Sunday, June 03, 2007

Did Political Correctness Kill Jordan Manners?

The Globe's Margaret Wente had a great column on Friday. In case you missed it, you can read the whole thing here (Our Safe-Schools Delusion).

It's a blunt, tell-it-like-it-is description of the sad plight of Toronto's inner-city schools, and how teachers are hamstrung to do much to improve the situation. They end up becoming babysitters rather than educators.

The main culprit seems to be an attitude of political correctness enforced by the Ontario Human Rights Commission:

..A few years ago, Toronto's school board was hauled before the Ontario Human Rights Commission for discriminating against minorities. Black activists and parents complained that the schools were handing out too many suspensions and expulsion orders. The rights commission agreed, and called for "alternative" approaches to discipline problems such as detentions and "peer mediation." Since then, the pressure to relax discipline has been intense, and the number of suspensions and expulsions has fallen dramatically. School trustee Gerri Gershon cites these figures as proof that the schools are making "progress." In fact, all they prove is the school administrators' desire to stay out of hot water, at whatever cost...

This reminds me of a recent study that found an over-representation of natives in prisons, etc. So is this all the result of racism or is it instead an inconvenient reality, which has more to do with culture and the results of voluntary apartheid-ism? (And yet it continues.)

...People on the front lines describe a fundamental disconnect between the politicians, the education bureaucrats, and many school trustees on one side, and the reality faced by the teachers on the other. The first group sees Jordan's killers and other youths with knives and guns as essentially innocent young people - "children, really," as Ms. Gershon so guilelessly puts it. The teachers see hardened thugs...

Apparently, one of those "children" that has been arrested for Jordan Manner's murder is a father. And so the cycle continues.

...The one thing the schools are not allowed to do is kick out the thugs. Instead, they wind up for a while in diversion programs, where they are babysat until they're recycled to a regular class. Ideally, of course, we'd have intensive behaviour programs to try to turn them around. So far, however, no school system in the world has been able to cough up the money and resources to do this...

Meantime, our well-meaning education-promoting Premier is about to make a sorry situation worse. He has decreed that from now on we will force students to stay in the system until they're 18, whether they like it or not. Instead of teaching the teachable, administrators will now be forced to spend countless hours attempting to track the whereabouts of sub-adults who can't be taught and have no desire to learn...

As I've stated before, I don't think there is one simple solution to this problem of violence in schools, and any politician who states anything to the contrary is not to be trusted.

Simply playing ostrich and pretending that certain problems don't exist is not going to make them go away. The actions of politicians who use tragedies like Jordan's murder to push a political agenda are particularly heinous.

We are again talking about the logical consequences of an attitude of willful blindness, and it is costing us dearly.

Excellent insight at the Star - A Tale of Two Public Schools. Check out the video on the main page as well.


tori said...

good article!

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Yeah, I didn't know about the OHRC ruling until reading Wente's column.

Now the Toronto School Board's 'see-no-evil' attitude is starting to make sense.

They're not allowed to see any evil.

EL said...

Good post. Being a parent with two kids in school we have been through a couple of issues with school administrators. If your child ever has an issue with another student you may run into the situation where the other student's parent/parents are in denial that their little "Jimmy / Jane" could ever do any wrong. As a society we have again given the government intervention powers to act by not taking responsibility for our own young. The minute that politicians and civil servants start setting the terms of engagement be very scared. As parents this is our responsibility.

Gabby in QC said...

I agree that suspension or expulsion might be a solution for relatively minor problems, but high-risk behavious - violence, vandalism, drug-dealing etc. - would simply become another school's problem. The solution? I don't know.

But here's one example where a different approach seems to have worked:
Please read past Mansbridge info, and focus on the latter part of the article. I don't know if that school continues to have the same kind of success. Hopefully yes.
And another link on the same school:

Candace said...

What a relief! After reading your post I checked our school board policies and yes, expulsion is still an option in Alberta.

Gabby: "but high-risk behavious - violence, vandalism, drug-dealing etc. - would simply become another school's problem."

That shouldn't be the case. In Edmonton, a kid can be expelled from all district schools (I'm assuming weapons, extreme violence or serious drug issues would have to be involved for that to be the case). To be reinstated, evidence of changed behavior, counseling etc needs to be provided.

It sounds to me like Ontario's Ministry of Education has gone toothless.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

It sounds to me like Ontario's Ministry of Education has gone toothless.

The whole province has.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Gabby, thanks for the links. The first one worked, but not the second (at least not for me).

However, some of the points in the CBCwatch article were really interesting.

I think the idea of school uniforms was one of the suggestions following Jordan Manner's murder. It would do a few things, one of which is to flag intruders, and also it might foster an atmosphere more conducive to learning.

spike said...

"Did Political Correctness Kill Jordan Manners?"

in a word YES.

Gabby in QC said...

Joanne, if you want to read that second article I linked to, just Google James Lyng High School and click on the following:
NASSPE: Links > Where the Boys are

Candace, what happens to the students expelled from all district schools? Where do they go from the time of expulsion until they're reinstated?
I fear that those cases would be prime candidates for even more trouble.
I don't presume to have ANY answers, but for consideration:
• much smaller class sizes
• smaller schools with smaller school populations
• innovative programs geared to different clienteles
• separate boys' & girls' classes (seems to have worked at James Lyng)
• don't shield wrongdoers. With the Young Offenders Act, wrongdoers are granted anonymity. Why?

Joanne (True Blue) said...

El, good point. If we as parents abdicate our responsibilities, then we can't complain when the government steps in to correct the mess. Problem is, they're not.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

• don't shield wrongdoers. With the Young Offenders Act, wrongdoers are granted anonymity. Why?

Gabby, I think it's now called the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

As Lorrie Goldstein says, it's worse than the old one in many ways.

Why are they granted anonymity? Good question. It seems to me that an almost 18-year-old, who has allegedly committed murder, and is old enough to father a child, should be considered old enough to handle the consequences of his actions.

Will we ever know how this is dealt with?

Gabby in QC said...

"I think it's now called the Youth Criminal Justice Act."

Thanks for the correction. It seems I'm behind in more ways than one ;-)

The wisdom of our justice system escapes me.

tori said...

my kids are still in the primary grades...I shudder at the idea of them going to high school..

although I'm about to check York Region's policies right this minute

Candace said...

"Candace, what happens to the students expelled from all district schools? Where do they go from the time of expulsion until they're reinstated?"

I'm not sure, but I think to get punted from the whole system, criminal activity would be pretty much a given, and likely more serious than smoking in the bathroom. A guess would be the offender is sent off to junior-jail for rehab?

Wealthy kids would be shipped off to boarding school (I recall an old boss doing just that when his son was becoming a delinquent - apparently there's a military boarding school on Vcr Island that specializes in discipline).

To be honest, this falls under the same category as real jail terms in my mind - as long as the criminal is out of the school system (or in jail for a full term, as the case may be), I'm not overly concerned. If I was living in the Jane & Finch neighborhood, however, I certainly wouldn't be so blase.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I have to agree with Candace on this one. I don't think 'young offenders' belong in the school system - at least not with those kids who follow the rules and actually want to learn.

On the other hand, we don't want them roaming the streets and hanging out at malls either.

Bring back the boot camps!!

tori said...

comments from the star...against the teachers who cam forward!

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Tori, some of those comments are appalling. Check out the recent update at the end of this post.

Mac said...

I don't know whose comments section is worse; the Red Star or the Grope & Maul... Nice to see the leftists display their truly nasty colours in such a public format.