Toronto Decides Apartheid is the Answer

My parents are the bravest people I know. They gave up their entire lives so that I could have a shot at a decent one. In 1987 we packed our bags and moved from Apartheid South Africa to Toronto. Out of the frying pan and into a comfy, opportunity filled bed full of money and flowers. I would love to sit an reminisce about bultong and boerewors, but I’m afraid this post is of a different subject matter. To cut to the chase, the Toronto School Board has just approved the first ever ‘afro-centric’ school in one of our ‘ghetto’ neighbourhoods. That’s right. Good old fashioned public-funded racial segregation! Maybe they can have special buses to take them to school as well, and little pass books instead of hall passes whenever they leave their classrooms. Hey, maybe all the little white school kids can get police batons and wear fake mustaches while screaming “the K-word” through the streets.

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The Globe and Mail (the New York Times of Canada) ran an online survey, and with nearly 1000 votes cast 89% of people adamantly disagree with the decision. But hey, the school boarded passed the decision with an 11-9 vote. Those 20 people have too much power.

As my friend, Chaz puts it: “Where does it end? Are there going to sino-centric schools? Persian-centric schools?”. Maybe we can take it one step further and open up a public funded Hutu School across the street from a Tutsi one. Or how about a Sinhalese school down the block from a Tamil School . . . I’ve got a great idea for a school mascot (so long as LSU has no intellectual property rights)!

There are not a whole lot of rules to live by in this world, but a good one is that segregation, in any way shape or form, is never the answer. It should be right up there with not murdering and raping. On those grounds alone, no matter how compelling the arguments for this decision were, the concept should have been immediately rejected.

These children in the Jane and Finch area will not benefit in any way from this. Firstly, this school will struggle to find good teachers. They will say they have good teachers, but they won’t. The reason they won’t, and can’t, is because any reasonably intelligent person would realize that this school is a societal abomination and would have nothing to do with it. A more realistic view is that good schools attract good teachers. Bad schools with bad kids don’t, no matter how noble the intentions. In fact, I’m willing to bet that the faculty roster will be riddled with people who thought this whole charade was a good idea. These are probably the same people who yelled at my sister when she was posting advertisements for her youth program (which was a tremendous success btw). These people, who claim that us lower middle class can’t do anything to help because we can’t relate to these kids since we “didn’t grow up in the hood” grow up to become leaders in their community and end up stifling everyones efforts even further. Their reluctance to embrace outside help is nothing short of Mugabe-ism. Their self-righteous need to be impose their opinions and their clearly wrong approach to getting their way impedes progress in their community.

Secondly, an afro-centric school within an already isolated and disenfranchised community does not get kids out of the ghetto! It traps them!! I’m no stranger to inner city youth. I work with them in New Orleans, where racial segregation is orders of magnitude (that’s a lot) more out of control than Toronto. Talking to people here you will quickly learn that the answer to youth education is not further segregation. People here struggle to break free of the ghetto microcosm. To see the world, if you will. As one of my co-workers put it “when one of these girls turns 16, they don’t go off to fill out a job application or school application, they go to fill out a project application, so that by the time they have their first grandchildren at the age of 30, they can house their whole family in free accommodations and sit happily until they find out they have type II diabetes.” Ok. I may have altered that quote a little bit. The point is there is a self-perpetuating culture of ‘failure’. Unsuccessful public housing projects, schools, and a defunct welfare system have only exacerbated the problem. The kids who succeed are the kids who break free. The ones that run as far as they can and never look back.

