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  1. #1
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Black-Centric School

    So here in Toronto, this has happened:

    Quote Originally Posted by BBC
    A decision to create the first Afrocentric, or black-focused school funded by taxpayers in Canada's biggest city has sparked a heated debate.

    The scheme was approved at the packed meeting of the Toronto District School Board.

    It proposes the opening of a school in 2009 that will aim to use "the sources and knowledge and experiences of peoples of African descent as an integral feature of the teaching and learning environment".

    The chair of the board, John Campbell, said the proposal to create the black-focused school was a response to the high drop-out rate among students of Afro-Caribbean origin in Toronto's secondary schools.

    One study found the drop-out rate for young black men to be as high as 40%.

    "What the vocal activists in the black community are saying is that their kids are not actively engaged in the education we're providing for them. There's no mentor there, there's no encouragement," Mr Campbell said.

    The new school would create an environment "where they'll be motivated to come to school every day", he said.
    This article here.

    You can find a pile of articles on the situation here.

    Given the history of the many failures of segregated schools in the past -- reservation schools, mission schools, boys/girls schools -- do you think a return to segregated schools is really a good idea?

  2. #2
    Registered User Optimutt's Avatar
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    At this point, where educational facilities in North America have generating a disturbing seccess in creating members of society that contribute more to crime and the dissolution of social norms, I'd say it's worth a shot.

    The teachers in most public schools have reached an impasse as far as educational freedoms are concerned. No longer are they allowed to put students in their places, but are relegated to the sidelines of their OWN JOBS! Granted, I'm in the USA, but the point remains the same: the kids are not learning how to do schoolwork. ALl they are getting out of thierso-called educational establishments is the knowledge of how to get OUT of it. If some bold revolutionary has the gall to petition the establishment of a school system that is enough of a break in the norm, then, by all means, I support it. The Provincial or State leaders need to address this dire situation, and even if this fails, they can say, "Well, we had a major problem, and we tried this out. It didn't work, but you know something? We learned from it."

  3. #3
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Some context here...

    In Ontario, there was a court case settled 2 or 3 years ago that denies Muslim Shia extra-legal courts from having legal authority. At the same time, there was an appeal to the school system for a publicly funded Muslim school board. Christian and Jewish extra-legal courts have legal authority. There is also a publicly funded Catholic school board in Ontario (most other provinces have dumped their Catholic board). After the Shia case, there was a statement that the Catholic schoolboard and the Jewish/Christian extra-legal courts could not continue to be publicly funded as religious institutions if the powers that be decided not to fund other religions. Hypocrisy and all that. But so far, nothing happening on that front...

    On top of that, real estate developers in Canada are starting to build ethnocentric suburbs. The first was finished a few years ago, and there are several more recently finished, or soon to be finished. The "towns" are characterized by a religious building at the centre (so far, predominantly Muslim mosques). The public schools near these culture-based suburban towns have reported a variety of effects, including some improvements in some areas of educational performance, reduction in others, but less apparent integration into Canadian society generally. Citizens of the "towns" are asking for culturally based education.

    A few Muslim schools (mostly privately funded) have been criticized for promoting anti-Canadian/American views, and some argue are acting as local feeders for terrorist groups. A few arrests of high school students were made a couple years ago. Culturally based gangs are cropping up in the Middle Eastern communities of Toronto and also Calgary.

    Then this racial-divide argument popped up. This new decision is based on the "successes" of a handful (3 maybe?) of similar schools in the US. Critics have pointed out that the improvement in graduation rates is an illusion of statistics -- when you cram all the same people together and remove the others, the rate only appears to increase. So, the jury is still out on "success."

    The current argument is being proposed as a "fix" for a particularly bad neighbourhood in Toronto. The attendance of the schools in question for the new afri-centric schools is already predominantly composed of blacks and recent immigrants -- mostly from Africa, South America, and the Middle East. The neighbourhood is characterized by unemployment, welfare, poverty, drug use, and gangs.

    A program was introduced a few years ago to "forcibly" relocate gang-member families to other areas of the city (outside of Jane and Finch) using a loophole in the welfare system. The idea being to break up the gangs by redistributing their geography. The effect appears to have been that gangs have mostly just moved into the new areas.

