POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN TORONTO'S GLOBE AND MAIL
Sorry, but this is a hopeless, go-nowhere idea.
First, Chris Spence, who is a very pleasant man but a truly ineffectual executive, displayed his obsession with boys' performance - there's no other word for it than an obsession - for all his years in Hamilton, where his genuine academic achievements were almost non-existent.
Second, every failed school in Chicago – where I grew up and attended a variety of terrible and excellent schools depending on the neighborhood we lived in - was long ago renamed an “academy.” It's a meaningless gesture, and the schools that were failing are still failing.
Third, this amounts to a back-door approach to the even more meaningless afro-centric school idea. To a great extent, the boys with which this is a concern - that is those dropping out in large numbers - are black Canadians. Something more than a form of segregation is required.
The real problems of these boys could be handled in the existing system, were the School Board to show any genuine thinking or imagination.
Serious research shows that putting failing boys on a treadmill for a vigorous effort in the morning yields maybe three hours of much improved docility and learning. Hyper-active black American boys who could not read actually were able to learn to read doing this.
Something along these lines is one of the real solutions to the problems of failing boys.
Another approach to the same problem would be a soccer league that would see boys spending a little time every morning in a demanding practice.
These approaches must of course also be combined with efficient teaching, using only teachers who have some insight into these problems. A good many of our existing teachers simply would not qualify.