Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Is the TDSB Dumbing Down the High School Curriculum for Black Kids?

Dare one call it the soft bigotry of low expectations? Because, despite all the crunchy delicious educational mumbo-jumbo about "pathways" and "layers," that's what it sounds like:
The Leonard Braithwaite program is being introduced for the first time at the secondary school level in Canada because there is an overwhelming opportunity gap in education for black students. This is not an africentric school or even a school within a school, it is a program that will provide students an alternative way of learning while still being a part of the Winston Churchill community.

The program will offer grade 9 students the opportunity to learn through an africentric lens for 6 out of their 8 courses. The courses will be a part of a de-streamed model which means that the learning and teaching has been reconfigured to meet the needs of all students in the classroom. The courses will be designated as academic in order to provide students with the most choice for future pathways; however, through the use of layered curriculum, students will reach the required expectations in their own way even if they are currently not at the academic level. [Layered curriculum means that students move towards the same expectations taking different paths. One student may only need to complete one assignment to reach a particular expectation where as another may student need to do 4 assignments that build on one another to reach that same expectation].

We as a school feel that this program will help address some of the issues surrounding the opportunity gap facing our black students...
A gap that can be bridged via lower expectations, obviously--but what good does that do the kid later on in the real world?

Don't miss the course abstracts, wherein you'll learn that in geography
A particular focus will be on the role and location of the African Diaspora within these systems. Students will evaluate the dominant narratives currently accepted about geographic systems to explore their impact on the identity and self-image of African Canadians and other members of the African diaspora. Using this knowledge, students will use a variety of geotechnologies and inquiry and communication methods to explore and present their findings of the impact geographical systems have had on the African Diaspora in Canada and in a global context.
Whatever the heck that means. (When you're dumbing things down, it's often quite useful to use the most high-faluting, impenetrable language possible). Meanwhile, in math class
For the purpose of meaningful learning of the subject, students will have the opportunity to incorporate the language, culture and history of African peoples and the African Diaspora for understanding math problems, investigation, and effective use of technology, abstract reasoning and critical thinking
Well, that will no doubt make geometry etc. seem a whole lot more meaningful. As for science
Through partnering with researchers, scientists in the field that represent diverse cultures, genders and backgrounds student will have the opportunity to challenge the dominant narrative about science education. There will be a focus on environmental sustainable projects through global connections with partners and schools from the African continent where students will examine environmental issues from various African regions and critical analyse Canada’s role in contributing to the issue.
As I've often said: there's nothing like challenging the dominant narrative about science education to spark a young'un's interest in scientific inquiry. (Actually, that's the first time I've ever said it--and I will never say it again because it's a bunch of hooey.)

But this line, about the music course, is my absolute favourite:
Students will develop the skills to locate their lived experience within the learning environment.
I think I'd better take that course, because that's a skill I sorely lack.

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