    The Ontario Education Act explicitly states that teachers are expected to teach in the Judeo-Christian ethic. Ontario also arguably has the most robust and specific "benchmark" based curriculum in Canada, which is based on a "continuing education and lifelong learning" value system. Thanks to NAFTA and globalization, Canada in general has virtually no "blue-collar" or primary industry employment in urban areas.

    So that's a rough overview of the current legal and cultural context going on in the Ontario "multicultural" model.

  4. #4
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    The long term effect of something like this will depend entirely upon the perspective of the administration. If they are truly determined to create an environment for learning and one in which they can stimulate the student to excell, then it will be beneficial. Like any private school, the successes and failures often hinge upon the intentions of the administrators. If you teach racism at home, your kids won't know any better. If you teach respect and pride, and you also balance that with a humanist perspective, then it could have serious benefits.

  5. #5
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    I would think that it's a crummy idea, except that these kids are coming from poor neighborhoods with struggling schools -- which is why they are dropping out -- and so this school project, which will be closely watched and hopefully given decent resources, offers them more than they'd get otherwise. But if it's successful, other groups are going to want in and if it's not, well then it's not. So it's a short-term solution to much bigger problems -- economic disparity among neighborhoods and their schools and the economic obstacles faced by immigrants.

  6. #6
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    The long term effect of something like this will depend entirely upon the perspective of the administration. If they are truly determined to create an environment for learning and one in which they can stimulate the student to excell, then it will be beneficial.
    Toward what end? Excel based on whose assessment? Beneficial in what way, and to whom?

    If this initiative proves to be "beneficial," do we create special schools for all the races and cultures? Euro-centric schools? Asia-centric schools? What about people with special needs? Do we separate them, too?

  7. #7
    Where's Tonto zorobnice's Avatar
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    In a country like I live in, these kind of questions are being asked regularly. Due to the variety of population groups we have it is not possible that one system of education be applied to all. We have Xhosa, Zulu, English Afrikaans and other schools, there to help the learner learn, firstly in their own language, and secondly to help kids socialise in their own culture. NOTHING stops any citizen from attending another school, so my son who is in an English medium school, it not allowed to be prevented from attending a Xhosa school. Primary/Junior schools HAVE to accept people from their own community first before allowing kids from other communities to join, thus trying to keep the socio economic balance of the community constant with that of the school.

    If one looks at the theory of ethnocentrism it at first seems like an incredibly negative thing, but in each of us the need to have an identity and a belief in where we have come from. There is another side of ethnocentrism which is easily explained in the following example:
    If you gathered a thousand strangers from all races cultures and countries into a huge room, then you introduced a new person, ethnocentrism will govern his path to feeling more secure. He will try to seek out someone in the room, as close to his own ethnic roots as he can. Firstly he will work on the law of probabilities, so he will seek someone of his own colour, then someone of his own language, then someone of his own geographical location, then someone of his own sex.
    This is not bad it seems to be the way we are wired. One he is secure that he has found someone as close to his own roots, he will realise this is as secure as he is going to get, and from that point will start reaching out to speak to other people. This happens in our normal day to day lives without us even realising it half the time.

    Getting back to the school idea, maybe making kids feel secure again will help them to breach the gap, maybe feeling like another ethnic group has forced it's own ethnic values on them is helping to make them feel rebellious. These are possible. The only fear I would have with the system is that you will cement segregation. Maybe they should not be forced to get along with other ethnic groups but be taught that all ethnicities have a valid reason for existence.


    http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/ethnocentrism-faq.htm
    http://www.iupui.edu/~anthkb/ethnocen.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnocentrism

  8. #8
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    That's why I said the success of such a program will hinge upon the perspective of the administrators who set policy and tone.

    When you live in a society in transition, as you do Zorobice, and one with such clear racial priorities in order to correct or readjust centuries of disparity, programs like this one may seem more hopeful. In other more mature societies, they may seem divisive.

  9. #9
    Registered User Optimutt's Avatar
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    I would say this topic has gone into orbit. The varied opinions we see here is proof that this IS a tricky subject.