Lastly, and perhaps a little more convoluted, is that these children who attend this school will lose one of the greatest experiences about being a Canadian: multiculturalism. They will identify as being different, the same way a kid from a Jewish private school will do the same (Private/religious segregation = another issue). Canadians are always complaining and confused about “what is the Canadian identity?”… I’ll tell ya, anyone who has left the country knows damn well that our identity is wholly wrapped in our multiculturalism. We don’t have “blacks” we have an array of Africans from all over the world. We don’t have “Asians” we have every sect, every dialect every region represented. Every “European” and “Latin American”. We can taste the difference between Vietnamese and Thai food. We know the difference between Jerk and Fried Chicken, between Szechuan and Cantonese . . . you get my point. Where is a kid in a black only school going to meet his first Indian girlfriend? Go to his first Bar Mitvah? Attend his first communion? Whose going to teach them how to shop in China Town or how to use chop sticks?

Well where are these poor disenfranchised black youth going to learn about being black? Geez I don’t know? Where do Jewish kids learn about being Jewish? Where to Chinese kids learn how to speak Chinese? Where do Muslim kids learn the Qur’an HELL!! Where do dogs learn how to sit and stay and lye down!!! ITS NOT IN PUBLIC SCHOOL!!!! Its after school! You know, the same time mommy starts shooting up, and daddy comes home drunk for the nightly wife beating. I may be confusing that with the time that mommy starts her third part-time job while leaving her 14-year old daughter to take care of her 1-year old daughter, while the little brother goes to the courts for his first gang initiation. Clearly the answer all is to make a separate school. It couldn’t possibly be more complex.

Let me finish off this midnight rant by saying the obvious. There is nothing wrong with inner city/at risk youth. The problem lies with the idiots that raise them, the policies that isolate them, and the system that fails them. Congratulations Toronto, you’ve made yourself quite a mess to clean up. I’m glad I’m down South!

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5 Responses to “Toronto Decides Apartheid is the Answer”


  1. 1 Saad February 5, 2008 at 3:29 am

    You raised many good issues, and I certainly see where you’re coming from. But, seeing as you are asking me if it makes sense, I can only use this opportunity to raise potential concerns without me voting yay or nay on this issue:

    Having an “afro-centric” school is not necessarily the same thing as a school JUST for people of African descent, inasmuch as Catholic schools are not “no go areas” for non-Catholics. I raise this issue because, vitriol or not, using the apartheid analogy can become extremely problematic, especially considering apartheid was imposed on an unwilling population. In the case of the Jane/Finch Afrocentric schools, it was more a decision to orient schools towards a certain philosophy (vague as it may be) in order to curb a serious problem (i.e. drop out rates).

    Let’s address some other issues:

    “These children in the Jane and Finch area will not benefit in any way from this. Firstly, this school will struggle to find good teachers. They will say they have good teachers, but they won’t. The reason they won’t, and can’t, is because any reasonably intelligent person would realize that this school is a societal abomination and would have nothing to do with it.”

    This statement (and I’ll be frank about this because you asked me to be frank) is flawed in numerous ways. It seems like you’re basing your logical consequence on assumptions i.e. anyone in favor of teaching in this school is fundamentally stupid. There seems to be no basis in this (factually) beyond an assertion that the idea is bad in the first place, which is a value judgment that you’re arguing for, not an established truth. It would be established truth if you had statistics that actually plainly say something to the effect that the majority of these people have track records for incompetency.

    “Let me finish off this midnight rant by saying the obvious. There is nothing wrong with inner city/at risk youth. The problem lies with the idiots that raise them, the policies that isolate them, and the system that fails them.”

    The last two sentences contradict each other. If there is nothing wrong with inner city youth, there would be not system failure as you describe it, but since you do admit there are problems (bad policies, bad parenting) you are saying that there is something wrong with inner city youth.

    “The Globe and Mail (the New York Times of Canada) ran an online survey, and with nearly 1000 votes cast 89% of people adamantly disagree with the decision. But hey, the school boarded passed the decision with an 11-9 vote. Those 20 people have too much power.”

    Let me respond to this by quoting the most influential author to come out of the South (seeing as you’re leaving in Dixie right now):

    “Just because a idea is commonly accepted, doesn’t make it right” Mark Twain.

