Toronto's “Road to Health” report on schools is flawed
by John Turley-Ewart
The National Post
Posted: January 11, 2008, 6:31 AM
How bad are Toronto's public schools? The numbers in yesterday's school safety report presented to the Toronto District School Board paint a picture of our public high schools as havens of terror. Guns, knives, sexual assault, extortion, racism and a code of silence have fashioned a school system that graduates survivors, not students.
The spectre of such a conclusion was evident even before the School Community Safety Advisory Panel presented its findings.
In the course of its inquiry the panel discovered an alleged sexual assault at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute in 2006 against a female student. The incident has all the hallmarks of the worst social pathologies that plague the Jane and Finch community where Jefferys is located — a gang attack on a lone victim, protected by a code of silence, leaving the perpetrators free to terrorize others.
Since the panel learned of the allegations, six male students have been charged while a principal and two vice-principals have been put on leave by the TDSB. The school officials also face charges under Ontario's Child and Family Service Act for failing to report the incident.
“Equity” is the saving grace for such a broken system, according to this panel. It pays homage to the concept by painting all 102 Toronto public high schools using the same broad brush. For that reason the panel would like to see all students wear identification cards, all schools subjected to sniffer dogs and argues that all female students are at risk of “gender-based violence.”
The panel would prefer schools with mostly black students to have black teachers, though it does not call for quotas, and an Afrocentric focus, having bought the ill-conceived notion it will improve the self-esteem of disengaged students and thus outcomes.
And it is out of concern for equity that the panel takes direct aim at the Safe Schools Act introduced by the Ontario Conservatives in the 1990s and declares it a failure because of its disproportionate impact on black students who have been suspended and expelled at greater rates than other students.
Zero tolerance is out. Students who are criminals and bullies, the ones who make schools unsafe and strike fear into the hearts of fellow students and teachers of all races, are now “complex-need youth” who must not be transferred out of their home schools unless they present the gravest of threats.
Yet this picture of Toronto schools these recommendations are based on is anything but equitable. The core of the report is a catalogue of survey responses from 1,293 students and 90 teachers at two schools — Jefferys and Westview Centennial Secondary School. Together, these schools reflect the experience of just 1.5% of Toronto's 270,000 public high school students and their 5,800 teachers.
It is folly to pretend these schools, located in pockets of poverty and single-parent communities, present the same risks for students in schools located in high-income, stable-family areas such as Riverdale and North Toronto.
On first blush, the panel's report strikes the informed reader as a politicized document. Racism, classism, poverty and sexism are the culprits endangering all our high school students and the blame says the panel lies largely with the former Ontario Conservative government of Mike Harris, a profoundly partisan shot at a government long out of office. This dig calls the motives and solutions proposed in the report into question.
Few will dispute the need for more social workers to help troubled students, as the panel recommends. Or reforming the TDSB's education culture, which leaves teachers silent in the face of violence for fear of losing promotions or being accused of racism.
But there is little point being politically correct at the expense of reality. Most of Toronto's public high schools do not harbour a culture of fear and don't need to be treated as if they face the same problems as Jefferys and Westview.
To pretend otherwise is not only a disservice to healthy schools, but to students who do live in a state of fear and most need society's protection from their violent peers.
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Jan 11 2008
Malignancy: An Incremental and Burgeoning Affair
The death by shooting of Jordan Manners while a student in attendance at C.W. Jeffreys Collegiate Institute was but the logical, sad outcome of the unwillingness of society to acknowledge that problems of major concern existed at that, and in similar schools. Underlying the dysfunction which was evident in those schools was a failure to address the sources of the problems. And the whole willful blindness was aided and abetted by an officialdom within government and within the school system whose main aim was to see that the social contract was not ruffled by those on watch-duty who might have had the courage to cry out that the ship seemed to be be sinking.
To compound the problem of official blindness, those who participated in the messianic-like cultish movement, personified by a variety of spokespersons and media organizations who glossed over, and squelched attempts by those who would alert us; which the squelchers called “pointing fingers” and “discrimination” and “racial profiling”; they have much to answer for. But, they won't, of course.
Life is incremental. However, with respect to our schools, large numbers of people express surprise because, in their minds, today, everything was “perfect”. And then when they woke up the next morning, they found that the world had “collapsed”. One day the schools were “perfect”. The next day, the whole system had “imploded”.
These many people need to be disabused of their misconceptions. Life is incremental. And that applies to societies and schools. Decay is not an overnight phenomenon. It happens in very tiny steps. But, we choose not to see it.
