Councillor Shelley Carroll

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Friday, June 03, 2005

May 28th Strangling Heritage Language Programs

I took a trip down memory lane Saturday when I joined old friends from the TDSB at a dinner to celebrate International Languages programs. I'm always happy to go back for that visit. In Don Valley East, M.P.P. David Caplan and I joined forces to fight cutbacks proposed to the weekend programs at Woodbine JHS and Georges Vanier S.S. as well as other classes throughout the area.

It was wonderful to enjoy the many student performances but not so wonderful to ask around and learn that many of the cuts that were made despite our protests have not been reversed. Worse still, the rejigging of staffing formulae continue to slowly strangle the programs.

For my money, one of the saddest losses was the TDSB Saturday Secondary credit program at Georges Vanier S. S. in Mandarin. Students were traveling from all over the City to obtain an extra credit (Sometimes a much-need credit) in the Mandarin language spoken at home. For adolescents in particular, it is crucial that cultural ties to parents and grandparents are maintained. Assimilation should never divide a family unit. For students who are not yet totally proficient in English, it was a chance to get one credit without the ESL struggle.

In a secondary system where students are overloaded during the week, it is almost impossible to add on a weekday evening class at the end of a long bus ride across town. But that is what the Previous Government, Provincial Supervisor Paul Christie and TDSB Director Dave Reid all recommended at the time. The Saturday Credit program was moved to a Wednesday night and the enrollment dropped to a tiny fraction of what it had been on Saturday mornings.

Margaret Mead once said, "In education there is only one thing you can do quickly: Damage. Fixing it takes a lot of time."