Thursday, January 24, 2008

Afro-Centric Schools

Update: Jan.30/08
Last night the Hawgtown Board of Education voted in favour of establishing an Afro-Centric school.

A couple things about this:
Why did they decide that Afro-Centrism was the way to go?
  1. Apparently, the dropout rate of Afro-Centrist students is about 40%. That's pretty high, motha. It means that Hawgtown's school system is failing its students. Especially the Afro-Centrist ones. (No mention of whether the students themselves are failing their futures.)
  2. No one has come up with a better idea. This, according to the leader of the Ontariario NDP (Notquite Deceased Party), Howard Hambone.
  3. A high school girl interviewed on the radio said that calling this proposed school "segregated" was offensive. Let's not forget that it's the Afro-Centrist Cultural Community that's asking for it. And further, we can all agree that the theory and the policy are not "segregationist" OK? But the practical effect will almost certainly be such.
Something I forgot to mention in the original post: If we think the system is inadequate, or the Afro-Centrist Cultural Community thinks their needs are being somehow neglected, what will be said if this idea doesn't work? I'll tell you. It will be said that the financial and educational needs of the Afro-Centric school were neglected. They didn't get the resources they needed. They were failed by the Hawgtown School Board.
There is a major public debate going on in Hawgtown these days about the proposed establishment of what is being called an "Afro-Centric" school. In other words, a school mostly for black students with a curriculum that would be slanted towards the Afro-Cultural slice of the Canajun multi-cultural mosaic, but still fulfilling the curriculum requirements of good old Ontariario.

Why has this issue come up? Because it seems the Afro-Cultural youths are not responding well to typical Canajun educational practices. They feel alienated. So they join gangs and collect guns and randomly shoot the innocent. They hang out in housing projects and terrorize the neighbours, also predominantly Afro-Cultural. So they need their own school to tell them where they came from. The current party line on the school is that it wouldn't be exclusively black. Whites, Asians, Indians, etc. would not be barred from attending this school. That's the theory, anyway. But we all know that the point of a theory is to disprove it. And it sounds to me like what is being suggested amounts to a segregated school, for all practical purposes.

What's surprising to me is that most of the push for this school is coming from some (but not all) members of the Afro-Canajun community. Far be it from me to hold up the US as a shining example, eh? But I seem to remember something about a US Supreme Court decision way back in 1954 called Brown v. The Board of Education (of Topeka, Kansas) which reversed the earlier policy of many many states to operate legally-mandated segregated schools. Part of the argument in that case revolved around whether official segregation was just a way of ensuring that blacks received inferior education.

Here in Canada, apparently it's the other way around. Here we are, Alice Through the Looking Glass. I guess it's only appropriate that we would mirror the US, in reverse. It's our way of asserting independence from the behemoth to the south. It's the obstreperous Canajun way.

But I have a question: What the hell does "Afro-Centric" mean in the context of Canada? In Hawgtown, where the debate is raging, there must be black students from every country on Earth that has black people. So they all came from Africa originally? OK. But my guess is that most of the Hawgtown black students actually came from Jamaica or Trinidad or one of the other Caribbean islands. Or were born of parents who did. Do they identify as Afro-Canadians? Not bloody likely! Yes, there are lots of Somalis, Kenyans, Nigerians la la la. Or children of them. But the diversity of the black population precludes any exclusive identification of "Afro-Centricity". So what are they going to be taught?

I don't know. It just seems to me that this is an idea that has went fifty years ago.

(I should say, by way of clarification scarification darification sparification, that the Yoni School where I am currently deposited is fully integrated desecrated desiccated cheesegrated. The only criterion we all meet for sure is that we are Wayward Poets. Everything else is gravy wavy navy knavey.)

Digg! diigo it


Anonymous said...

You asked what the students at an Afrocentric school are going to be taught. I don't think that is the relevant point. The point is "How are these kids going to be treated"? This is not about segregation. It's about protection. It's not about pulling out of a system. It's an attempt to create something in the system that demands and allows excellence for Black students. You might not know this but racism does exists and after forty years of doing it the mainstream way I guess a group of parents said it's not good enough. I have two black sons in the school system and I've had more trouble from white teachers assumptions than anything else. If I didn't preach education I'm sure one of them would have dropped out by now. So it's easy to sit back and sneer at something but this a comment about the white community and their progeny much more so than a comment on those students you portrayed so lovingly on your blog. You'll call it reality but what does it say about how you were raised that it's all you can see when you speak about the whole of the black community?

Larry Keiler said...

Thanks for your comment, Mrs. Anonymous. Certainly I know racism exists. I personally don't subscribe to it, and I think that colour doesn't and shouldn't matter. No matter what colour the attitude is coming from. But yes, culture does matter. In the Canajun context, Afro-whatever culture is difficult to pinpoint.

I don't agree with you that this is about "protection". We're talking about schools here. So it's about education and how best to do it. Protection may come into it, but that should apply to all students.

I can't argue with your statement about teachers' assumptions. We all know what assumptions do.

And I also agree with your statement, "It's an attempt to create something in the system that demands and allows excellence for Black students." I'm just not convinced that this is the right way to go about it.

Help! I've written and I can't get up!