Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Afrocentric Schools in Toronto (Part 1) - A Blight on the "Black" Landscape

This has to be one of the silliest ideas I've ever heard of. Why would educated, supposedly intelligent, black folks decide to insult themselves and their "people" by requesting a return to the dark days of segregation, cloaked under the guise of "equality" and academic progress?

I should preface this by stating that I know the two foremost proponents of Afrocentric schools VERY well. One of them is a Ghanaian-born professor at the University of Toronto, who I've spoken with on several occasions and who I invited to, and had, deliver speeches a few times to the U of T chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) in my days there. The other is a brilliant professor at York University, whose son, currently a PhD student in Aerospace Engineering at U of T, mentored me in my early years at U of T Engineering and as a chapter member and later officer of NSBE.
They are clearly role models for upwardly mobile black youth and professionals, a group I like to associate with.
On this topic, however, I firmly disagree with both, and have had the opportunity to let them know.

A full background can be found here:

Basically, their argument is that the only way black youths can excel in high school is by having black teachers teach subjects in a "black" or to use their politically correct term, "afrocentric" way. The very idea that there is an afrocentric way to teach Math and Science offends me, as someone who excelled in those subjects, and never for once had to think about whether I was learning the afrocentric way of doing Math! Does this make me any less black? I spent most of my high school years back in Nigeria, so presumably I was being taught in an "afrocentric" manner. Why didn't I feel any difference when I moved to Canada?
The same argument can be used for Science, whether it was physics, chemistry or biology.

Even in the social sciences, is anything really wrong with a student learning about world civilizations, European history or even American history and literature? Does that take away their ability to think, read and write essays? Why do Asians (Oriental or South Asian) who rarely hear about their own culture, manage to excel in these subjects? Certainly, they aren't any smarter than we are.
I attended a high school in Toronto where a subject called "African Civilization" was offered and taught by an African-Canadian teacher. I never took the subject myself, but is it any surprise that this was the most rowdy, indisciplined class in the entire school? Or that it was mostly populated by students who ended up either not graduating or taking the easy way out by going to college, when a university education was within their grasp? (this is not meant to denigrate community colleges, by the way)

Why don't we face up to the real problems instead of tackling them with such a blunt and crude object? The biggest problems the black youth in Toronto faces are broken-down family structures, lack of leadership, parental apathy and laziness borne out of seeing the "easy way out" through the ostentatious lifestyles of sports stars, entertainers and BET pop culture in general. After all, LeBron James didn't go to university and he's a multimillionaire, so why should they?

Until black parents preach the value of an education to their kids, until my fellow black men stop being selfish by walking out on their families, until my beautiful black women stop getting themselves knocked up before they are ready to bring up a child and until we stop blaming others for our problems, we will continue to regurgitate half-baked measures without ever getting to the solution of the problem.

Tomorrow, this space will examine the response of the white "liberal until it involves a black issue" media, including the infamous Globe and Mail cartoon.

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