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Presentation by Andria Spindel to the TDSB re lottery vs merit assignment to specialized programs

Presentation by Andria Spindel, to the TDSB Priorities and Planning Committee, June 7, 2023, not on behalf of CAEF but as a parent of former TDSB students. The issue was the use of the lottery method for assigning students to specialized programs such as math, arts, or science, in which merit is no longer a criteria and a fixed number of spaces are allotted to black students with the balance being assigned via a lottery. This approach represents a view that merit favours children who are “white” but in the view of Ms Spindel, and many others including representatives from the Chinese and South East Asian communities, this approach discriminates on the basis of race rather than treating all students the same and allowing them to compete for limited spaces in specialized programs, where they can distinguish themselves and grow their talents. All students can equally compete, and skills and aptitudes are likely to be evenly distributed across all ethno-racial communities.

Good day, my name is Andria Spindel, and I am the mother of three adult children, two of whom were public school students, and both of whom were accepted into specialized TDSB programs. I was for 38 years the President and CEO of March of Dimes Canada, and since retiring at the end of 2018, I am a full time volunteer with a national charitable organization. However, I am not here as a representative of any organization but as an interested citizen, resident and tax payer in Toronto, with experience and knowledge of specialized programs for children with special needs or exceptionalities, including giftedness, and as a parent.

My older son was recommended for the gifted program, and was accepted, and then chose not to attend the program in favour of staying in a class with his friends rather than travelling to a gifted program out of our neighborhood. My daughter was accepted into the IB program and did travel out of the neighborhood. Both were accepted on merit, and not on race, and would have been insulted had there been a race-based selection process. Yet both of my children are not Caucasian and both are Jewish. Where does being Jewish, a minority community that is most frequently targeted for hate crimes, fit into the illogical lottery selection system? Being Jewish is not being a member of a race, as Jews come in all colours, and yet, it is a significant minority community that experiences all kinds of discrimination.

Jews know only too well what selection by “race” or “religion” means and it is abhorrent, and as unacceptable in 2023 as it was in earlier times when quotas existed to limit the number of Jews admitted to university, to jobs, and to membership in social clubs across this country. This current “quota” practice must stop immediately.

It is essential that students with special needs, have specialized programs, so if the plan continues, will these programs also be thrown open to a lottery system? Does it make sense to have classes for deaf and hard of hearing students open to any student who submits an application? Does it make any sense to have programs for students who are gifted, open to any student who chooses to play the lottery, or are these programs intended to meet the specific needs of students who have such “exceptionalities, hence special needs? Are not specialized science classes, arts classes, music classes etc, also in existence for those with such gifts? Why would one’s skin colour have anything to do with acceptance into such programs? Surely, “equality” or fairness means that every child is equally tested and assigned to the right program for his or her needs, talents, abilities, interests? Merit means something. So do hard work and achievement. Luck has no place in educational assignment, any more than it would serve any student’s best interest to hand out marks based on race or randomness.

One of the board members of the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation has been quoted as comparing the TDSB’s policy of selective racial preferences to the “numerus clausus” law adopted in Hungary in the 1920s to limit the number of Jews admitted to educational institutes. As a Jew, it pains me to acknowledge that this comparison is apt, and that racial quotas, ironically motivated by anti-racist aspirations, are again being introduced and could be TDSB policy. As US Chief Justice Roberts said, “If you want to end racial discrimination, stop discriminating by race.”

Lastly, I was also disturbed to read in last weekend’s Toronto Star that this committee, at its last meeting, received a literature review produced by the Board’s research department that was tainted by numerous instances of plagiarism and concocted references. Incidents like these undermine public confidence in the Board’s decision-making process and may cause the public to suspect that the resulting decisions are fixed, not evidence-based.

The TDSB must examine how to ensure the highest standards, fairness and appropriateness of options for each student and that cannot be done by tossing names in a hat.

Thank you for the opportunity to address this Committee.


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