Commentary – School boards should offer education, not tokenism

Tom Henihan

Under most circumstances, any show of goodwill is welcome and beneficial if that display of respect or kindness is genuine. If expressed as a vain demonstration of one’s own virtue then it is exploitive and selfish.

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) recently decided to expunge the term “chief” from its job titles apparently as an overture in line with the recommendations of Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Certainly, the term “chief” has been used as a generic affront to aboriginal people but it is also more commonly and more importantly, an honorific title. That the term is shared by the ranks of business organizations and other institution in no way diminishes its formal stature in relation to First Nations’ leadership.

Businesses also use the term president, which takes none of the lustre from that term when used as the title of a country’s head of state.

This nonsensical move on behalf of the TDSB offers nothing that is germane to furthering the recommendations of Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In fact, it trivializes that process and diminishes the importance of the Commission’s objectives. To engage in such feel-good, superficial tokenism when so much pressing work needs doing is silly and irresponsible.

It is especially shameful when a board, whose mission is to oversee the education of students in the largest city in Canada, wastes that opportunity by deflecting attention away from the seriousness of pursuing Truth and Reconciliation and engages instead in foolish tokenism.

Every board of education in the country needs to raise the bar on dealing with matters of Truth and Reconciliation. Boards of Education need to educate the students for whom they are responsible by first offering an accurate historical account without omissions, raise the bar morally so First Nations and non-aboriginal Canadians can achieve accord and transcend this brutal, wilfully destructive, unjust and shameful chapter in our history.

This proposal by the TDSB is asinine and shows how oblivious the individuals on that board are to the realities and the urgency of properly addressing the myriad of issues raised by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

TDSB’s behaviour begs the question why people put their hands up to represent their communities through these agencies when they evidently have nothing meaningful or constructive to bring to the table. I assume many are there because they are vain and lack the insight or decency to acknowledge their own limitations.

Returning to the value of goodwill, I would like to reiterate that in all dealings whether they are between nations or individuals, genuine goodwill has the power to get us beyond the most formidable impasse. Therefore, a gesture of goodwill should tie into matters that are relevant to the most vital aspects of what stands between us and not mindlessly squandered on tokenism in which the TDSB likes to indulge.

Of course, it is equally indulgent if we denounce the TDSD but fail to shine a light on our local school boards to ensure that they are mentoring young people to move in a direction that is enlightened, compassionate, inclusive and equal. All school boards should be subject to scrutiny to ensure that they are not coasting along and dressing up their indifference with sham, meaningless gestures.

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