poll on Afrocentric school

Toronto board holds to Afrocentric school

JAMES BRADSHAW Globe and Mail  February 12, 2008

Overwhelming public opposition to plans for an Afrocentric alternative school will not deter the Toronto District School Board from pressing ahead with the project, according to board chair John Campbell.

An Angus Reid poll released Saturday reported 79 per cent of respondents across Ontario oppose creating the school, and 59 per cent are strongly opposed. Of the 15 per cent in favour of the school, only 3 per cent offered strong support. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's decision not to provide the board with extra funding for the school also proved popular with 82 per cent of respondents.

But Mr. Campbell said the board will not be swayed by public opinion, though he acknowledged it is sensitive to criticism from Mr. McGuinty and Education Minister Kathleen Wynne.

Mr. Campbell also said the board understands the public's many concerns, especially as nine of 20 trustees voted against the school. But he thinks most of the wider criticism arises from a lack of understanding of the proposal's goals and methods.

"I think what trustees did was respond to a request from a community to set up an alternative school, and perhaps those responding to the poll don't have a complete appreciation of just what this school will be about," he said. "People read headlines and they respond to headlines."

Trustee Josh Matlow said he thinks opposition arises not out of ignorance of the issues, but rather from a philosophical difference akin to Mr. McGuinty's.

"I think people generally understand what this is," he said. "They understand that there are some people with good intentions who want this school for all the right reasons, but [those objecting to the school] hold a principled position that dividing kids by the colour of their skin, even for the best of intentions, is not the way to arrive at a just society."

Opposition is even greater in the GTA, though the regional numbers have a higher margin of error. In the 905 area, support for the school sits at just 11 per cent, compared with 85 per cent against it.

Across Ontario, equally lopsided numbers of people said they see the plan as a form of segregation and would oppose any ethnically focused school.