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Race, Schooling, and Segregation?

So, I have a question for my flist.

As some of you may have heard, the Toronto Public School Board just voted to open a "black-focused" school. The reasons cited, is that in Toronto, there is a higher high school drop out rate among black student (25% [African decent]-40% [Caribbean decent]), and they hope that having a focus school will help keep them in school.

My first reaction was, we want to keep kids in school (which I still stand by), but I'm really not sure this is the way to do it. No matter what they say, to me, it stinks of segregation. The school board tries to argue that it's not segregation if they can choose to go or not, but all I can think of is the segregation (where there is also a choice) going on in other parts of the country, especially Quebec and New Brunswick. All I've seen out of those situations is pain, and misunderstanding, which causes a divide that doesn't need to be there.

This is Canada's first "black" school, but I know America has some (and even more historically), so my question is, for those who have seen or experienced situations like this before, what do you think of this "solution"?

Also, off topic, but I can't tell you how much I *head desked* when I read the article about this in the Washington Times, when they talked about our "American Indians" WTF? I know that people sometimes have trouble figuring out what to call the Natives of North America in general, but what kind of name is American Indians? Especially for *Canadian* aboriginals. *shakes head*

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( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
ana_grrl
Jan. 31st, 2008 03:46 am (UTC)
what kind of name is American Indians

Would it have been so hard for this journalist to bother to find out the terms that First Nations people have decided are appropriate? 'American Indians' is totally inappropriate.

Re: the Toronto initiative - I can understand the arguments on both sides of this, but to me, creating a separate school is a band-aid solution. I would rather see a real, concerted effort to make all schools more inclusive of social difference (whether it be ethnicity or otherwise), and different histories, so that everyone feels comfortable and included (and so that there is cultural meaning for everyone). Of course, no one is ever going to feel comfortable and included at all times (that's life, and it's part of how we learn to work with and listen to each other), but to me it seems like a mistake to separate people - it promotes misunderstanding, ethnocentricity, and lack of communication as a whole. And it prevents us from developing shared cultural meaning for the future.
paraka
Jan. 31st, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC)
You know, I hardly ever use the term First Nations myself, mostly because "aboriginal" includes everyone. I never quite understood why the Inuit aren't included in the First Nations, is it just they're not part of the "Club", and get treated differently by the government?

creating a separate school is a band-aid solution.
Yeah, that's the real problem. Also, can I just say, I was surprised at the drop out rates in general? I can't believe that something like 25% of kids drop out of high school. My mind totally boggles at that. I wonder if those figures are just for Toronto...

but to me it seems like a mistake to separate people
Word. Where I live, we have to deal with a lot of problems stemming from the French/English segregation, and it's *not* pretty, and in the long run, I think is more damaging than helpful.
ana_grrl
Feb. 4th, 2008 02:14 am (UTC)
Perhaps the Innu and the Inuit feel that the term First Nations doesn't quite work for them? I have to admit that I don't know all of the discourse around this. The language I am most familiar with is First Nations, Innu and Inuit.

I can't believe that something like 25% of kids drop out of high school.

It seems really high. I know that 25% of my high school cohort certainly didn't drop out, but I'm sure these things vary from place-to-place and in different time periods.
paraka
Feb. 5th, 2008 06:01 pm (UTC)
Perhaps the Innu and the Inuit feel that the term First Nations doesn't quite work for them?
Well they are considered to be a part of the "first ones here club" I think it probably has more to do with politics. If I'm remembering correctly, there's a... *waves hands* Assembly of the First Nations (I totally had to google the name of that), and it's the Assembly that represents the groups as a whole to the government (although individual bands will too) and maybe the Inuit and Innu feel that they weren't being represented as they choose, so aren't apart of the Assembly of First Nations, so don't fall under the heading. But I'm going off of suppositions and shaky memories here, so I could be totally wrong.

