Thursday, May 22, 2008

Toronto's Africentric School Proposal and Yet Another Verbal Cheap Shot

Another imprudent, identity-politics warrior drops the R-bomb to stifle dissent and end any pretense of civil debate.

The Toronto Star reports on last night's meeting of the Toronto District School Board:

Approved by a 13-8 vote after a heated debate in which one trustee called another a racist, the school will be located in an empty wing of Sheppard Public School on Sheppard Ave. W. near Keele St.


The Africentric grade school will seek to hire a number of black teachers and use a more global, less Europe-focused curriculum to engage more students of colour. It will be open to children of all backgrounds from anywhere in the city.


However, emotions ran high, with trustee Maria Rodrigues, who supports the school, accusing trustee Josh Matlow of being racist in his opposition to the school, and refused to apologize.

So, Josh Matlow is a racist, eh? Can one not express legitimate concern, apprehension, or scepticism about the idea of Africentric education without becoming an R-bomb casualty? If not, then there are an awful lot of unrepentent racists in Toronto and beyond. Such vile creatures have the temerity to question the wisdom of special interests. And they suffer from all manner of unacceptable phobias that lead them to worry about the consequences of the Africentric school proposal upon common public schooling and what it portends for social integration in a multicultural city. For shame.

Shame indeed, but where to apportion it. Just to be clear, Josh Matlow's TDSB web page pleads simply "Don't Divide Our Students By Race." Now, a real racist would welcome (and indeed encourage) the separation of students by race, n'est-ce pas? So, her refusal notwithstanding, Trustee Maria Rodrigues owes Josh Matlow (and indeed the people of Toronto) an apology.

Yes, it's true that Josh Matlow effectively led the charge to oppose the Africentric school proposal back in February. So what? He was joined by eight other trustees at the time in a vote of 11-9 in favour (with 2 trustees not voting). Mainstream newspapers, including the Globe and Mail, had questioned the wisdom of this proposal.

Of course, Matlow is far from the only trustee subject to invective and abuse stemming from the charged climate of the Africentric school debate. Following the 11-9 vote of the TDSB in February, as the Toronto Star reported, so was Trustee Stephnie Payne:

During Tuesday night's meeting – where the issue was debated and narrowly approved 11-9 – Trustees Josh Matlow and Stephnie Payne say they were subjected to taunts and name-calling, some of it racist, sexist and anti-Semitic.

After the vote, Payne, the only opposing black trustee, says someone told her: "Shame, shame, you should be f------ shot."

During the vote, Payne, in Matlow's hearing, was accused of being a "sellout" to the black community and "whitewashed."

Yesterday, Matlow said one member of the gallery swore at him and said, "We're going to shut the Jewish schools." Another person came down the hallway after him, making the same threat. Anti-Semitic comments were again made during a conversation between Matlow and three others at board headquarters on Wednesday night.

Nice, huh?

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