Let's be clear about this, there are some very intelligent teachers that are out there every day dealing with the challenges of providing our children an education that will give them the tools for success in life. But the teachers predisposed towards the type of thought that led them to the Futures conference and the ideas espoused there make those challenges even harder.
Many of these well meaning, muddle-headed educators are people of at best average intelligence who have convinced themselves they are more intelligent, more enlightened, and should be the guardians of thought and speech for everyone else.
Anyone concerned with the direction of public education in Toronto should be aware that:
- TDSB personnel admit that they intentionally discriminate against Christianity.
- The TDSB feels we need to focus more on race, and that our system is debased by white privilege. (Although this will come as no surprise given the board has already created a racially exclusionary Afrocentric school and wants to create more.)
- Anyone who dares to challenge their notion of multiculturalism and questions their idea of integration for immigrants and the direction Canadian culture is taking is a hatemonger.
Hearing the attitudes of some of the people with the authority to decide how our children should be educated was a terrifying experience. It was made all the more alarming knowing it had the full support of the top levels of the Toronto District School Board and the Ontario Ministry of Education.
One of the keynote speakers was a race-huckster named Tim Wise, who blamed all of educations ills and inequities on "white privilege." Yes, racism still exists in our society. It's deplorable and should be exposed and rooted out wherever it's found. But it is not as pervasive and systemic as Wise says and it and white privilege is most certainly not, as he suggested, the sole explanation for inequities in society. As even TDSB Director Chris Spence acknowledged, socio-economic factors play the most significant role in determining a child's outcome. Unfortunately this admission came with a startling display of cognitive dissonance as he subsequently downplayed the role poverty has in outcome and reiterated Wise's call to focus on race and racism.
I have no idea if Tim Wise has ever held a real job in his life - he spoke about being a community organizer before his current career as polemicist and motivational speaker to organizations stupid enough to pay him (with your tax dollars). But in between insulting George W. Bush to the approbation of the TDSB Equity gang, and Marxist paeans to the lack of equality of outcome which he attributes to racism and white privilege, Wise betrayed a total lack of understanding of how the world of business and society work outside the bubble of the school system. That ignorance was reflected by all too many teachers at the conference.
As anyone who has worked in the real world knows, a lot of jobs come from personal connections and indeed, nepotism. From the employers' standpoint, having someone you know and trust recommend someone else serves as a measure of risk mitigation when taking on a new employee. The fact is that immigrants are less well established than people who have been here for generations and have had the opportunities to build that infrastructure of contacts through family and social circumstances. It has nothing to do with race and everything to do with culture and socio-economic status. As proof, Wise's theory doesn't account for why certain non-white immigrant groups like Sikhs and Koreans, which place high cultural emphasis on education, family, commerce and community, fare far better than people from cultures that don't have those attributes, like Jamaica and Somalia, and parts of Latin America.
Either North America practices a very strange, selective racism, or Wise is full of hot air.
|Tim Wise looking like Big Brother on the big screens|
Even more appalling was the acceptance of Wise's proposal that race should addressed just as disability is in schools. According to Wise, we aren't blind to disability, so why should we be blind to race? And therein lies the problem and the best illustration of the dearth of insight possessed by such racist anti-racists. Being non-white is not a disability, and it demeans non-Caucasians to condescend to them by treating them as if it were. The disability is in the hatred and stupidity of those archaic people who judge others on the basis of their skin color. And the reality of today's world in North America is that if you are a racist, you will be deservedly shunned and ostracized by just about every intelligent, credible person. This is a lesson the full implications of which Wise and TDSB Director Spence regrettably have not learned.
|Chris Spence addressing the TDSB "Futures" conference|
In one session titled Limits of the Law: Guidelines and Procedures for Religious Accommodation, the session leader, a former TDSB Curriculum Project Manager and Equity/ Human Rights Reviewer, admitted that the Toronto school board actively discriminates against Christianity.
That admission came about when she discussed a case study of a Toronto school where the Parent's Council wanted to put on a Christmas Concert, renamed to a Holiday Concert, since the school had also had celebrations of Eid and Ramadan. Even though every reference to Christmas and Jesus was excised from the program, it remained problematic after an organized campaign by Muslim parents to exclude their children from the event.
This led me to ask about the obvious discrimination against Christianity where Muslim holidays are actively celebrated but Christian beliefs and references to Jesus are verboten.
|TDSB says this is hate - others may think it's reasonable|
discourse about public policy
The incredible thing about this is that it appears that the TDSB has grossly twisted their interpretation of the court decision into guidelines that only prohibit Christianity while embracing any other religious practice.
In another session, called Learning and Understanding; Cultural and Religious Differences/Faith and Inclusivity: An Equity-Based Framework for meeting the needs of Muslim Students, one of the seminar leaders named Kalpana Malkan, who works for the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario and said she works to help form curriculum, put up a powerpoint slide with the quote, taken from the online comments of a newspaper article, which said, "People once chose to come to Canada for things like prosperity and freedom. Now people come here because we accommodate to the point of self-sacrifice... This is not the Canada I grew up in. We used to have a culture, now we have none.."
Ms Malkan and a subsequent seminar leader in the session both identified the quote as "hate."
The debate regarding multiculturalism and the degree to which Canadian society should attempt to integrate immigrants as opposed to accommodating foreign cultures is an important public policy question. There are no identifiable groups or people in the quote targeted for hatred. But in the minds of TDSB sanctioned seminar leaders, questioning current multiculturalism policies qualifies as hate. The formation of school curriculum being placed in the hands of such thought totalitarians is a great deal more frightening than any of the so-called hate they described.
As is far too common among radical would-be social engineers, context was almost completely absent from the Futures conference. One of the keynote speakers, Uzma Shakir, the City of Toronto's Director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Human Rights, criticized Canadian racism and this country's paternalistic prejudices against immigrants. There is always room for improvement when it comes to issues of fairness, but what was never mentioned by any of the speakers at the conference was exactly to whom Canada was faring so badly by comparison.
It couldn't be to Shakir's native Pakistan, of which she fondly spoke, where Hindus and Christians are routinely persecuted and subject to the death penalty for blasphemy laws. Nor could it be in Saudi Arabia, where no religion but Islam can be legally observed. In fact among all the pessimism of the conference, there was no mention of any country that was more progressive in its attitude towards race and immigration than ours. But that observation, were it to be made, may have been counterproductive to the pervasive pessimism the event appeared to intend to convey.
It needs to be said that TDSB Director Spence is an extremely intelligent individual, far more so than any of the senior Administrators at the head office or among the city`s elected School Trustees that I have yet encountered. He is obviously deeply committed to the well being of the city`s student population and wants them all to succeed. Every day, he hears heart-wrenching accounts from parents with disadvantaged children who are struggling to help them get a fair shot at life, and he knows that education is their best, if not their only chance at that. Spence seems desperate to do something to help his students in need.
There are innovative, equitable approaches to education that were never seriously discussed at the Futures conference, like Salman Khan`s idea for an academy of remote learning with classroom supports.
But by instead grasping at the poisoned, racialist straws that people like Tim Wise are offering for self-flagellation while neglecting to do more to instill knowledge of core subjects, far more harm will be done to both students and society as a whole.
UPDATE: Some interesting additional perspective on the TDSB's biases from writer and Ryerson Instructor Brian Henry at Harry's Place