It seems really high. I know that 25% of my high school cohort certainly didn't drop out, but I'm sure these things vary from place-to-place and in different time periods.
Yeah, it must be a Toronto statistic, because I know 25% of my high school didn't drop out either.
Although, I know the community where my best friend grew up had a ton of drop outs, so maybe it's a provincial average. *shrugs*
paradise_city
Jan. 31st, 2008 04:41 am (UTC)
Focused schools
Re: Native Americans, I agree that the writer should have done the research to come up with the proper term. However, I've heard it said by other Canadians on my flist that African-American is the proper term for black Canadians on the reasoning that Canada is part of North America, so perhaps the writer was basing the term on that logic? Faulty either way, but s/he might have been following some sort of precedent.

Re: segregated schools, that's a difficult call. Obviously Canada =/= the US, so I'm not really familiar with the racial and ethnic nuances in Canadian culture. As far as "focused" universities go, however, I've heard secondhand about people who've had good experiences at traditionally black and traditionally Jewish universities. Those are private universities, though, which makes a huge difference.

On one hand, it concerns me that the school is aimed at the lower achieving students. My parents taught at lower achieving schools (this year, the seventh grade school my mom teaches at had a grand total of 4 students out of 250 who were performing at grade level), and they're the ghetto schools. I can see how this would easily become a way to track the poorer performing students away from the higher performing students.

On the other hand, I can understand why someone would want to attend one of those schools. I think even the top students in my mom's school district would rather attend the ghetto school than a better school (assuming one existed), because the racial tension adds so much pressure. From talking to students over the years, it seems more important to be where they're wanted than where they'd get the best education. (As an aside, I always thought they had it wrong. After my experience in higher education, yeah, they definitely had it right.)

Again, I don't know how much of that translates across the border, given that the two educational systems are so different (and admittedly, I don't know all that much about the Canadian system). I passed this along to my mom, though (the topic, not your post), and I'll be interested to hear what she has to say.

And thanks for posting about this. It'll definitely be interesting to follow.

Edited at 2008-01-31 04:45 am (UTC)
paraka
Jan. 31st, 2008 06:34 am (UTC)
Re: Focused schools
However, I've heard it said by other Canadians on my flist that African-American is the proper term for black Canadians
Umm, the only time I've ever heard someone say "African-American" is if they're either talking to Americans, or talking about stereotypes more commonly associated with Americans.
Mostly in Canada we just say "black". Also, in this case specifically, the problem of high drop outs isn't with African Canadians, they have the same drop out rate as white Canadians (which is still higher than that of the Asian Canadians), no it's those of Caribbean decent that have the 40% drop out rate).

n the reasoning that Canada is part of North America
You know, there's a *song* about that. About how it's not fair that Canadians can't say we're American like the French can say they're European, and that the US has taken the identity of two whole continents. :(
It was super frustrating in China, because so many things are more of a North American trait than just Canadian, but it's really wordy to say so, if I say American, than people assume I'm talking about the US. :-/

Faulty either way, but s/he might have been following some sort of precedent.
It was more that it was just such a *bad* term to use, not out of any PCness, but because, if I hadn't read other articles referring to the native schools, I wouldn't have known right away what they were talking about.

As far as "focused" universities go, however, I've heard secondhand about people who've had good experiences at traditionally black and traditionally Jewish universities. Those are private universities, though, which makes a huge difference. On one hand, it concerns me that the school is aimed at the lower achieving students.
Yeah, I think the mindset of the students those two types of schools is more of a factor here. Still, if it works, I'll be happy, and will support the school whole heartedly.

because the racial tension adds so much pressure.
Yeah, that's the part I haven't much experience with. Where I live, there wasn't much tension, I can only recall one situation where there was (although, I was pretty oblivious of the goings on, so there's a good chance there was more than that one occasion). But I know that places like Montreal and Toronto have to deal with it more, especially when it comes to certain areas/groups (mostly we've been hearing about racism against Muslims since 9/11, but in Toronto being Jamaican caries certain implications).