    In a perfect world, where the administration truly is on the level, they would find teachers who have a balanced view of the various ethnicities, cultural differences, and cultural similaritites between the peoples of This School versus That School. That way, the students will learn equality between their own culture and those of others, all while enjoying the comfort of schooling with "like" individuals.

    Then reality steps in, kicks us all in the teeth and we're stuck with the real problems of separation. It could create a wedge between this culture and that. It will only encourage racism or terrorism. It won't teach the students to gel into the societal norms.

    All great arguments, for certain, but on the positive side, if they can learn to spell. If they can come out of the classroom being able to tell you about the plight of their ancestors, if they can give you examples of men and women in the contemporary world who have risen above violence and racism and bigotry to better society as a whole, if, when they apply to a college or university and awe the board with their application , then I'd say it's worth giving the school's a try. I feel that that is the most important element of this. Sure, some schools have failed miserably, but really, with the average parent throwing gauntlets at school administrations left and right, fueled by their outrage about "how badly their child was treated", the TEACHERS get screwed. Who wants to become a school teacher in this day and age? I'd almost rather become a prison guard. Almost. I haven't yet given up hope for the next generation, which is why, every day, I volunteer at a local middle school where I endeavor to chip away at their freshly-hormonal little walls to help them create something creative.

    The kids were so bad the other day, that 4 sophomore college students told me that they never want to come back. That's 4 individuals who have learned how hard, how difficult, how stressful it is to teach, and I doubt any will have a future in the educational world. These days, nobody wants to teach, and that is one of the biggest failures in the way schools are run these days. Kids get away with murder, and nobody wants to deal with it.

    I like the idea behind Zorro's schooling systems. While it appears that the school systems are ethnocentric, at least they are endeavoring to both maintain some sort of cultural stability (admirable to this American) and they are opening the doors to others (if room allows). I bet it does create problems, but it's attempting to accomplish something clear. That is the same kind of optimism I read between the lines of this thread's subject.

    But as PUBLIC institutions, they should be required - because taxpayers' dollars are responsible for their support - to follow at least some societal-integration topics and courses. These students, no matter what religion or ethnicity must learn how to become part of society rather than be encouraged to stay apart. It is a loophole that the administrators should be very aware of, and that the local legislature should enforce, MUST enforce, if they want to maintain stability in these troubled times.

  10. #10
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Well, the plot thickens.

    Yesterday afternoon, the Ministry of Education denied additional funding for the africentric school, noting that the Toronto school board is already $41million in deficit this year. The minister also stated that they would have liked to have seen a more "inclusive" approach to the problem.

    By the end of the day yesterday, reported in this morning's paper, interest in the school was given by the families of more than 800 students. Specialist schools in Toronto have a typical maximum of 100-200 students. So the committee has now proposed opening two africentric schools, still without funding.

    **********

    Zorob - I fully agree that ethnocentrism can be a good thing. I'm fond of the statement "stereotypes exist for a reason." Stereotypes are the foundation of what we humans call "knowledge," and define much of the way we live and who we choose to associate ourselves with.

    The difficulty with this particular approach in Canada is that the Canadian multicultural model is based on this "inclusive" ideal. It applies not just to races, but to people with disabilities as well. Our educational model works similarly to yours. Schools feed first from their local area, but a school cannot refuse a student for any reason if they have space. The Catholic schools, for example, have to take students of every religion. Despite that, somewhere over 90% of the students in the schools are Catholic.

    The obvious fear is of implied institutionalized racism. The schools in question for the africentric program are already in predominantly black, and immigrant, neighbourhoods. If those schools undergo a curriculum change to focus on the black students, what about the other students?

    As a question of security, the geographical pool for the school won't change. Only the curriculum is changing. The curriculum system here is set up based on a series of benchmarks for each grade. Those benchmarks are based on the white majority's white-collar ideals. A new curriculum for black students will have to continue to meet the Ontario curriculum benchmarks. Otherwise the curriculum itself is the fault, and I'm not sure the ministry will go for that...

