Stance Is In Favor Of Black Focused School Education Essay

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Throughout Canadian history, it is not difficult to see that Canada is a great country, but it does have some parts of dark history. During the past 143 years, many people with color have encountered various racial discriminations. These discriminations can be intentional or unintentional; direct or indirect; visible or invisible, and like plague even existing in today's modern society. According to UN International Convention "racial discrimination means any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or rejection based on race, color, descent, or ethnic origin which has the purpose impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life."

The education system in Canada systemically produces dominant white middle class ideologies and puts minority groups at a disadvantage. The structure of these schools is against marginalized groups and makes minority people feel exclusive. This institutionalized racism is evident and impacts the success of minority students. Why students of certain race are not succeeding at the same levels as others? How come black youth dropout school rate is so high although black families view education and credentials as extremely important? Does the current school system give every student equal opportunities? These noteworthy questions alert us how the discourses of democratic racism, e.g. denial, color blindness, equal opportunity, otherness, and blame the victim, are played in the mainstream society.

The common assumption to black youths' lower academic achievements is because they are lack of motivation and laziness. Schools in Ontario, as well as across Canada emphasize the poor grades that black students obtain are due to their underachievement and disengagement. "Which implies the physical presence of black bodies in schools but an absence in mind and soul" (Dei 2006). Education institutions and media controlled by dominant white culture refuse to recognize that black students experience different cultural realities at school and at home, which increase a student's possibility of failing (Tyson, 2003). These denials fail to acknowledge that cultural, structural and systemic racism exists in our democratic society. It also refuses the response of those who have the power to change that reality and leads to resistance against how ethno-racial groups are perceived and how multicultural and anti-racism policies are "imagined, internalized and acted upon" (Yon 315).

The discourse of equal opportunity believes that all students have "equal opportunity" in Canadian education systems. But it is false because all students do not start on a same level. For instance, the curricula in Canadian education systems are designed based on Eurocentric white middle class culture. This culture doesn't value the contributions and achievements of black race, which leads to black students' decreased sense of belonging and disengagement in school. The Eurocentric curriculum damage Black students' achievement both inside and outside school and make many African Canadians children and youth suffer from an ethnic identity crisis. Because what they learned at school is unable to make relevant connections to their everyday lives. "When students do not see themselves or their interests represented, they develop a fatalistic attitude about themselves, their education and their future" (Dei et al, p. 69). This discourse masks racism because it is assumed that everyone has an equal opportunity. However, the reality is that many black pupils experience racial discrimination and permanently excluded in our well knows multicultural and multiethnic Canada.

Color-blindness is the view that racial groups do not matter. Skin color is irrelevant to a teacher's educational practice. Some white teachers often resist acknowledging their privileged position as well as their negative assumptions and prejudices regarding minority cultures. They may say "I treat all my students equally", or "I don't see students based on their skin color". When black students do not succeed in schools, these students are identified as having academic weaknesses. Teachers expect them to stay in low-level educational programs, which result in alienation and high dropout rates. This discourse shows that some teachers don't like to waste their time on the black youth and believe black youth will drop out and don't want to be here.

"Otherness" is another form of racial discrimination. Black students who don't achieve the academic standards are treated as "others". Those "others" are viewed as laziness, lack of motivation, and disengagement. They are differing from "we"- who are from the dominant white culture. The failure of their academic study is the fault of themselves or their families. There is nothing wrong with current school system. This discourse of "otherness" is widely pervasive in Canadian democratic society.

"Blaming the victim" follows the mentioned four discourses. When people assume that racial equality and equal opportunity exist, they must quest why one certain group is not achieving at the same rate as another. Underachieving groups are often labeled as "deviant" or "culturally deficient". They may lack of intellect or have more aggressive behavior. In this form of dominant discourse, it is assumed that certain communities such as African Canadian lack the motivation, education, and skill to participate fully in the workplace, education system, and other areas of Canadian society (Henry & Tator, 2006, p. 25-26).

