Welcome to the thoughts, rants and passions of a young Muslim woman seeking soulful enlightenment in cyberspace.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Segregation Making a Comeback

George Dei, a leading Canadian education researcher, sparked a firestorm of controversy a few days ago when he suggested Ontario create “black schools”. The idea raised the spectre of the old segregated schools of the Deep South.

Every minority faces this challenge: How can one’s communal values be protected? By integrating into society, or by creating a supportive but insular community? Dei proposes black alternative schools that would cater to the needs of black students. A special curriculum would be introduced. Black teachers would provide the type of role modelling that black students don’t experience in the regular public school system. Non-black students would not be prevented from attending. Admittedly, this experimental school is less offensive than the image of black-only schools being built alongside white schools.

And yet it doesn’t seem to be the solution to the problems and barriers blacks are facing. Removing students from the system further exacerbates feelings of alienation and inferiority. It fails to address the real desire for equality through integration. After all, if you’re doing a good job on your own, why should governmental structures or institutions care to change?

Moreover, we cannot point blame at the education system alone. We need to recognize there are various societal factors – economic, social and political – that conspire to prevent black students from succeeding. Academic achievement, or lack thereof, depends on a multiplicity of interlocking background pieces, not all of them race-related. To blame it all on the education system seems a bit of a stretch.

Not being black myself, I cannot say whether blacks are more marginalized or discriminated against in the public school system than students of other racial or cultural backgrounds. Nevertheless, we can work on bringing in more administrators and teachers from different racial and cultural backgrounds. We can incorporate black historical and cultural material into the curriculum. I believe we can fix these problems without creating specialized racial, cultural or ethnic schools. There is a lot to be gained from one’s daily interaction with people from other cultures and races.

I can understand the frustration of black students in Ontario. But we need to work within the structure, not create new ones. Dei and others should use the recent publicity frenzy to garner credible public and governmental support for integration. Canada claims to be a multicultural society. Surely there is room for Canada’s rich black heritage within the public school system.


  • At 2/06/2005 09:29:00 p.m., Blogger John said…

    The idea sounds interesting until one realizes that two systems almost always will turn into two standards.

    If anything, black teachers should be given more posts in the public system.

  • At 2/09/2005 08:53:00 a.m., Blogger Yusuf Smith said…

    As-Salaamu 'alaikum,

    Baaaaaaad idea. Like the previous poster said, two systems always leads to two standards. Apart from that, though, there's nowhere to draw the line - where do you put mixed-race children, and how black do you have to be to get classified as black? That's where it leads to hair tests and all that nonsense. Stupid idea.


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