Literacy · Teaching Reflections · Topics for Parents and Students

Why is the government ignoring literacy disparities and the gender divide in conversations about de-streaming in Ontario?

I’m all for student success – I really am, but not band aid solutions or publicity stunts to persuade public opinion.

The Ontario government’s recent plan to de-stream grade 9 would classify as both a band aid solution and publicity stunt to appear more “woke” in the eyes of the ever vigilant liberal media that controls public opinion.

Suddenly, de-streaming is “racist” and “classist” – part of the omnipresent systemic oppression of….everyone except white men. Ironically, though, the vast majority of students in Applied level courses in Ontario are males – and considering black students only make up approximately 10% of students in Ontario public schools, the majority of those males are white. Therefore, the largest identifiable group of students being “relegated” to Applied programming in Ontario are…white males.

Well, that’s an inconvenient truth no one wants leaking out to the press! So inconvenient, in fact, that it is nearly impossible to find readily accessible information about gender disparity in Academic and Applied courses in Ontario high schools. Luckily, though, since I have access to EQAO data which is published as provincial, board, and school graphs I have privy to this “secret” information. Not that I’d need it, since I’ve been teaching Applied level English classes for going on 20 years and usually have classes of 80-100% boys – and of those boys, approximately 80-100% are white.

Why are there no social or government organizations crying to stop the abuse of white males?

Well…duh…because they are so privileged. The most privileged of all! Why would we care about them? You won’t see any arguments or questions about gender disparity in Applied courses by the ever vigilant People for Education, other social change advocates or even the Ministry of Education. Actually, in their comments and “research” about de-streaming….they don’t even mention it. Hmmmm….I wonder why?

Could it be because if they did broach that topic some genius would figure out that the majority of those males floundering in Applied courses are white? Yeah…that’s probably it. Moreover, once they figured that out they’d decide that white males are too privileged and let them figure it out on their own, which would drown any calls for an end to de-streaming. They’d also have a hard time controlling their narrative that streaming is “racist”.

Let’s pretend for a second, though, that these organizations actually cared about students for a moment, a bit more than their progressive liberal ideals. Maybe…they’d take a look at WHY there were so many males – of all races in Applied level classes in Ontario. What might they uncover?

They’d uncover this:

That the root of the gender disparity in Applied classes are literacy skills as noted by the aforementioned graph of recent EQAO Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test results (17-18). This same ‘gap’ is noted even more significantly in the difference between literacy skills of Academic and Applied students:

Let me summarize this for everyone just to bring it home:

  1. The largest identifiable ‘group’ of students in Applied high school courses in Ontario are white males.
  2. There is a significant achievement gap in literacy skills between female and male students in Ontario.
  3. There is a significant achievement gap in literacy skills between Academic and Applied students in Ontario.

Based on this careful detective work, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the actual issue impacting student success of Applied students is literacy skills – particularly literacy skills of male students.

If the government of Ontario and Ministry of Education actually cared about these students, the logical next step would be to develop intensive programming geared towards literacy development for male students in all Ontario schools to support “success for all”.

Unfortunately, though, the government cares much more about appearances and catchy woke headlines, so we won’t be seeing anything of this sort anytime soon.

In the meantime, if like me you are an Ontario teacher and/or parent who actually cares about student success, you may try implementing gender focused literacy development for the struggling boys in your classrooms.


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