Star Editorial: Those who care about math education for all should focus on results, not rhetoric about colonialism

Good editorial calling for focus on substance, not rhetoric:

Kids in Ontario ought to get the best possible education in mathematics. And that means all kids — including ones who have historically been left behind in this crucial area.

We should hold the government accountable on this, and demand it do everything possible on both counts — designing the best math education, and delivering an approach to teaching that ensures no groups are excluded from success.

What we shouldn’t be doing is getting hung up on rhetoric about “decolonizing” math education and worrying about the “historical roots and social constructions” of mathematics.

This is a giant distraction from those real issues — the quality of education and making sure the government gives teachers the resources they need to deliver it to all their students.

The issue arises because the Ford government has dropped language about racism and colonialism from the preamble to the province’s new math curriculum.

The paragraph that’s been edited out said this: “Mathematics has been used to normalize racism and marginalization of non-Eurocentric mathematical knowledges, and a decolonial, anti-racist approach to mathematics education makes visible its historical roots and social constructions.”

How does focusing on language of this sort help any students actually learn math, or help any teachers operate to their best ability in the classroom? 

And how does it help to get Ontarians behind the cause of making sure we have the best math education possible, and the government carries through on delivering it?

The answer is it doesn’t do any of those things. All it does it convince most parents — and most teachers, for that matter — that the people in charge of designing curriculums are more interested in pushing a political/social agenda than in delivering the best education.

It also distracts from the genuine issues buried beneath those layers of jargon. It’s undoubtedly true that many students — Black, Indigenous and other racialized students among them — have been disadvantaged by the way math and other subjects have been taught.

This is a real, documented problem and it’s in everyone’s interest that it be addressed without delay.

To the government’s credit, it took a big step in that direction vowing to end streaming in Grade 9 — making young teenagers choose between “academic” and “applied” tracks in high school. There are stacks of evidence that this has had a disproportionate impact on Black, Indigenous and poor students, limiting their opportunities for the future.

So any new curriculum, especially in core subjects like math, should take into account the fact that some groups have been left behind.

And, in fact, while the government chopped some words from the preamble to the new math curriculum, it added this new paragraph: “The curriculum emphasizes the need to eliminate systemic barriers and to serve students belonging to groups that have been historically disadvantaged and underserved in mathematics education.”

That gets to the heart of the matter, but of course words alone are not enough. The real test will be if the government follows through and makes sure the intent in that paragraph is translated into action and results.

We made that point last month when Education Minister Steven Lecce unveiled Ontario’s new Grade 9 math curriculum.

It’s a single curriculum for all students — no more of that “streaming” — and it looks like a step forward toward making sure they’ll acquire math skills they can use in a wide range of science, technology and trade careers. It includes mandatory learning on coding, data literacy, mathematical modelling and financial literacy.

The government says it’s committed millions to make sure the new curriculum is properly delivered — and that students who find themselves in a more academic math class get all the supports they need to succeed.

But this government has a track record of cheaping out in areas like this, and those who care about math education need to keep up the pressure and make sure that doesn’t happen. In the end, that will count a lot more than all that grad-school rhetoric about “colonialism.”

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2021/07/19/those-who-care-about-math-education-for-all-should-focus-on-results-not-rhetoric-about-colonialism.html

International education in Canada is booming — but the system is flawed. Here’s how to fix it

Final part of the Star’s series on international education and their recommendations how to address the abuse and challenges. Some are more realistic than others (hard to see provincial funding increasing to reduce reliance on international students, and not sure what the capacity is for settlement services to handle students) but many are eminently practical:

Make more classroom supports available. Provide better information on employment rights. And begin regulating education recruiters.

Those are just some of the ways to bolster the experience of international students in Canada and improve the burgeoning international education system, according to students, teachers, policy-makers and others.

A months-long joint investigation by the Toronto Star and the St. Catharines Standard found the explosive growth in the number of international students in Canada, particularly in Ontario colleges, has left students feeling overwhelmed and teachers frustrated.

There are now more than 572,000 international students in Canada — the largest cohort ever — and a 73 per cent hike since 2014. That unprecedented growth has proven extremely lucrative, with international students pumping $21.6 billion into campuses, communities and the economy nationwide last year. But it has also brought significant challenges.

Part 1 of the Price of Admission series looks at how international students have increasingly been used as a key source of revenue to prop up an underfunded Canadian education system. Part 2 examines how one Ontario college scrambled to deal with a crisis on campus in the wake of a surge in international enrolment. And Part 3 explores how international students, desperate to stay here permanently, are sometimes exploited by employers.

Reporters spoke with students, teachers, school administrators, policy-makers, academic researchers, recruiters and advocates on how we can make things better.

Some have suggested one way of preventing international students from being taken advantage of in Canada, would be to grant them permanent residence upon arrival. But others say this is unrealistic and it is unlikely any political party in power would want to do that.

