Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Toronto Star series on hiring non-white teachers

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 20, 2008

On Monday, May 20, the Toronto Star debuted its three-part series on making faculty in Toronto’s schools more diverse. Right now, many schools are at least half non-white, yet only 20% of teachers are non-white. The University of Toronto is therefore trying to pitch to very young kids….middle school aged, hoping that one day, they’d become teachers too.

What bugs me is that the paper makes it sound like non-white kids don’t become teachers because they don’t see teachers of their own culture in the classroom. There were even fewer non-white teachers in the 1980s when I started school, and yet, teaching was one of my career choices until Grade 7. That was I wanted to be a lawyer, an on-and-off career choice (other career possiblities included writer/journalist, actress, country/folk rock singer and Broadway producer) until my second year of undergrad, when the LSATs kind of freaked me out (sure, I could have done the Australia route, but I didn’t want to be that far away from home). Wanting to be a writer/journalist continued (and continues to this very day), however. I also wanted to be a publicist (I even went to PR school for that). I was never influenced by anyone from my culture. In fact, wanting to become a writer/journalist was going AGAINST it. As was being a publicist (even though they make good money. I guess it isn’t necessarily “respectable” since you might be working with celebs. Even in the tabloid obsessed world of Hong Kongers). I do agree that kids need a boost, but do they really need role models from their own or from similiar cultures? Just because someone looks like the kids doesn’t mean that they can relate to them culturally. And yes, many people, white or non-white, automatically assume that they will. I also have a problem with sharing the same language or languages with certain students, speaking to them in that language. These students will be singled out by kids who don’t speak the language or languages as a teacher’s pet. Not good, especially in this day and age. You don’t want a kid to be bullied. Also, I’m not sure if a child will actually learn English as quickly this way, because he or she won’t have time to practice.

Part Two: Serving Students in Culturally Clustered Schools

Part Three: Where Teachers Learn Diversity (Wednesday)


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