From the above analysis to the discourses of democratic racism, we can see that racism in Canadian education system embodied in various forms. It marginalizes racial minority students by excluding their experiences, history and contributions to Canada. This marginalization diminishes black youth's self-esteem, decreases their self-confidence, confuses their ethnic identities, and impacts their learning ability. Since the current education systems enable to meet the needs of black youth and result in the "failing" of black youth in Toronto, why would not we adopt a new way- black focused school to solve the high proportion of black youth drop out.

The idea of implementing a black-focused, Africentric alternate school in Toronto is not a new initiative. Alternative schools emerged in Ontario in the 1970s. The purpose of the schools was to seek to empower specific students, tailored to meet whose needs would not be met in a mainstream school, and provided them with a safe and nurturing environment in learning. Between1992-1995, Ontario Royal Commission had proposed to the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) to establish African-Canadian Community working group as a strategy to improve the high drop-out rates of black youth. In January 2008, TDSB voted 11-9 in favor of a proposal to open the first public Africentric alternative school in GTA.

The strategy of Africentric alternate school in Toronto is to lessen the drop-out rate and improve the academic achievement of black students. The school provides an inclusive and a learning environment that meets the expectations of the Ontario Curriculum while incorporating an Africentric perspective through a curriculum that will engage Black students more effectively in the positive learning process and help them to be more successful academically and socially. (TDSB, Next Steps in the Alternative Africentric Schools Process, n.d).

In the black-focused school, teachers who are specially educated to understand the social and cultural context of black history play important role models for students. They teach black experience and African-Canadian students' heritages and how to appropriately deal with the problems of isolation and frustration that many black youth have in society" (Brathwaite & James, 1996, p. 33). They care black students at heart, encourage them to do well, validate students' experience, reduce the feelings of alienation and exclusion, and guide black youth successfully in their academic study.

The curriculum of black-focused school represents black Canadians' history and contributions. It reflects students background combat racism within mainstream public schools and provide black students in positions of power so as to help them develop positive views about their capabilities, self-worth, and their community. Building ethnic pride, strengthening knowledge about African history, and fostering a worldview that values community, balance, and harmony is one promising strategy to improve the quality of life for blacks. (Ginwright, 2004, p.17).

Black-focused school is not only for Black students but rather for all those who seek a different approach of learning. The school would be open to all students regardless of social, racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds. It is also as a transitional step towards long-term integration (Kymlicka, 1998, p. 84) and aims at reducing drop-out rates, helping students develop the life-skills, confidence, pride, and finesse they need to be successful when they transition back to the society.

Some people believe that implementing black-focused school would be regressive and support racism. It is like racial segregation. For example, William Bedford, a citizen of the Toronto area, wrote in the Toronto Star: "Any special school for any particular race or ethnic group would be seen, quite properly as racism" (Bedford, 2005). However, this reaction shows that people only stay at a surface-level understanding of the issue. The meaning of forcing segregation and separation by choice is quite different. In the history, there were segregationists try to exclude blacks from meaningful participation in society. But black-focused schools are different from previous, it aims to address an educational crisis and help minority youth succeed (George Dei, 2005).

Since the poor academic performance of many black students is the result of racism within mainstream schools, the only and effective way to solve the issue is to adopt a black-focused school model. As we can see, Black-focused school provides an inclusive environment where students engage in positive learning and consistent and effective guidance by teachers who understand black students in their community. The school has its unique curriculum, teaching methods, and student management process to make black-lived experience relevant to their curriculum. The curriculum stops the separation between the school and the community. Teachers and the school incorporate with parents to engage students to use their knowledge to make positive social changes. The school supports the interests of the black community by empowering and encouraging students to develop sense of self-worth, moral fiber, and purpose in the society. Therefore, black-focused school is the best way to help students integrate with the society and prevent them from being pushed out.

Do Black Canadians believe an Africentric school is the solution to address the high drop-out rates of Black students? What are the hopes, fears and reservations expressed by Black individuals about this school? What do individuals within the Black community believes will be the social impact of such a response? Will it help or hinder the marginalized position of Black youth and their integration in the mainstream?

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