I passed this along to my mom, though (the topic, not your post), and I'll be interested to hear what she has to say.
Oh, let me know what she thinks. I brought this up, but I find myself having trouble actually responding to people's comments, because, well, it's out of my scope. I'll admit, when I think of visible minorities in Canada, the first thing that pops into my head is Asian, not black, and the racial issues there are so very different. Canada actually has a small population of blacks, only 2.23% of the population according to the 2001 census.
A lot of Canadians exposure to racism actually comes from American TV and movies, which makes it hard for us to judge our own situation. There's far more racism against he aboriginal on the whole (and the French, depending who you're talking to *rolls eyes*).
paraka
Feb. 1st, 2008 02:18 am (UTC)
Re: Focused schools
I'm not sure if you're interested, but after mentioning that song, I've had it stuck in my head all day. If you'd like to hear it, I uploaded it: The Arrogant Worms - I Am Not American.
I ♥ the Arrogant Worms, they're so awesome :)

Edited at 2008-02-01 02:20 am (UTC)
paradise_city
Feb. 1st, 2008 02:36 am (UTC)
Re: Focused schools
Thanks for the song!

Also, I wanted to apologize if I stuck my foot in it re: the focused school debate. I tried hard not to, but eh, good intentions, etc. etc.

Also, I was trying to text you earlier since I wasn't sure you'd be online to wish you good luck with your surgery tomorrow! Since I couldn't text you, I'm glad you're around, so good luck!
paraka
Feb. 1st, 2008 03:02 am (UTC)
Re: Focused schools
Also, I wanted to apologize if I stuck my foot in it re: the focused school debate. I tried hard not to, but eh, good intentions, etc. etc.
No! No, no. I wrote my response at like 1:30 in the morning yesterday, and when I finished I kind of thought it came off wrong, but, well, I was tired (but couldn't sleep, damn it!). You didn't at all, and I really appreciated what you had to say.

I think I was thinking about it a lot last night, and it was making me a bit uncomfortable regarding some of the comments that I was making over on my IJ (I try to always post to both of my journals), I hate talking about crime with respect to specific ethnic groups, it's something we really avoid doing in Canada (like the plague), so doing so left me feeling kind of dirty, and I think that came across in my post.

Also, as I implied in my original posts, in the areas that I live there are segregated schools based on your language, and it's caused some major problems, to the point where it's been screwing over the country as a whole. I will openly admit that I carry negative prejudices against the French (well, more separatists, but still). Seeing what's occurred here, it makes me really uncomfortable with the idea of further segregation.

Also, there was definitely some anti-American whining involved on my part, 'cause I really do hate the added layer of complexity when referring to North America as a whole. Sorry about that. And for sounding so testy in general. Will you forgive me?

Also, I was trying to text you earlier since I wasn't sure you'd be online
...What service do you use for texting? I'm hardly ever on, mostly because people are all over the place, and I can never find people on, which means I hardly ever go on, and it's a big vicious circle.

good luck with your surgery tomorrow!
Thanks! I'm still not really nervous, I think it's come up too quick, I'm not even overly excited. I think it hasn't really sunk in yet. :P Which reminds me, I really have to read over the rules. I know there are a lot of weird ones, like not being able to wear deodorant the day of the surgery....

See you on the other side (hopefully)!
runonmoonlight
Feb. 1st, 2008 02:26 am (UTC)
I can only leave a really quick and short comment since I'm at my parents. But my Mum works for the TDSB and this is what she basically said, and I tend to agree with her::

We have lots of different alternative high schools in Toronto. There is one for kids who are GLBT and having issues, there are ones that work around kids schedules, there are ones for kids with behavioral issues, there are ones that simply teach in a different environment because the kids that go there learn better in that kind of environment. And they were all created because there were kids that were not be addressed properly in the school system. The school(s) in question aren't going to be "black only" and you don't have to go there if you don't want to. They are trying a new Afric-centric program style, because they have noticed that there are a whole group of kids in the system who aren't getting the attention or the right kind of attention that they need.

And I said this was going to be short. *headdesk*

Anyways, on my front? I went to an alternative school, so I definitely see and agree with her point. I needed to have the style of teaching and the environment that the school I went to provided. I probably would have dropped out otherwise, so I don't necessarily think that it's a band aid solution if it is going to get kids through high school and graduating.
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