TDSB must act on report

We’re not surprised at some of the findings in a report released by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) last week which showed that race and poverty had a significant impact on the education of young children in the school system. Educators and education activists in our community have been saying this for years.

That is one of the main reasons that we at Share have been so uncompromising and unrelenting in our support of the Africentric alternative school. It’s not that we see this school as solving all the problems Black kids are facing, but it is a start. It is first, an acknowledgement by the TDSB that more need to be done for Black and other minority students and, second, a sign that they might possibly be willing and ready to make the effort.

Of course, it has not been lost on us that the motion to establish this school was fiercely opposed by many school trustees (and passed by the slimmest of margins – with one trustee continuing to this day his efforts to have it derailed) and by all the mainstream (White) media in this city. Even some in the Black community. Shame on all of them!

There must be a problem when some 40 per cent of Black students drop out of school each year. The report concludes, among other things, that the race and the economic circumstances in the homes of some children (together with the minimal education of some parents) have a major role to play in their failure.

We really should not have needed a report to tell us this. It should have been obvious. And, if it was not obvious, maybe we could have told them – for free. In fact, we did. Many times.

As education director for the TDSB, Gerry Connelly, has correctly stated, these children are in the schools (and in their care, we would add) for “six to eight hours…and we can, and must, make a difference…we can level the playing field”.

That is what we have been saying for years.

The teachers are the professionals. We depend on them (and pay them a lot of money) to educate our kids. We also expect them to care. But that is not something for which we can pay. It must come from them naturally.

A lot of parents make the effort to play a part in their children’s education. They also involve themselves in the activities and programs of the school. And this helps in no small way. But, there are parents who are not able to help their kids with their school work because they just can’t.

It is easy for us to sit on the sidelines and blame the parents for the failure of their kids, but how much do we know – or care – about their struggles and stresses and their particular circumstances? And, should we allow their children to suffer as a result?

Connelly also suggested the need to advocate for “better nutritional programs, housing and social services”. Again, this is nothing new. But, it is so important to see that she has recognized these to be areas of concern and, more importantly, need.

It is a fact that many children go to school each and every day without having a proper (or any) breakfast. How could such a child concentrate on his or her school work?

As we have noted many times, there are so many amazing Black students excelling in the system; there are many more who have gone on to university, through university and on to great jobs, making a contribution to society. And we are proud of all of them.

This is not about them. This is about those who are falling through the cracks. This is about those who we read about on the front pages of the Toronto Sun. This is about all those children who, if we don’t find ways to save them, will follow a destructive path.

How many young people who could have made valuable contributions to society have we lost as, with apologies to Thomas Gray, “knowledge to their eyes her ample page, rich with the spoils of time, did ne’er unroll; chill penury repressed their noble rage, and froze the genial current of the soul…”

It may be too late for some, but not for others. The longer we wait, the more we lose.

This report is a step in the right direction. There is no more the excuse that we don’t know the sources of the problem. What we need is the will to act.

Further failure must not be an option.

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