‘Poor school’ a poor idea

Posted on February 3, 2011 in Education Debates

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– Students won’t succeed if corralled in separate silos, according to race or economic circumstances
February 1, 2011.   By Christina Blizzard, Toronto Sun

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, you have to wonder what was behind the well-intended but foolishly flawed plan of the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) to create a school for poor kids.

Did the devil make them do it?

Starting this September, 150 kids in Grades 6 and 7 will be bused to a special school for low income children. The DSBN Academy comes with a hefty price-tag — $431,600 for busing in the 2011-12 year.

Each year, the board will add an extra grade. It will eventually be a Grade 6-12 school.

The aim is to attract children who aren’t performing well in the public school system, and provide them with special supports so they can go on to college or university.

While that’s a laudable goal, the way they’re going about it smacks of the kind of misguided Victorian do-goodism that sent poor children to the workhouses.

Welland MPP Peter Kormos calls the plan “educational apartheid,” and says it won’t address the root causes of poverty.

“The DSBN is isolating and segregating a small number of so-called poor kids, presumably so they can receive special academic assistance, but then ignoring all those other kids, poor or not, who need assistance in their own schools.

“It’s a model that appears to be an American model and it’s educational apartheid,” Kormos said.

“It’s repugnant.”

It’s an alarming trend. Toronto District School Board kicked it off with their “Africentric” school.

Now it’s poor kids we’re lumping together.

The way to help kids reach the top is to provide them with appropriate supports within the system — not corral them in separate silos, according to race or economic circumstances.

It also implies low-income kids aren’t smart. That’s a ludicrous notion.

In a multicultural society, all cultures, all races, all socio-economic groups benefit from going to school together.

That way you learn respect for people of different faiths, cultures and economic circumstances.

Wasn’t the last provincial election all about separating kids by faith? Voters trashed that idea.

But it’s OK to pigeonhole them by race and how rich their parents are?

Think of the stigma that will be attached to going to the “Poor School.” Youngsters will be labelled — and scarred — for life.

The vice chair of the DSBN says they’re listening to feedback. But Dale Robinson points out kids won’t be forced to go to the school — it will be their choice.

“It’s not about where students are coming from, it’s about where they can go,” Robinson said.

“We want to focus on this as one strategy, one way of helping kids who are disadvantaged, to be on that track for post-secondary education,” she said.

She said the board is trying to address under-education as a cause of poverty.

Only kids whose parents haven’t attended college or university will be admitted to the school.

Talk about creating ghettoes!

And that’s an elitist slap in the face to people who work in trades. Thousands of people around this province make good money in skilled trades. I don’t think they’d consider themselves “disadvantaged.”

The Academy may be well intentioned. It’s also incredibly patronizing and paternalistic to presume that a kid who’s poor is also stupid. Give them an even break and they’ll help themselves.

christina.blizzard@sunmedia.ca Twitter: @ChrizBlizz

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