Sunday, December 30, 2007

They Schools

The idea of black focused schools in Toronto deserves a much closer look, especially if the city is serious about implementing a pilot project next fall and by looked at I don't mean scoffing at the suggestion and crying out that it is racist and promotes segregation. I'll admit that when I first heard that the school board was even entertaining the idea, I stated publicly that it was stupid. Never mind the racial element of the proposal, I was put off by the fact that this was the first thing they wanted to try when it came to the issue of the high dropout rate among black students. It's a pretty drastic move to say the least and I would have at least liked to see them go another way before resorting to this but as I took the time to think about the matter some more I realized that sometimes drastic problems require drastic solutions and when more than half of the black males enrolled in Toronto public schools can't earn the minimum 16 credits after their sophomore year, that is a drastic problem. I would like to make myself clear when I say that although there are probably benefits in creating afro-centric schools, I in no way support the idea. I'm still taking a look at all of the factors and all of the arguments but in my mind, the idea has way too many flaws and I don't think people are ready for it nor can they handle it. The most glaring problem is that by going this route, the school board along with the provincial government are basically throwing up their hands and admitting failure. Now when approximately 47% of black students are dropping out of high school, it is as clear as day that you are failing but this seems more like bending over rather than doing something assertive and effective. The second thing that really jumps out at me about this topic is that not everyone is wild about this idea and not everyone is going to support these schools. If the school board and the government decide to go ahead with this, there will be those parents who won't be sending their children to these schools so what about them? I've heard a lot about what kind of curriculum will be taught, what kind of teachers will be brought in and what kind of environment the government will be trying to create in their pilot schools but what happens to the black students who remain in the current public school system? I've heard no other strategies to combat the issues in our schools besides black-focused schools so I have to wonder if there is even a plan to make curriculum changes or if everything will remain status quo. With a problem such as this one, with so many contributing factors, there is no quick fix or "magic bullet" that is going to make all of our problems go away. You can throw statistics at me all day about how well black focused schools have done in Detroit, Washington and Kansas City but compare those cities with Toronto and you'll see alarming differences, differences that dynamically affect the impact of these schools. This isn't solely the establishment's fault, fuck anyone who does not take responsibility for their actions. I repeat. FUCK anyone who is not willing to take responsibility for their actions. Every action that you take has an equal or greater reaction and inactivity is not an option in a world that won't slow down and wait for you to catch up. Without your education, you won't make it too far. In fact, these days without a high school diploma you can't make it anywhere. Stop making excuses for yourself and start making something of yourself. Yes, we are at a disadvantage because we are blacks in a world with all of the legal equality anyone would ever need but none of the substantive equality but that should be all of the motivation you'll ever need. Growing up, I was always told taught that being black, I had to be twice as good as everyone else to be considered equal. This is not necessarily the truth in everyone's eyes but I believe that to this day and take pride in tearing down stereotypes by pushing myself to my limits. There is only so much that the government, the school board, the teachers and the parents can do to make kids succeed. All of the co-operation in the world from the aforementioned groups don't do any good if the students simply do not want to get an education. A lot more questions need to be asked to understand the failing students. Why have we had studies about why it is not good to eat food off of the floor within 5 seconds but no one has taken the time to draw parallels between failing students and reasons for why they are failing? Where do they come from? Where do they live? Where do their parents come from? Do they even know their parents? What is different about them compared to the students who are excelling in the current system? I mean, these are educated professors, scholars, and so-called "experts" making these recommendations, right? Have they tried just talking to some of these kids? They're high school students, they're not that hard to figure out and they are smarter than you think. I just fear that this will send a message to black students that they need to be racially segregated in order to succeed, they they are incapable of learning alongside children of different race and ethnicities when that is far from the case. The only way to ensure that our children do not receive a lesser education is to provide them all with the same education, the "separate but equal" doctrine went out the window with Brown v. Board of Education. One of the greatest draws to living in Toronto is its diversity and multiculturalism, how can one learn to function in a society like that after spending their most formative years in an environment that is completely opposite. In the last provincial election, publicly funded faith-based schools was a hot topic for debate and in the end, it was shot down quickly and completely. However, it did raise a question in my mind about what kind of funding the schools in Ontario, Toronto specifically, receive now. The results didn't really surprise me. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, school funding per student today is lower than it was 10 years ago and dropout rates are higher today than in 1997. Hmmm, so let's recap shall we? It is fair to say that most of the black student in Ontario live in Toronto, so if the government is contributing less money for these students' education, does it not make sense to assume that today's students are receiving a lesser education than students 10 years ago? It's not the only reason for the dropout rates climbing but I'm just sayin...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I did not die.
I would like to take a moment to pay my respects to the life of Glenn 'Omodiende' Reitz. Although we only knew one another through the written word, I owe a lot of credit to Omo for influencing my writing style as well as how I approach an argument (we've had plenty), how I formulate my opinion before opening my mouth and most importantly, how to listen. Along with the rest of the Barbershop Notebooks authors, we became The Great Debaters (Denzel ain't got shit on us) and let our words express our thoughts, our feelings and our personalities. When you said that I was your favorite blogger, it meant more to me than any other compliment that I had ever received in regards to my writing and made me take it a little more seriously than I had up to that point. As long as we have your words, you'll never truly be gone, and as happy as it makes us that you are no longer experiencing the pain you had been feeling, it hurts knowing that I won't see you pine in on whatever reckless statement I make tomorrow, next week or next year...but somewhere I know you'll be making your feelings known. And we endure...