I must admit when I heard this issue resurfacing after a couple years I was a bit peeved because I didn't agree with the idea then, and I'm not sure I agree with the idea now. The positive thing is that this debate is happening because it's much needed; hopefully, the results will mirror the seriousness of the debate.
Well, why black focused schools? I've heard various reasons. Obviously, there are the statistics of lower graduation rates which would then lead to black students diverting their attention to other activities. I'll just leave those activities up to your imagination. A good point I read on the discussion board is that in the current system, the expectations from teachers is for black students to max out their potential with a college diploma, so the mindset in administering their education is different. I think that's a strong point because as an insecure youth or teenager, the type of encouragement you receive can be quite significant. Personally, I had great encouragement at home, at school, in extra curriculars, and even sports teams; take that away, and who knows what would have happened.
But every time there's something potentially positive about installing black focused schools, there are points to the contrary. As I see the greatest potential value of the black focused schools being the mental boost these schools would provide, there's quite the likelihood that the opposite will occur. Do any of you know anyone who's gone to an inner city type of school that's perhaps not been so well funded or has not had adequate reinforcement? Well, from what I've seen these people are often sensitive about their attendance at these schools because they might have a stigma as an inferior or ghetto school. Let's think back to the whole "ghetto dude" fiasco: this guy was judged as ghetto by his mom's accent or something. Let's flash forward five or ten years with a kid from a black focused school listing that school's name on her or his resume. How many more ghetto dude scenarios that might go unnoticed could there be?
What about other cultures? This is one of the most popular rebuttals against black schools but it's valid. In the US where these black schools are reasonably prevalent, their ethnic division is majoritarily tripartite. Not so in Canada. Especially in our urban centres, we have a great mix of ethnic diversity, and I don't see how singling out one ethnicity can be justified. Even if other ethnicities are adapting better to the current way in education, doesn't mean it's serving them as well as it could be. I think a solution would have to incorporate how each ethnicity can benefit from the reinvention of our school system because they are all a part of the Canadian normal, and I don't think that's reflected. Furthermore, a great deal, if not most, of the value from elementary and secondary school is due to the outside the classroom activities. If we're having black students sheltered in a closed environment how are they going to get the maximized experience from after school clubs, music, or sports. These kind of experiences and lessons do translate to the work place. In Canada, the work place will likely be a multi ethnic one, so I don't see how preparing students for a multi ethnic workforce by segregating them is valuable.
I know the arguments that this has been successful in the US, and my reluctance to accept American born policy aside, I don't think it's acceptable for Canada. Yes I'm sure there are some positives from the American example such as a stronger sense of community, but I think the black and ethnic Canadian experiences are different from those of the US. In the US they have black American schools for black American children who've have had at least three or four generations in the US. In Canada, there would be black Canadian schools for African and Caribbean Canadians who are a likely first or second generation. Their attachment to Canada as a first or second generation citizen would inform their perception of these schools, and I think because of having such a relatively short history in this country, the sense of community wouldn't be built the same way as it is in the US.
Most definitely what and they way these children are taught has to be reviewed. The solution, however, is not through division. It might be division with good intentions, but it's still division. I think a more holistic approach is needed; one that addresses the lessons and perceptions it provides all students regardless of ethnic background. For instance, Canada loves to tout its multiculturalism but in history classes we're pretty much stuck in biculturalism. That's so sixties. If we're going to be truly multi ethnic, it has to be reflected in our education and show that European history isn't world history, there was globalization before 90's globalization, and that the Industrial revolution was more than a European triumph. That's the kind of knowledge and accompanying attitude that's needed.
One thing I want to caution as well, is that this is quite easily likened to the religious funding debate, and it's logical as to why. I think the difference in this case is that our school system isn't failing any specific religion.
Either way, this debate is a worthwhile one and I hope people don't divert from the serious issues by introducing pesky issues. I don't agree with the proposal, but it's definitely worth listening. Not so much to be convinced, but at least to confirm the issues that need to be addressed.