Wednesday, January 30, 2008

TDSB approves 'Afrocentric' School

Less than 6 months ago Premier McGuinty declared that non-Catholic religous schools posed a threat to society. His position was endorsed across the board by the public school board system, from unions to school boards.

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has approved the opening of an 'Afrocentric' school. The high school drop out rate amongst black students is around 40%. It is believed that by making school more relevant, students will stay in school and have hope for a better future.

The cookie cutter approach to education does not work. Students have different learning styles and interests. The schools need to be flexible enough to adapt the curriculum. In some cases this does require alternative schools based on a special interest.

The Black community does have problems with poverty, violence, single parent families, teenage pregnancy that severely hamper a students ability to be successful in school. These problems need to be dealt with head on. Setting up a school based on skin colour will not make these issues go away.

The City of Toronto offers a healthy lunch program. This highly subsidized program allows a child to have a hot healthy lunch at school a number of days per week for a very reasonable cost. Children are given a head start on learning about nutrition and healthy eating habits. This program is so important that it is even offered in the non-Catholic religious schools.

The problems in 'disadvantaged' communities need to be faced head on. More programs need to be developed to help kids succeed in school and not be lured by gang culture. These programs can range from sports to arts to any number of after school programs. Parents need to be encouraged to get involved in their kids education. The funding formula needs to be fixed so schools have enough councillors and other support staff the kids can turn to for help. University needs to be accessible to students coming from impoverished homes to give hope of a post secondary education. A school focused on skin colour does not address any of these issues.

The sad thing is that the 3 year pilot project is going to be a success. Not because they are fundamentally sound but because they will get the best students, extra funding plus extra parent and community volunteer support. These are all key ingredients for a successful school, irrelevant of the colour of the students skin.

While expressing discomfort for the proposal Premier McGuinty said he would allow the TDSB to make their own decision. Education Minister Kathleen Wynn has expressed her support for this project. These are the same people who argued against funding non-Catholic religious schools because it would create 'segregation'.

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