Anthony Furey: Toronto School Board Should Apologize for Racially Divisive Guidebook

Anthony Furey: Toronto School Board Should Apologize for Racially Divisive Guidebook
The Toronto District School Board logo is seen on a sign in front of a high school in Toronto, in a file photo. (The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn)
Anthony Furey

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB), Canada’s largest such board, has shelved a controversial teaching resource after public and political outcry.

The booklet, called “A Teacher Resource for Challenging Oppression in TDSB Classrooms,” is a race-obsessed document that was distributed to all teachers in the board.

The beginning lays out what the authors describe as “core beliefs” around education. Here’s one of them: “Education is a colonial structure that centres whiteness and Eurocentricity and therefore it must be actively decolonized.” Here’s another: “White Supremacy is a structural reality that impacts all students and must be discussed and dismantled in classrooms, schools, and Communities.”

These and the other core principles make it clear that the document believes toxic identity politics is and must be a defining feature of the classroom.

The booklet describes itself as “a teaching resource, developed to support classroom-based educators (teachers and support staff) to fulfill this commitment of anti-oppressive practices by facilitating critical conversations in their classrooms.”

They want teachers to take their divisive talking points and start accusatory and hostile conversations in the classroom among all kids. They’re not stopping there though.

There are sections on how the booklet’s agenda should be rolled out by superintendents, administrators, teachers, the broader community and students themselves.

When it comes to the expectations the authors have of the kids themselves, they say students should “transfer and implement the skills learned in school [about this activism] to other aspects of their lives and to participate as social agents of change within their local communities and beyond.”

In other words, once you’re done calling your classmates white supremacists, you should go home and hurl the label at your neighbours and parents. It’s like something out of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

It would be one thing if this was one of those teaching resources that the TDSB had sourced from an external provider and merely posted online for any teacher who wanted to take a look.

But this was created internally by TDSB staff. A teacher, two principals, and an administrator are the four authors of the document. This is being pushed to all teachers in-house from the top down.

The document was posted online and quickly caused an uproar. Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce was asked about it at a press conference and voiced his displeasure with it. “My message to school boards is clear,” Lecce said. “There is no place for divisive ideologies – every action they take should prioritize and support academic achievement.”

People aren’t having it anymore. They want kids of all backgrounds to be given the tools to succeed in life. And everyone is increasingly seeing—and becoming more unapologetic in saying—that the sort of rubbish contained in this resource book doesn’t help. It just makes things worse.

The tide is clearly turning. The Toronto Star is an unapologetic left-leaning publication that, in the recent past, might have framed its reporting on the issue as an attack on people who objected to the document. Instead, the Star’s story about the resource booklet quotes a teacher who is outraged by it, saying they are “speechless by the brazenness of this document” and that “it would be nice to see some accountability on this document.”

That teacher is right. We need accountability. Not just the shelving of the document.

The TDSB said it had only temporarily removed the document from its website for review, referencing “feedback about some of the language used.”

That’s not good enough. The document needs to be entirely tossed out and the TDSB should apologize for releasing it.

These sorts of incidents are becoming all too common in public education and we need to set a new tone that they’re just not acceptable and should not be happening anymore. People of all walks of life just want excellence in education for their kids.

Towards the end of the divisive booklet, there’s a question the authors pose to teachers: “How do I enter this learning with humility and vulnerability, knowing that as educators, it is not possible to have all the answers and we must model this reality for students?”

Maybe the authors, and the TDSB higher-ups approving the document, should be asking themselves these sorts of questions instead.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.