TDSB social justice bafflegab jumps the shark

The fact that student achievement in basics such as math, literacy and problem solving continue to decline in Ontario public schools is hardly surprising because these subjects are considered secondary to the dominant social justice mantra. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

Over the past couple of years, there has been a growing backlash against the various gender/race/identity policies being promoted in the public school system as parents and others became better informed about the presumptions on which these policies are based. 

In the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), the largest school board in Canada and likely the most “woke,” concerns came to a head in mid-2023 with the tragic suicide of a Toronto school principal, Richard Bilkszto, who had been shamed, humiliated and effectively labelled a racist in front of his peers by a so-called anti-racist consultant. Even the WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) agreed that Bilkszto had been abused and harassed by the consultant. Regrettably, Bilkszto took his own life after being greatly affected by this terrible experience. 

The policies in question – DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) and CRT (critical race theory) involve the assumptions that the education system is systemically racist, that white students are oppressors no matter their views or behaviours, that merit is no longer the priority in student outcomes but that race and gender issues prevail and non-white students are effectively encouraged to view themselves as victims whom the system constantly discriminates against and thwarts their success. 

Needless to say, a focus on all of the social justice claptrap means much less time and energy devoted to providing the skills that most parents and taxpayers would expect a public education system to provide. The fact that student achievement in basics such as math, literacy and problem solving continue to decline in Ontario public schools is hardly surprising because these subjects are considered secondary to the dominant social justice mantra. 

The publicity around the Bilkszto suicide and the events leading up to it caused a number of defensive reactions on the part of school board administrators and teachers and serious concerns on the part of parents. There was a belief that the system would back off on some of the extreme ideologies they were introducing into the classroom. 

Last week, the TDSB basically said “hold my beer.” The school board came out with a manual of sorts entitled “Facilitating Critical Conversations” and subtitled “A Teaching Resource for Challenging Oppression in TDSB Classrooms.”  The authors are four black teachers and/or principals. One of their common themes is the importance of a hip-hop curriculum and hip-hop as critical relevant responsive pedagogy. Not exactly a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) approach to learning, something that is widely recognized as badly needed in our schools. 

The goals stated in the guide are described as “fairness, equity and inclusion” – things that any sane person would support. But the problems arise when these principles are twisted to result in every subject being approached through an extreme social justice lens where all white students are made to feel bad for being oppressors and non-white students consider any failings to be a result of the inevitable oppression and discrimination they endure, discounting the importance of their own hard work and accomplishment. This type of approach led to the absurd claim by some teachers in the system that “math is racist” and other such foolishness. 

As is common in far-left circles, some of the people involved in the production of this guide have also weighed in on the Israel-Hamas conflict and expressed views that were, not surprisingly, anti-Israel and pro-Hamas. This is certainly not what should be influencing teachers and students in our public schools. 

The TDSB tends to be a leader among other school boards, so it is likely that there is similar policy direction going on in a number of school boards, if not all of them. The tyranny of the minority of teachers and principals who are pushing this social justice focus over all other topics is such that the many teachers that disagree with this approach are afraid to speak up lest they be treated like Richard Bilkszto – humiliated, ostracized and unfairly singled out for criticism. 

Sue-Ann Levy (@SueAnnLevy on X) has documented this situation extensively in her columns for True North Media. The fact moderate teachers have been terrorized by the extremists should concern all parents and others who believe in a productive, balanced education system that prepares young people for a successful future, not a highly politicized indoctrination. 

This latest TDSB document indicates that any progress in fighting back against the ridiculous and unhelpful extreme social justice direction of our public education system has been minimal. Public opinion polls and other research indicates that the vast majority of parents and other Canadians oppose this direction in our schools, yet too many governments, including the Ontario provincial government, are not dealing with this problem and getting the schools back on track. It’s time provincial governments grew a spine and took on the extremists that are dominating the discussion and hindering the future success of students.  

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