    I am certainly skeptical of institutions and with their requisite dysfunctions, but the words of school board members do hold some water, more so, I should say, than Globe readers with nothing more than an opinion.

  2. 2 mr. gunn February 7, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    How could anyone think this is a good idea? Anything’s worth trying at this point, but I don’t see how this could possibly work. A better idea would be to bus kids around town so that the cultures and populations got mixed together. Of course, you’d need gifted programs and remedial programs at these schools to help the kids on either end, but that’s entirely different from taking a whole race and segregating it.

    Complex problems that took years to create will take years to unravel.

  3. 3 Machiavelli February 8, 2008 at 4:53 am

    I find the concept of afro-centric schools as a way to lower the dropout rates of black youths terribly flawed. Supporters of these schools have argued that these youths have dropped out of school because the curriculum hasn’t interested them. By changing the curriculum to include more black history, the students will be more engaged and hence will stay in school. This argument is flawed. Within these same high school from which these black youths have dropped out from, there are students from many ethnic cultures. All the students study the same curriculum without any inclusion of their own ethnic cultures and there is not an increased rate of kids dropping out of school. Therefore, it isn’t the curriculum that is the cause of black youths dropping out of school, since kids from other minorities can stay in school and succeed. Last time I checked, 12×12 was still 144 no matter how black the numbers were. What is the problem then?

    Greg hit the point on the nose with this statement:
    “Let me finish off this midnight rant by saying the obvious. There is nothing wrong with inner city/at risk youth. The problem lies with the idiots that raise them, the policies that isolate them, and the system that fails them.”

    There is nothing wrong with this statement as Saad tried to point out but failed (see below):
    “The last two sentences contradict each other. If there is nothing wrong with inner city youth, there would be not system failure as you describe it, but since you do admit there are problems (bad policies, bad parenting) you are saying that there is something wrong with inner city youth.”

    Greg’s argument was not wrong, just a little unclear. I agree with Greg that there is nothing with the inner city youth, in that these youths are kids with potential, just like any kid. I believe that Greg was trying to say that the child and the child’s environment are not tied together. Meaning, if these kids were put in a better environment they would succeed. So there is nothing with the kids per se, it’s the environment that they are in. Sadly, these kids are too young and do not have the capacity to change their environment.

    Since kids from other minorities do not have drop out rates above average, what is the “secret” to their success? Well, the common denominator for success in school regardless of your race is effort. For the majority of the population on earth, no one is born with an innate knowledge of the school curriculum. So how do they do so well in school? Effort! They study. A good work ethic is something that is instilled upon kids from their parents at a young age and not something you are born with. If you are not willing to put in the time to study to succeed in school, then regardless of race you will fail.

    Afro-centric schools is just a way for the parents of these black youths to not take responsibility in their child’s education. By agreeing to create these schools they are saying, “It was not my fault for my child dropping out of school, it was the fault of the curriculum.” Parents have to take responsibility in their child’s education. When parents teach their kids to walk for the first time, didn’t they support them? Why would these same parents not support their kids with their education?

  4. 4 jacalicious August 21, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    I can’t help but agree with Greg. I don’t see these schools as offering positive solutions to the drop out problem. The whole thing makes me wonder, how do they choose which students get to go? Is it a voluntary thing? In this case, if a black student suggests him/her self to be part of the program, as s/he is interested in Afro-centric curriculum, doesn’t this mean that this particular student is *already* interested in their education and less likely to drop out? Surely this will ensure great success rates on paper.
    I doubt very much the real at-risk youths of the Jane Finch area are going to benefit from this, but rather a select group of youths who likely would have done ok in public school anyhow.

    In my own highschool experience there was a definite and depressing lack of multicultural studies of any kind. I personally would have loved to study anything other than white men’s history from europe, but didn’t have any choice. That’s the real flaw. Why isn’t the entire system of education changing? Do heads of school boards think white kids don’t want to learn another culture’s history?

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