers, immigrants, all in an attempt to create an environment where one feels comfortable enough to do their work and excel.

I don't know that there is a simple solution.

SimplEnigma said...

I've been torn on this issue for a while.

Here in the states they have the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). On the one hand, I read somewhere that entrepreneurship among blacks is higher for those that attended an HBCU (than those who attended an integrated college), but on the other, I've always thought that it gave the attendees a limited reference point in relation to the world. There are very few "afrocentric" (I hate that word) jobs, so going to an HBCU isnkt preparing one to interact in the real, diverse world. Which could explain why so many of them end up starting their own businesses.

On the other hand, there is something to be said about learning in an environment where you feel comfortable. I went to an all-girls high school in Jamaica. I think it worked better for me, because as a confused teen, I didn't have the additional distraction of boys to worry about. IMHO, an afrocentric school is no different from an all-male/female school; or a catholic school or even a Jewish school.

Here, they have specialized schools for arts, gays (yes, you read correctly), young mothers, immigrants, all in an attempt to create an environment where one feels comfortable enough to do their work and excel.

I don't know that there is a simple solution.

Melody said...

Am still kinda cynical. Ah guess de best way to wrest our advancements from us is to have us give them up voluntarily. Blacks fought and died for equality, understanding that separate wasn't equal (with a huge disparity in power among those separated). Now it seems de thought is: "Let's fill inadequacies of majority black schools, by making those schools ALL black." Right. Yu hit de nail 'pon de head when yu said all is nought if parents aren't parentin' their kids.

GC said...

may I point out Brown vs. Board of Ed--US
Supreme Court Concludes that "Separate but equal is inherently unequal".

Nothing can make up for a lack of parenting--nothing. Kids who don't get enough guidance will go where they can find it--tv, gangs, friends with stronger personalities. Kids who don't get enough love, well, that's just a disaster waiting to happen. Parents have a heavy work set out for them and no child asks to be born.

Amadeo said...

I go both ways on things like this...I think kids should get whatever extra they can cause schools suck...but I think we should do something for all kids cause...schools suck.

When schools segregated it just made white people move to the suburbs and once good schools went downhill and didn't get as much attention as before.

Lola Gets said...

I dont like Torontos Afrocentric school proposal, as it seems that the entire educational system needs to be improves. I think that $350,000 could be better used system-wide, not just for one institution that serves a small portion of the population.

We have Afrocentric schools here in the DC area (hell, I live by one). Theyre private though, just like the other "ethnic" schools - Jewish, Korean, Greek, etc. If people what a specific, ethnic-based cirriculum, they should send their kids to a private institution, not use public money to (supposedly) benefit a small few.

This argument sounds remarkable like the one made for teaching Ebonics in California public schools. That sh*t didnt pass their either, lol, and its a good thing, cause it had a faulty premise.

Good luck to you Torontans(?)!

L

Campfyah said...

After fighting so hard for Brown vs Board of Education (OK it was an American fight but as I see it, it was a fight for Canadians and all North Americans too)how can you now go back and want to seperate education. I think doing such is taking a step backwards. The problem is to fix the school system, not seperate, because as we all know there is no such thing as sperate but equal.

We should be moving fwd not backwards. What will they solve or prove by creating a seperate Afrocentric school. what will be next a seperate Asian school, Indian school or Latin-Canadian school. Where will they stop?

Luke Cage said...

Wow brotha J! This is incredible!!! I've never heard of this story and I'm so glad that you did address it here. I really don't know which way to go with this.

On one hand, the kids are suffering in a very flawed school system infrastructure that is shaky at best. I mean, something's got to be tried, even if it seems a desperate gamble. I agree with what someone said earlier. There is no simple solution. I think a proposal of a series of different solutions would have to be attempted. And then, see what results those attempts yield.

Miz JJ said...

Great post. At first I thought an Afrocentric school was a good idea. I thought it might be like the schools in the states that take kids and provide before school programs, small classrooms and a lot of encouragement and one-on-one attention. However, after talking to a friend I realize the problems that we have in Canada are not the same as the States. Yes, part of the problem is that youth are adopting the ridiculous black american 'ghetto' mentality, but part of it is a lack of respect and lack of shame. There is no shame to dropping out of school. There is no shame in doing worse than your parents (which was the biggest sin in the household I grew up in). We as a community are accepting this nonesense. There is no reason that these kids can not go to school and learn. This is not the States. The schools here teach all the courses you need to go into an academic or a non-academic stream. In the states a lot inner-city schools do not even offer courses that would take you to university. It's not even an option. That is not the case here...yet. We need to stop accepting what is wrong, stop making excuses and demand better. I never thought I would turn into Bill Cosby, but here it is.

Crankyputz said...

WELL SAID. There isn't a black only world out there, so what exactly is this school supposed to prepare them for??

Abeni said...

You've articulated your take well. meantime,am ambivalent about the whole thing

Leon said...

When I hear about stuff like this, I just shake my head. Are they saying that black people are so dense that we can't survive in regular schools? Why not just bring out the short buses and the leashes?

Mad Bull said...

Very interesting post, Jdid. I think that poor parenting may well be a part of the problem too.

Gila said...

Ontario funds over 100 specialty and alternative schools including arts-based, sports-based, Native, behaviour management schools, an all-year school, work-at-your-own-pace schools, night schools, gifted programs within schools, a gay/lesbian/trangender high school, etc. In addition, we fully fund French Immersion, French, Catholic, French-Catholic, two Protestant schools and five Ukrainian Eastern Rite schools under Catholic school boards. McGuinty has pledged 100 more specialty schools including a new art-based high school next year in Etobicoke. The Catholic schools are even sub-specializing with Catholic-arts high schools!

Why this explosion of specialty and alternative schools? Because that’s what parents, kids and teachers are interested in!

I would suggest that many schools are not successful simply because they have a focus which is “valuable” to society or interesting to the majority of us. Rather, these schools are successful because the kids and staff want to be there, share a common interest and bond, engage the families and communities and have an incentive to succeed. Successful schools have successful students - kids who grow up with good self esteem to be productive members of society.

I cannot imagine a single specialty school where the children could not attend a regular local public school Mon-Fri and spend evenings and weekends focusing on their interests, be it language, arts, sports or religion. We all understand the convenience of having it all under one roof - but is the purpose of school funding to be merely convenient? School funding is for education - and interestingly enough, public/specialty/alternative schools all deliver.

So let’s stop judging each other’s interests in education. So long as the educational requirements are met, let’s support all viable forms of SCHOOL CHOICE!

Duane Cato said...

Agree with your major points - I too think that segregation (and that's what this is) cannot be a solution to the problems faced by black kids in Toronto. Frankly, I am a little disheartened by the number of people (of multiple ethnicities and cultures) who think that only black kids need to understand more about black, african diasporic, west indian, african-canadian (pick your term) history/culture. It is as important for an italian or jewish background kid to know about black culture (in all its glorious variety), as it is for our kids to know about the issues, strengths and successes of the Quebequois. All these things should not only be mentioned, but highlighted in the Toronto school curriculum.