Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Toronto's politicians are not the smartest, as we already know. Today the school board's trustees approved, by an 11-9 vote, something known as a "black-focused school". This, apparently, is a good thing because, according to one parent, "seeing themselves [black students] in the curriculum, in their instructors is what's needed."

Now, I didn't go to high school in Toronto, but in neighbouring Peel region. In fact, some of you went to high school with me. I didn't think it was all that impressive that I graduated, but as I found out during the debate over black schools, it really was. You see, I didn't see myself reflected at all in the curriculum. Pythagoras was white, Niels Bohr was white, Shakespeare was white, the gym teacher was white, Wilfrid Laurier was white, Alfred Wegener was white, and so on. Despite this, I managed to learn the Pythagorean theorem, muddled my way through science class and excelled at history. I was even on the cross country team all four years, even though both coaches were white and didn't incorporate traditional Pakistani teachings on exercise into their coaching. It didn't occur to me to consider the race of those who expounded a particular idea, nor has it ever happened in four years of university, but I now realize that I've overcome immense obstacles all my life.

Black-focused schools will incorporate African world views and teachings, whatever that means, to teach students whose families may have been here for six generations or immigrated from Jamaica, Somalia or Nigeria. In other words, they may have little to no relation to Africa other than having had distant ancestors who lived there, but the idea that not all black people are the same is an outdated one in Toronto. The last time someone thought all black people were really the same, they arbitrarily drew borders between countries, resulting in some countless wars and massacres.

There are immense problems facing black youth in Toronto, but they have little to nothing to do with a lack of Afrocentricism in the curriculum, and much to do with poverty, family breakdowns and the insidious influence of gangsta rap. Addressing those issues is what's necessary to improve the embarrassingly high dropout rate for black students (nearly half). What the trustees and black schools advocates have done is superficial and laughable at best, dangerous at worst.

No comments: