Sabrina Maddeaux: Toronto schools ruined by woke fake fairness

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It’s not every day that a public school board announces its intention to take a butcher’s knife from Canada’s arts sector, crush the country’s growing athletic prowess, erase its own educational offerings and ceding territory to the private sector.

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Yet that’s exactly what the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) did earlier this week. In the pursuit of so-called equitable access, it plans eliminate auditions and competency-based admissions criteria for its specialized schools and programs for the arts, elite athletics, and STEM, among other fields of study, and instead admit students through a process random selection where “interest” is the only litmus test.

Whereas previously applicants had to show their aptitude for the field of their choice, they will now simply write a letter which essentially says “I like to dance!” or “Video games are fun!” to participate in a lottery where entry slots are drawn. For athletics programs, applicants may only be required to submit a practice schedule and coaching letter.

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This grossly flawed decision embodies the worst impulses of revivalism, which are more concerned with the optics of well-being than the actual results. In reality, the change will strip specialized programs of their value and widen the opportunity gap, as schools and private programs become the only places where highly gifted children can hone their talents.

Ironically, it is often the Conservatives who are accused of weakening public systems so that private systems become the only viable choice. But even the most ardent advocates of privatization could not dream of accomplishing all at once what the overzealous progressives of the TDSB are about to do.

Imagine if, rather than requiring students to graduate from elementary school to enter high school, the TDSB simply fast-tracks any student who thinks high school looks cool. Next, they eliminated grades that could be perceived as barriers to inclusivity.

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The absurd result would not be more equitable access to high school, but a lower level of education for all, as more advanced topics and discussions gave way to “accessible” topics that students of all ages and backgrounds abilities could seize.

It’s the ridiculous logic that will see a rare state-funded avenue for elite training with peers of similar skills and motivations reduced to the equivalent of signing up for a free class at a community center.

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There will also be wider ripple effects, as students who cannot afford private schooling or education, but who show exceptional potential, are denied educational experiences that truly challenge their abilities. the test.

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For example, specialized arts programs often feed university arts programs and cultural institutions across the country. Just as a star athlete won’t improve playing with someone handling a hockey stick for the first time, dancers, musicians and actors need to practice with peers of comparable skill. Deprived of the chance to do so, the student not only suffers, the quality of the Canadian artistic landscape also suffers.

I would know — I graduated from an honors arts program, even though it’s run by the York Region DSB. My classes weren’t useful simply because they existed, but because of the caliber of classmates I was surrounded by, who in turn attracted a high caliber of teachers and industry opportunities.

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Additionally, there are certain anxieties, pressures, and triumphs that only peers with similar high-level experiences in the arts or athletics can understand. These programs form circles of support with classmates who feel more like family members and help students cope with highly competitive fields.

It should be noted that no one is stopping children who love football, dancing, drawing, or computer programming from pursuing those interests through classes and after-school programs offered in most public schools. Of course, every student should have the chance to experience and learn arts, sports, and STEM skills. The TDSB should do everything possible to ensure that local schools not only provide these opportunities, but also a quality education. This does not mean, however, that they should water down the specialized programs so that no one is left behind.

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It will not be the wealthier and, yes, often white children who will suffer the most if these opportunities do indeed disappear into a single abyss. Their parents will find the time and the money to make up for it. It is the very students the TDSB claims to be helping — marginalized and economically disadvantaged children — who will be hurt when what used to be world-class education becomes diluted into Arts 101.

You cannot ensure more equitable access to single-family homes by forcing everyone to live in bachelor apartments, and the TDSB cannot improve access to specialized programs by effectively destroying what makes them special in the first place. A better alternative would be to invest deeper and wider in improving public arts, athletics and STEM courses for young students, especially in disadvantaged communities, so that when audition time comes , talent is less easily confused with access to private guardianship.

Places in specialized schools and programs are coveted for a reason: they offer a great education, support, and experience without a high price tag. They provide a path to careers in the arts, sports, and STEM that are not dependent on wealth or family connections. Are these programs perfect? No, and it’s admirable to aim for more inclusivity and diversity. But it would be a crime against the talents of tomorrow if they were destroyed by the TDSB’s rush to appear politically correct.

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