Here are some of their other suggestions:

For the provincial government:

  • Invest in post-secondary education to reduce reliance on revenue from international students to fund public education.
  • Regulate education recruiters to crack down on misinformation about Canada’s education and immigration systems, similar to a mechanism in place in Manitoba that monitors designated education providers, recruiters and contracted agents.
  • Reach out to international students to inform them about their job rights and enforce employer compliance.

For the federal government:

  • Make pre-arrival information and checklists available to incoming students on such things as housing, transportation, cost of living, health care, immigration and employment.
  • Grant students access to settlement services, including help with job searches, housing and counselling.
  • Provide clear information to prospective students about the pathways to immigration and the criteria for permanent residence down the road.
  • Raise the threshold of the GIC deposit required of international students to ensure they have the minimum savings to complete their studies in Canada.
  • Enhance and expand the immigration department’s current “letter of acceptance verification project” and “international student compliance project” to ensure students are not using their study permit just for the purpose of entering the country. Make this part of the regular audit of Canada’s international education strategy.
  • Work with provincial partners to survey students about their needs and experience, and track their progress through the education and immigration systems, using the data for policy reviews and decisions.

For schools:

  • Improve vetting system to ensure English language admission test scores accurately reflect a student’s actual language proficiency, including interviews with college staff.
  • Provide improved linguistic supports, including better access to translators, to help students from non-English speaking countries navigate the education system, student and medical supports, and to assist teachers in the classrooms.
  • Provide additional classroom and counselling support to help international students unfamiliar with Canada’s education system, teaching styles and culture throughout their studies and not just limited to the initial orientation.
  • Offer cultural sensitivity and awareness training to teaching and administrative staff about international students and the unique challenges and circumstances they face.
  • Implement an early warning system among school administration to assist failing students.
  • Start a buddy system matching international students with their domestic peers to ease their transition and better integrate them into the school community.

Source: International education in Canada is booming — but the system is flawed. Here’s how to fix it

Why are so many Ontario black children in foster and group homes?

black kids in careInteresting but not surprising. Having the data allows questions and discussion:

Researchers concluded the results were influenced by the 2008 recession, which affected blacks more than whites and caused more strain on families. Poverty, it noted, is the strongest predictor of maltreatment rates.

Most children’s aid societies in Ontario don’t keep income statistics on the families they serve. The new provincial database won’t capture that information either. But local CAS officials know poverty is often a factor.

“Sometimes people don’t want to make the connection between poverty and child protection,” says David Rivard, chief executive officer for the Toronto CAS. “But there is a correlation. That’s the reality.”

A recent report on child poverty in Toronto co-authored by the agency noted that 41 per cent of children of southern and eastern African heritage are growing up poor — more than three times the rate of children with roots in the British Isles. Meantime, 26 per cent of children whose families are from the Caribbean and 25 per cent from North Africa live in poverty.

Groups serving the black community are trying to bridge the cultural divide that can land children in care. The common use of spanking to discipline children in Africa and the Caribbean, for example, can lead to astonished parents being charged with assault.

… After the Star began asking about the over representation of black youth in care, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services met with CAS officials, the provincial child advocate and Parsons’ African Canadian Legal Clinic.

Children’s aid officials and the legal clinic late last month submitted a funding proposal for a project to look into why the numbers are so high and how to reduce them.

“This cannot be just another study or training program,” Parsons insists. “What I want to see is concrete, substantive change — a reduction in those numbers.”

Parsons and other advocates say the numbers won’t go down until family counsellors from their community team up with CAS workers on every protection investigation involving a black child. That’s how Texas, for example, reduced the number of black children and youth in care.

“I’m not saying there aren’t kids in our community who should be in care,” Parsons says. “But the first approach for an African-Canadian child should not be apprehension and care. And that’s what the numbers are saying to me right now.”

Why are so many black children in foster and group homes? | Toronto Star.

Toronto is diverse but not as inclusive as it could be: Goar

Carol Goar on diversity and inclusion, using the United Way keynote speech by Zabeen Hirji to frame her piece:

“Having diversity is interesting,” said Zabeen Hirji, chief human resources officer for the Royal Bank non-commitally. “It’s when you do something with it that it becomes powerful.”

She had put her finger on one of the biggest challenges facing this city: moving from diversity to inclusion.

As a woman, an Ismaili Muslim and an immigrant from Tanzania, Hirji is acutely aware of the difference. Many Torontonians are not.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the United Way of Toronto, Hirji was careful not to offend the business leaders in the room. Eighty per cent of the charity’s funds come from the corporate sector in direct donations and employee payroll contributions. But she made it clear that diversity — which Toronto has in abundance — is simply a description of the city’s talent pool. Inclusion is the act of tapping into the whole pool — not just the top layer — and mixing people from disparate cultures, backgrounds and generations together in a way that allows them to combine their strengths.

