Tag Archives: Afrocentrism

Canada’s First Afrocentric School

The Toronto school system initiated its first Africentric school and children were greeted by an all female teaching staff, many of whom wore “African inspired fabric,” and head scarfs. Hope was expressed that children would finally learn about their “African heritage.” Actually, there have been “Afrocentric schools” for over a hundred years in the United States, they were then called, segregated schools. In a segregated school, students were taught by both male and female black skinned Americans, they learned about the heritage of those whose ancestors came from African societies and engaged in healthy self concept development.

A basic problem with an “Afrocentric” school is the assumption there is such a thing as “African” society. Teachers wore headscarfs, but in most African societies below the Sahara, few women wear such head garments. Of course, the history, culture and skin color of those from northern Africa is remarkably different from those inhabiting central Africa. I doubt if an Egyptian “African” believes there is any cultural, dress or historical linkage between his heritage and that of someone from central Africa.

“Africa” is a continent, it is not a society in which people are bound together by a common heritage. The real issue for education is ensuring that children from diverse backgrounds learn both of commonalities and differences. Yes, the history of African Americans has been poorly taught in schools. So, has the history of those of Italian, Greek, Hungarian, Polish, German and a dozen other cultural groups in America. Several years ago, students of Hispanic heritage rioted over another February dealing with Black History while there was nothing about their heritage.

The issue is incorporating multiple heritages and that is an enormous task. Unfortunately, too many multiculturalists believe there is something termed, “white history.” That assumes the history and culture of a European Italian is similar to that of a European Norwegian or Pole. There is need for global education and Afrocentric schools only add to confusion and distortion in teaching history.

Toronto’s Afrocentric Approach-Does It Work?

Toronto’s school authorities are attempting to enage students whose ancestry can be traced to Africa by enfusing an Afrocentric approach in teaching various subjects. For example, students in math develop graphs to trace the origins of Canada’s immigrants, the hope being all students will gain greater awareness if they learn about the backgrounds of other people. If the American experience has anything to offer, it suggets an Afrocentric approach to education is the “means,” not the end. If studying about one’s heritage entices students to learn, it is a successful approach. But, if Afrocentrism entails obtaining data for data sake, there is scant hope it will transform a student who is tuned out to school to tune in.

A problem with all such programs which endeavor to stimulate pride in one’s heritage is how one teaches. If the approach is information rather than stimulating critical and creative thinking, there simply is not enough evidence to suggest students doing poorly will suddenly love school. A “talking teacher” is boring regardless if the teacher is talking about Africa or Canada. There is need in any Afrocentric approach to include activities and materials that engage students with important concepts and challenge them to become critical thinkers.

Toronto Considering All Black Schools

Toronto school administrators are examining alternative strategies to cope with issues arising from poor performance of black students in school. Among the alternatives being explored is creation of a black-focused school as well as beginning black-focused programs in three existing schools. A report to these educators suggested an Afrocentric or black-focused school that would be “open to all students, which uses the soources of knowledge and experiences of peoples of African descent as an integral feature of the teaching and learning experience.” Toronto school trustees were urged to explore this alternative last fall by some supporters of Afrocentrism.

If Toronto school authorities are interested in creating a black-focused school all they have to do is wander into New York City or Chicago or St. Louis or any number of urban American schools where the student body and a high percent of teachers and administrators are essentially African American. Afrocentrism has been around for about forty years and there is scant evidence this approach has much of an impact upon academic success in terms of high school graduation or going on to college. One problem with Afrocentrism or Jewish or Italian or Irish Studies is how these topics are taught. If teachers are boring and lecture on and on about Afrocentrism or any topic, student heads soon head toward the desk for a sleep break. The issue facing all children of poverty backgrounds is escaping from the boredom of test preparation and being able to engage with exciting teachers who teach an interesting and relevant curriculum.