Following is my letter of support for my colleague Gary Pieters (former member of the Toronto Star’s Editorial Board) on the Africentric School. As a Black male school teacher in an urban school with a diverse and multi-textured population, I have a front row seat in observing, evaluating, assessing, instructing and collaborating with hundreds of students daily.
From my studies and observations, a distinct point of view has emerged and given special impetus to my interest in the disproportionality of Black students, particularly Black males in special education and their conspicuous absence from the gifted and talented programs. The nature and scope of this problem surrounding the disproportionate placement of Black males in special education, has become a form of segregation from the regular class which some scholars have referred to as a new legalized form of structural segregation and racism.
In an Africentric school Black students will not face these subtle and insidious forms of systemic bias which constitutes a conspiracy of effect. Like soldiers who have experienced too much combat, an increasing number of our students, particularly Black males, are showing signs of battle fatigue and dropping out of school in large numbers.
Thank you for enlightening the public on this urgent and most important issue facing our community.
Success of Africentric School should inspire us
Gary Pieters’ lucid and compelling article in the April 3rd editorial section of the Toronto Star on the demonstrated need to establish an Africentric secondary school requires immediate and urgent action. The misinformed detractors at Oakwood Collegiate are not addressing the jaw-dropping data from the Toronto District School Board on the drop out rates of 40 per cent or more Black students in secondary schools. If 40 per cent of students in Toronto schools had an epidemic disease, the Health Department would be notified at once, and these schools would be closed until the epidemic is contained.
What solutions do these hecklers have for addressing racial gaps in school achievement?
These jaw-dropping data in one place should spark a sense of national urgency and public indignation. This picture is even bleaker than generally known. For example, all things constant, the magnitude of this impact will be substantially higher in the coming years given the forecasted demographic shifts that mean minority students will become a larger proportion of the school population.
The progressive forces among us should be doggedly undeterred by the misinformed hecklers who are reacting emotionally rather than rationally to an Africentric school in their neighbourhood. The extraordinary and awe-inspiring results of the Africentric School in its first year should incentivize us to replicate these results in a secondary school.
The successful results at the Africentric School are a crucial example that Black children have the power to transcend the stereotypes, low expectations and subaltern positions in the school system. The Black students demonstrate concretely that if given a space to (de)construct their understanding and interpretations of their world, their history and fluid identities they can re-conquer their rightful place in the system and the modern world.
The knee-jerk reaction of some trustees at the Toronto District School Board regarding the establishing of an Africentric Secondary School is deeply disturbing. Their failure to act is an egregious display of poor judgment and leadership. Trustees were elected to ensure that education policy in Ontario is informed by evidence of what works; failure to do so will result in the continued erosion of confidence in our publicly funded school system.
Barrington A. Morrison