On that score, Toronto doesn’t do as well. Very few immigrants — who make up 46 per cent of the city’s population — hold senior positions in business, politics or civil society. Racialized Torontonians — as they call themselves — are disproportionately poor, underemployed and socially isolated.

Many influential Torontonians who could reach out — corporate CEOs, political leaders and heads of major public institutions — don’t; or don’t do it effectively. Many immigrants and their descendents in turn, live in ethnic enclaves, work for employers from their country of origin and socialize among themselves.

Hirji wasn’t there to preach. Her primary message was that harnessing the talent and energy of young people, newcomers, members of First Nations, gays and lesbians and other minorities is good for business and good for the city. She offered three tips, drawn from her 13 years spearheading RBC’s drive to make its workforce a better reflection of the population: Start with a clear commitment from the top, develop an explicit plan and get buy-in from all employees.

It was the right approach for a breakfast speech to the United Way. But it will take more than an upbeat sales pitch to identify and dismantle the barriers that hold non-white Torontonians back.

Toronto is diverse but not as inclusive as it could be: Goar | Toronto Star.

Bill C-24 is wrong: There is only one kind of Canadian citizen – Globe Editorial

Globe’s Canada Day editorial:

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has defended his bill by arguing citizenship is a privilege, not a right. He is wrong. It may come with responsibilities, but it is a right. And once legitimately acquired, by birth or naturalization, it cannot be taken away. Bill C-24 gives the government the kind of sweeping power that is common in dictatorships, not in a democracy built upon the rule of law, where all citizens are equal. The changes to the Citizenship Act erode those basic principles, creating a two-tier citizenship that dilutes what it means to be Canadian.

Bill C-24 is wrong: There is only one kind of Canadian citizen – The Globe and Mail.

Rick Salutin in the Star:

Why did they do it? Here’s my guess: It’s not enough for them to merely run Canada. They want to define it, and they don’t want any backchat. Some people need to be right, not just powerful. So they’ve turned citizenship into a privilege, not a right, and since someone has to grant a privilege, it’ll be them.

But here’s my biggest problem. I don’t think loyalty — in any particular version — should have a thing to do with citizenship. The democratic core of citizenship is you get to challenge the values of the moment and can’t be shut up. It’s a license to disagree and debate which direction your nation takes, no matter what the majority thinks. Is that unpatriotic? It depends on how you see things. For many patriots, not going along has been the essence of patriotism. I’d say put people in jail for life if you insist — but don’t touch their citizenship.

Hello, you must be going: government waters down Canadian citizenship: Salutin

Commentary on Bill C-24: Citizenship Act Revisions

Not surprisingly, the Toronto Star has a field day criticizing the new citizenship bill, with an editorial and commentary by Haroon Siddiqui and Thomas Walkom:

In typical fashion for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s law-and-order obsessed government, the laws promise to “protect the value of Canadian citizenship” by cracking down on problems that largely don’t exist. The vast majority of new Canadians are loyal, honest, law-abiding citizens. They have contributed enormously to the building-up of this nation. But you wouldn’t know it to judge from the unwelcome mat rolled out this week by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander. It’s all about cracking down on the marginal few who turn out to be treasonous, terrorists, criminals or fraudsters, and raising the bar for everyone else.

Canada’s new Citizenship Act reeks of mistrust: Editorial | Toronto Star.

He [Minister Alexander], too, is promising “reforms” and more get-tough measures. He will reduce the backlog in citizenship applications (now at 320,000) and waiting times (now between 25 and 35 months). If Kenney cleaned up the backlog in the skilled workers program by throwing out 98,000 applicants who had waited years in the queue, Alexander is going to “improve” the clogged citizenship processing by making immigrants wait four years instead of three to get citizenship, and make them pass a stringent English and French language test, as well as another test on their knowledge of Canada. Never mind that many native Canadians may not pass those tests, either.

As he heralded the “strengthening” of the Citizenship Act, he slipped in such measures as tripling the fee and giving himself the power to grant and strip citizenship — no need for the rule of law and due process, as he appointed himself the Citizenship Czar in some cases.

How to read Ottawa’s latest immigration changes: Siddiqui

Whether they know it or not, there are plenty of dual nationals here. Even the United States extends citizenship to Canadians with at least one American parent.

It can be argued that citizenship is a privilege rather than a right. It can be said that anyone who commits high crimes and misdemeanors — regardless of birthplace — should lose this privilege.

In an ideal world, that might make sense. But in the real world, public opinion can be fickle and government arbitrary.

After World War II, for instance, Ottawa seriously contemplated deporting all Japanese-Canadians, including those born in this country, to Japan. It probably would have been a popular move.

