Black-focused schools: step forward or back

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

On Jan. 29, 2008, the Toronto District School Board approved a proposal for a black-focused school by a vote 11 to nine.

Some say this decision is a necessary step to reduce the staggering dropout rates that continue to plague the black community. Others argue it is simply a regression back to the Jim Crow era, from 1876-1955, during which laws mandated that blacks and whites in the southern United States attend separate schools and use separate facilities (i.e. restrooms, water fountains, etc).

It is important to note two major differences between segregation (as it existed during the Jim Crow period) and black-focused schools (given that they are carried out in the manner proposed).

The first is that although the schools and other facilities available to blacks during segregation were supposed to be “separate but equal,” in actuality, they were inferior to white accommodations.

One could argue this ghettoization is likely to occur with black-focused schools; however, it is surely not intended to happen. The curriculum of black-focused schools is supposed to be equal in all areas except its emphasis on black culture and accomplishments.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, during segregation, black students (and white students, for that matter) did not have a choice of which school they would attend. The law strictly prohibited the mixing of black and white students in the classroom.

On the other hand, white students who wish to attend a black-focused school are allowed to do so and black students who have no desire to go to a black-focused school are not forced to attend.

Ideally, all races should live and learn together. However, it is apparent the current curriculum is failing to recognize and effectively deal with the unique problems that exist in the black community.

It is clear that something must be done to resolve this crisis.

If we fail to address this issue, we can expect problems such as crime, poverty and drugs to continue to afflict our country. Without an education, how can we expect our youth to pursue a rewarding and fulfilling life in today’s society?

It is a fact that children whose parents did not graduate from high school are less likely to graduate themselves.

Therefore, educating our youth today is the only way to break the cycle of poverty and dependency that has victimized so many members of the black community. Knowledge is power and education is the key to empowerment.

To quote Malcolm X: “Without education, you’re not going anywhere in this world. Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people that prepare for it today.”

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