  11. #11
    Registered User Optimutt's Avatar
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    Fung, what would happen if these two schools try to apply for Outside support, as in, a private sponsor for their funds? Would there be anyone up there who would want to support a school as a Not For Profit organization?

  12. #12
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Well, there are already many private schools in and around Toronto based on a variety of different cultures and religions. There are a lot of Hebrew schools, Muslim schools, Buddhist schools, etc... Some of them get some government grant money, but for the most part they are strictly private, community-based schools. So the precedent exists for a private institution.

    PPP schools (private/public partnerships) also exist, but are themselves somewhat contentious. A PPP school was built a few years ago where the private investors required that a wall be built around the school yard, and then they installed cameras. They were allowed to run surveillance on the students because of the nature of the private investment. So there are issues there, too.

    Theoretically there is nothing stopping anyone from starting an africentric PPP school. But PPP schools often have fees associated, which is prohibitive in the neighbourhood in question. I'm guessing that's why the demand exists for a publicly funded school. It would be like a free private school.

    Otherwise, I'm not sure about the history of Non-Profit educational organizations in the area.

    But as PUBLIC institutions, they should be required - because taxpayers' dollars are responsible for their support - to follow at least some societal-integration topics and courses. These students, no matter what religion or ethnicity must learn how to become part of society rather than be encouraged to stay apart. It is a loophole that the administrators should be very aware of, and that the local legislature should enforce, MUST enforce, if they want to maintain stability in these troubled times.
    This is kinda the meat of the issue, as I see it. The (Canadian) society we are asking people to integrate into has some funny values, which don't necessarily work the same for everyone. So as a broad issue in multicultural education generally, do we require multiple curricula to account for everyone's differences? Or do we have one curriculum that should cover everybody? And, what are the values we're endorsing anyway? Clearly different countries will define multiculturalism differently -- as Gary is indicating, is multiculturalism different in practice and concept for different levels of matured societies? Should it be? And if so, is one way better than another?

  13. #13
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Yes, but this isn't a cultural thing -- it's a race thing. The black kids aren't African immigrants. They're Haitian, Carribean, or black Canadians. Probably some African immigrants too, but not predominantly so. So there's not one culture or nationality that these schools are trying to assist.

    Instead, they are assisting poor children of a certain race, because the circumstances the kids live in and the lack of funding for their schools, combined with their race and the obstacles that is suspected to cause, all are believed to be keeping them from getting the same education as poor Anglo children. It's akin to the idea of having a sole gender school -- a protected environment.

    It does, however, go against the prevailing studies. These studies found that Robin Hood programs -- where money for schools is pooled and the schools in poorer districts get more cash to improve their resources -- were not working quite as well as had been expected. Just throwing cash at the schools was not the sole answer. When students from poorer neighborhoods were integrated with kids from higher income groups, the kids did better. Except parents from higher income groups don't like this idea very much.

    A pilot school that gives black students a good education is going to appeal to higher income blacks as well, and going to raise the ire of other racial groups that want the same benefits. And having multiple public or public-private schools separated by race is not going to be very practical, especially when many kids can claim more than one racial group. Nor, so far, do such programs show improved test scores.

    Additionally, there is the cultural/nationality/religion problem. All black people are not alike. Some may be Muslims, some Christians, some Jewish or other sect. African immigrants may not get along too well with Carribbean immigrants, and so on. So just throwing all the black kids together -- not necessarily going to solve the prejudice problem.

    So over all, it's a bad idea and the government is already backing away from it. But, it does potentially give kids who would otherwise have a crappy school a good school. Which gives them better opportunities. So even though philosophically and long term, it's a bad idea, it may help some kids in the short term pilot stage.

  14. #14
    Where's Tonto zorobnice's Avatar
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    My company does business in Tanzania, and they used schooling to quite a positive end. The previous president of the country looked for a why to stop all the tribal wars, so what he did is he made a law that said, when you went to high/senior school, you had to go to school in a different tribes territory. Because every tribal location now held kids from other tribes, they stopped the wars. The process still continues. So instead of people insisting they were Masai or some other tribe, they now more readily say they are Tanzanian.

  15. #15
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    That sounds like busing to force integration. There were no resentments? No clashes? The children from other tribes were accepted?

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