English Articles

Public Education
in the cross hairs

TORONTO – With the number of immigrants increasing yearly, it would appear that Canada is in ever-increasing need to establish an ethic, an identity to which all newcomers can [eventually] define as their own. The task for integrating those new residents and future citizens is left largely to the provincial authorities and their creature jurisdictions – the local school boards. Catholic boards have an autonomous authority in the constitution although they too pay service to the Provincial authority over the secular curriculum.

Over the last five years, following the province’s educational strategies and goals under Minister Lecce has been frankly an exercise in trying to keep up with a bouncing ball. To suggest there has more disruption than productivity is to engage in passing compliments to incompetence.

A case in point (and there have been an overly generous number of them available) is the latest scandal afflicting the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). Management has been encouraging (compelling) its local and system-wide administrators to take Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training because they have been convinced such preparation will translate into improved outcomes for student. One Principal, Richard Bilkszto, committed suicide, allegedly as a result of the harassment and bullying by a leader in two such seminars attended by 200 of his colleagues.

There has not yet been a coroner’s inquest nor a police investigation, but there is regrettably a deceased person. A lawsuit had been filed for damages. The lawyer, Lisa Bildy, is awaiting instructions from the executors. The TCDSB has commissioned a review of the circumstances. Minister Lecce has not. Neither of them has revealed the mandate of the review.

Th TDSB is a demographically complex institution. It publishes a plethora of studies, including a Student and Parent Census (2017, but would probably not have changed much in the last few years) which it says helps guide it in expenditure of resources for student needs.

Its Parent community has, interestingly, relatively high levels of formal education: 62% have a university degree and 21% a college diploma. Not surprisingly, 32% of parents are in high professional/senior management; a further 23% mid management roles. They seem to be results oriented.

In racial backgrounds, only 29% identify as “White”, 40% as Asian (three categories), 11% as “Black”, 12% as “Mixed”, 6% as Middle Eastern, 2% as Latin American and 0.3% as Indigenous. Mr. Bilkszto attended seminars on racism where he appeared to disagree with the experts who maintained that Canada was more racist than the USA. His disagreement apparently led to some vitriolic reaction by the presenters.

The TDSB also asked about the “religious background” of its clientele. Presumably, this is factored, and applied, in their in-classroom teaching strategies otherwise why ask? Of the respondents, 33% said they were Christian, 29% denied any religious affiliation, 19% are Islamic, 8% Hindu, 4% “other”, 4% Buddist and 2% Jewish. Two other groups – those who attend Catholic schools or private schools are obviously no part of the equation or concern of the TDSB.

Nonetheless, being the largest school board in the country with about 235,000 students, the TDSB either sees itself as the weathervane of the country of is pushed by the province to spearhead its social agenda. Therefore, another heading in the survey dealt with “sexual orientation”. From the Grade 7-8 cohort, 94% declared themselves heterosexual, 4% non-binary and 2% were “questioning”. Heterosexuals decreased to 91% during the high school years.

For reference only, Census 2021 found that self declared non-binary residents above the age of 15 were one in 300 (0.33%).

With all this “rich data”, the TDSB seems incapably of reversing the culture of intolerance, disrespect for authority and violence that has characterized its academic environment this year. Now it must add the remains of Mr. Bilkszto to examples of failed policies.

(Graphics from Toronto District School Board’s website)

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