The poverty of education

LETTER TO THE EDITOR   Toronto Star  Jan 23, 2008 04:30 AM

re:  Black schools wrong answer   Editorial, Jan. 21

The failure of the Toronto District School Board's school for First Nations students made my heart sink. For a long time I have struggled to find a position on the issue of a black-focused school. The experience of the First Nations school – where, one assumes, students are exposed to a culture and curriculum that aim to increase their self-esteem and to instill pride in their traditions – certainly shakes one's belief that this type of school will solve the problems students have and cause in the school system.

The Falconer report on school violence describes conditions in the native school as "unacceptable." It has the lowest academic standing among the 451 elementary schools in the system, and over the past three years it has suspended an average of one-third of its students, "an extraordinary level for an elementary school," the report says.

The solutions for black students proposed in your editorial, such as early-years programs, student-leadership activities, tutoring and mentoring, and summer job training, are all well and good, but I wonder if we have to address social conditions affecting children's lives to truly turn things around.

Perhaps we need to deal with poverty, poor housing, poor nutrition, poor parenting, and lack of support for single mothers and of a stimulating environment in early childhood for black and native children to reach their full potential.

Nina K. Herman, Toronto