Black Focused Schools


It’s a weird time. Well, weirder than usual. Let’s list the weirdness:

Darth Vadum sends us this weird clip of everyone’s least favourite Nazi transsexual, Ann Coulter, backing Hilary Clinton over Republican John McCain! What do you think? Mental illness? Flip-flop hypocrisy disease? Or just hype to sell a new book? Our resident Dark Lord (not Lord Wat; he’s all pie, hearth and goodness) suggests that the Coulter-bot is just trying to drum up Republican opposition to McCain, so that Romney wins the nomination.

The future is now. The US Navy will soon test fire an honest-to-Jebus rail gun. We’ve discussed rail guns and mass drivers before in this space. This is the future of all projectiles: weapons and transport systems alike. “We” can now fire at a target 200 miles away, with a projectile travelling at Mach 7. I don’t get it. Weren’t the silent, remote-operated drones enough? Or the unstoppable smart bombs? The cruise missiles? Are these people just bored?

Here in Southern Ontario we are in the grips of a nasty snow storm. I’m one of those freaks who rides his bike in the winter. So it was a little jolting to have to push my bike on the sidewalk, blinded by the wailing snows, only to collide with yet another freakish winter cyclist pushing his bike in the other direction! What did he say to me? “Howdy!” Freak.

Cousin Ajay lets us know about this TV show about a dude’s quest for various martial arts around the world. If I were 10 years younger, I’d let this show inspire my training, as I had once taken a similar journey about 15 years ago. As an old man with a broken back and a strong need for fibre, I now find this show depressing.

My latest op-ed column, on “the politicization of science”, has been accepted by India Currents Magazine and will appear in their March issue. I’ll remind you again when it comes out, because I am, after all, an attention whore.

Don’t forget about International Development Week in Ottawa next week. Sad news: one of our big draws, Michael Ignatieff, has dropped out. Insert obligatory “Iggy and the Stooges” joke here.

Black Focused Schools

The big Toronto news is that the Board of Education has approved the creation of so-called “Black focused schools“, which have the overall goal of keeping Black kids in school longer. Like many of you, I have some strong reservations about this new bit of weirdness. Yes, it has shades of segregation about it. But technically, it’s not segregation because Black kids aren’t forced to attend these schools, and non-Black kids aren’t prevented from attending them. They’ll just focus, presumably, on matters pertinent to Black youth, thus encouraging them to engage more in their education. Those who don’t like it are free to attend regular schools.

We need to remember that Toronto has tried this before, with an Aboriginal school whose goal was the same, to prevent Aboriginal kids from dropping out. That school is considered to be one of “the worst in the system” and has not resulted in noticeable drop-out rate changes. I don’t fully understand why it’s still around then. It sucks tax money and serves its charges poorly. Instead of a sole Aboriginal school, there should be Aboriginal programmes in all schools. The same approach should be made for any group that is struggling.

Want to read the bland academic pap that’s been put forward to support the new policy of Black-focused schools? Read it here. Unsurprisingly, it comes from OISE, a place from which I actually have a degree. I write of it in a disparaging tone because my year there was fraught with hair-pulling: me pulling out my own hair in frustration. I was stunned by the strength and verve of assertions being made that were completely devoid of evidence! I was further stunned by the rapidity with which such evidence-free theory was adopted as official government educational policy.

If Black kids are dropping out in unacceptable rates, then the causes are factors within both greater society and within the so-called Black community. If we are serious about righting the problem, then real research, conducted by real scientists, needs to be done to best identify those causes, without a care for the political implications of such identification. Solutions must then address those causes directly.

In absence of such data and understanding, a “Black-focused” school will accomplish very little except exacerbate racial tensions and increase the demand for more culture-specific schools. When it fails, it will also be cited by racists as yet further “proof” that Blacks are “stupid”. Remind me again why we were so opposed to Muslim schools in Ontario? Why is the logic any different?

Drop-out rates for any demographic are due to social and economic factors that are exterior to the schools themselves. Perhaps a refined curriculum and a new mindset within a school can effect some small amount of influence. But it’s pointless to seek such a measure without simultaneously addressing wider socioeconomic factors. Ultimately, it is my opinion that Black-focused schools will do more harm than good; I’d like to see what the OISE double-speak machine will have to say when the indicators don’t come out favourably in 5 years.

I fully expect some angry emails over this post. But as one who has taught in Toronto public schools, and is now an educator at the University level, I have seen how shoddy government policy, based on even shoddier and soft pseudo-science, has played a prime role in under-serving the educational needs of an entire generation of Ontarians. This measure is ill-advised and is being pushed forward simply to placate a vocal constituent. At a time when resources are most finite, this is not the most efficient or effective way to serve all our childrens’ educational needs.

Sermon over.

(Stolen from, so don't blame me.)