In the real world, as the career of iconic anti-apartheid fighter Nelson Mandela demonstrates, yesterday’s terrorist can be tomorrow’s hero.

Canada’s new citizenship bill a Trojan horse: Walkom

The National Post has limited commentary, but Kelly McFarland strongly supports the Bill:

Canada has always embraced immigration; the country was built on it and depends on it for our continued growth and vibrancy. But past policies have too often been designed to reflect a spirit of generosity so eager that it exposed the process to abuse, and cheapened the value of what is, in a practical sense, the greatest honour a country can bestow. Citizenship means more than simply buying a passport, or obtaining a bolt hole to be used when life in another country becomes too dangerous or inconvenient. Canada has been preyed on openly by people who put in the minimum time required to gain access to its benefits, only to spend the bulk of their lives outside its borders and careless of its culture. Mr. Alexander’s changes should go some distance to remedying those failings.

Some elements of his plan may prove contentious, and perhaps open to challenge in court. The new rules would enable Ottawa to revoke citizenship from dual citizens who commit treason, take up arms against Canada or engage in terrorist acts here or abroad, freeing Ottawa from the need to assist “citizens” who involve themselves in terrorist escapades overseas. Other countries have similar provisions, but while they would apply only in “exceptional” cases, they may be open to challenge on the basis that they create two standards of citizenship, with some Canadians more equal than others….

But overall the reforms are an excellent start, which emphasize the value of citizenship and demand applicants demonstrate a real desire to make Canada their permanent home, absorb its culture and contribute to its progress and well-being.

Citizenship changes recognize high value of being Canadian

Interestingly, there does not appear to be any commentary in Quebec French language media. Whether this reflects the internal focus on Quebec (e.g., the Values Charter and pre-election positioning) or bigger federal stories (e.g., electoral reform) is unclear.

Some immigration and refugee organization issued critical statements. The Canadian Council for Refugees:

“Citizenship is a fundamental status – not something that is ‘deserved’. It is wrong to use citizenship rules to punish people for wrong-doing – that’s the role of the criminal system,” said Loly Rico, President. “Treating dual citizens differently is discriminatory and violates the fundamental principle that all citizens are equal.”

The CCR also opposes the proposal to make permanent residents wait longer before they can apply for citizenship. Extending the wait period undermines efforts to integrate newcomers.

Offering citizenship is a key way Canada embraces newcomers and encourages them to quickly become full participating members of our society. Traditionally this has been an area where Canada excelled.

The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers:

Unlike the Conservative government, CARL has full confidence in the Canadian criminal justice system’s ability to effectively punish individuals who violate the law.  As such, CARL condemns the proposed provisions that will allow for citizenship stripping. We do not need to revive the medieval practice of banishment to achieve the goals of punishment, namely deterrence, retribution, denunciation, and rehabilitation.  We now have the benefit of a modern judicial process that includes prosecution, trial before an independent judge and, in the event of conviction, a punishment that expresses society’s condemnation with the full weight of the law.

The current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration’s predecessor falsely claimed that citizenship stripping is commonplace in other countries, including the United States.  In fact, the only western state to make use of this practice in the last few years is the United Kingdom, and it is an outlier whose use of it should serve as a cautionary tale.  Citizenship stripping has been unconstitutional in the United States for over 50 years.

PRESS RELEASE: Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers reacts to proposed government citizenship bill

Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

Issue: Increasing the amount of time a permanent resident must wait before becoming a full participant in Canadian society will not strengthen democracy in Canada. Some permanent residents, such as those who were Convention Refugees, will face difficulties in travelling to see family or take advantage of overseas employment opportunities.

Issue: The government has said that the Bill will reduce the processing time. But this may not make a real difference to immigrants since they will have to wait longer to apply…

Issue: The change will impact on seniors who are currently exempt from these provisions, including those who have been working since they arrived and did not have time to take a language test, those who know enough English or French to live and work in Canada but not enough to pass the required language test, and those who do not have the capacity to learn a new language such as older refugees.

Issue: Increasing the amount of time a permanent resident must wait before becoming a full participant in Canadian society will not strengthen democracy in Canada. Some permanent residents, such as those who were Convention Refugees, will face difficulties in travelling to see family or take advantage of overseas employment opportunities.

Issue: The government has said that the Bill will reduce the processing time. But this may not make a real difference to immigrants since they will have to wait longer to apply.

OCASI Comments On Proposed Citizenship Changes

A few simple questions for Pauline Marois | Toronto Star

Haroon Siddiqui in The Star comes up with a few questions on how the proposed Charter could be implemented and the numerous practical issues that arise. The challenge for any principles-based approach lies in the practical; his list indicates just how impractical and exclusionary it actually is.

A few simple questions for Pauline Marois | Toronto Star.