Tag Archives: Toronto schools

Armed Police In Toronto Schools

The police of Toronto will be stationed in schools wearing their uniforms and armed for battle according to the police chief of the city. Bill Blair emphasized, ‘I believe in police officers in uniform. I want the people of Toronto to see their police. I want them to have a relationship with the entire police force that is based on trust and respect. And, my police officers are armed.” His comments appear to contradict the views of the School Board which thought police would be dressed in civilian attire and would offer a “casual and low-key” presence in the schools.

I have taught for 51 years and during that time taught children in the slums of Harlem to a rural California small town to a working class suburb in St. Louis. In every situation that entailed violent behavior on the part of a few students, the faculty was able to handle the situation because of their relationships with students. Despite all the talk about violence in schools the overwhelming majority of children in schools are safe. Actually, bullying is a greater terror than physical violence.

A wise teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn once calmly noted to me, “When our children enter the front door they are safe, when they depart, they are in danger.”

The Toronto school board should insist police not be in uniform and certainly not be carrying weapons. If the object is establishing positive relationships with students it will arise through informal interactions and not by the heavy handed presence of armed police.

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.

Teach Us About Ourselves, Ask Canadian Students

About seven out of ten students in the Toronto School District of Canada are not of white European background, they come from all parts of the world to schools which ignore who they are as people. In one of the most comprehensive studies ever done by a school district, the Toronto school board asked every student in grades 7-12 to complete an intensive survey regarding their feelings and views of going to school. The anonymous nature of the survey enables young people to feel free to express their views. Many reported never learning anything about their own place of origin or about the nations of Asia from which many come. The survey revealed many interesting pieces of data such as that only 56% ate breakfast or that 35% say home distractions impact their ability to do homework. Despite some concerns about school safety the overwhelming majority said they got along well with peers and did not really encounter physical threats to their being.

The school board is following up the survey with open forums for students which allow them to express their ideas in a public meeting. The Toronto School district should be complimented on their willingness to engage students in dialogue and to make known their ability to listen to students. It is more common for adults to “talk to” young people rather than actually engaging in active listening.

Toronto Considers Schools Designed For Black Students

The Toronto school board is considering opening schools specially designed to meet the needs of black students in grades kindergarten to grade 8. Donna Harrow, an advocate of such schools notes, ‘Whatever is being used in the system at this moment is failing a lot of students–and more specifically a lot of black students.” Black focused schools have been a center of controversy since first being proposed in a 1995 province report by a Royal Commission. The debate as to whether or not black schools staffed predominantly by black teachers where an emphasis is placed on reading black authors or studying black history will lead to results has long been discussed in Canada and the United States. The Toronto School Board already has an elementary and a high school for First Nations students and an alternative high school for gay and lesbian teens.

As one who has spent fifty years in education, this debate has been one going on for most of the 20th century. A visit to schools in New York City or Washington D.C. or Detroit or St. Louis quickly reveals most of them are, in effect, “black schools.” The overwhelming majority of students are black, a high percentage of teachers and administrators are black, the curriculum emphasizes black history and literature, and the results are not that markedly different than in schools where black students are with white students. Back in the 1960s the idea cropped up in Milwaukee and it was tried. Ironically, America has too many “black schools” and too many failing to meet the needs of ALL students. The same issues being discussed in Toronto about how to reach disaffected students can be heard in rural American schools. Perhaps, problems stem from teaching the wrong curriculum using the wrong teaching methods and measuring success the wrong ways. A boring white or black teacher bores students. Young people need role models, but the color of one’s skin is not sufficient to transform a person into a role model. Toni Morrison, the writer, once said if you tell me the color of a person’s skin, you have told me nothing about who they are.