The “Blackboard Jungle” was a 1955 movie about a dysfunctional inner city school in the United States. The wisdom at the time in Canada typified our long time existing and continuing attitude of superiority when speaking about the United States. For, in those many years ago, we were told that this kind of “Blackboard Jungle” could never happen in Canada.
Well, it was happening then and it has happened now; in spades. It has long been with us. We didn't suddenly move from an ideal “Leave it to Beaver-like” Canadian society to one where, as a matter of course, pupils now bring disrespect, sloppy dress, and weapons and drugs to school, along with their books. If, indeed, they have bothered to bring any school books home at all.
Canadians cannot expect that when their children are living in a society which stews in a cauldron of self-indulgence, drug use, and advocacy for same by liberals, when children view violence and sexual suggestiveness and disrespect for authority on a daily basis from the entertainments and sports on offer, when language that was once labelled as “gutter” is now common verbal currency of the day for all levels of society, when children are seen as consumers to be exploited; Canadians cannot logically expect that exposure to, and participation in, those elements of this society will not have a corrosive effect on their children. When you swim in a sewer, expect to be covered in sewage.
Throw some weed killer on a garden of flowers? Many of those flowers will die. Curiously, for whatever reason, some of those flowers do not die. They manage to survive in spite of the poisonous environment in which they find themselves.
When you bring tens of thousands of educationally ill-equipped, poor people from a culture where the existence of: many very young unwed mothers, lawlessness, disrespect for authority and where murder and drugs are rampant and when you introduce these people into a geographically, climatically and sociologically strange culture, that at least, nominally strives to be the antithesis of the previously noted culture, why should we be surprised when these immigrants from a land far away find comfort only in huddling in their ghettoes and then repeatedly fail to find their places in Canadian society as they live in a state of almost total societal collapse?
I would like to hear the story of Charis Newton-Thompson, former Principal of C.W. Jeffreys and who has now been placed on leave. Ms. Newton-Thompson, a Black woman, became Principal of that school in the autumn of 2006. Elsewhere, we have been informed that the school had severe problems before she arrived. What problems did she find? Did she attempt to address them? What obstacles did she find placed in her way? What kind of leadership style did she bring to her job at C.W. Jeffreys? What was the relationship between Ms. Newton-Thompson and her staff and with the students and parents of those students?
Did this woman, this Black “leader”, which is what the Black community keeps searching for and for which the White liberals strive mightily to put into place; was Ms. Newton-Thompson able to have any positive effect on C.W. Jeffreys? Or, was Ms. Newton-Thompson put into a “mission impossible” situation?
Let's get to the essence of the matter. The fact is that large numbers of immigrants from Jamaica are unable to adapt to Canadian society. This lack of adaptation has led to problems of increasing complexity and financial cost to our society. Sorrow, as an offshoot of this constellation, is not the least of the woes which have been inflicted both on the immigrant Jamaicans and their hosts. This has been evident for several decades.
The children in our care who are interested in getting the education on offer in our schools should not be constant witnesses and unwitting victims of those who would disrupt their lives and the efforts of their teachers.
As a matter of course, Canadians should not opt for the line that our schools must become the front line of socialization designed to benefit the most disruptive and unprepared people in our society. We should not be asked to pay for this when our money could be otherwise spent in advancing the opportunities for those who come to school socially prepared and who wish to learn.
Immigration from Jamaica should be stopped.
Until such time as Jamaica itself evolves into a society with more commonalities which harmonize with western culture, immigration from that country brings only pain for the immigrants and their host country, Canada. This policy should apply also to Jamaicans who come to Canada indirectly from another country.
Further, anyone from Jamaica who wishes to visit Canada should only be permitted to do so when a Canadian visa has been acquired if this is not currently the case; that visa having been issued after Canadian officials, not their Jamaican delegates, have very carefully scrutinized the application for entry to Canada.
This problem of Jamaicans disrupting Canadian society is not going to go away any time soon. The only way we have any hope of stopping this downward spiral into anarchy and in getting control of this unacceptable mayhem is if Jamaicans are no longer accepted as immigrants to Canada.
by Iain G Foulds
Jan 11 2008
… Pumpkineater- I enjoyed your clear understanding of our decades of deterioration.
… However, I am not sure that it is right to blame the lack of true culture in others, as it is for us to accept responsibility to teach and sustain values of civility, contribution, consideration, and cheerfulness in our nation.