New book looks at diversity through one Toronto school's experience
University of Toronto political science professor says matters of immigration should be viewed through the prism of “more or less” and not “either-or”.
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Robert Vipond is bothered by the current debate on multiculturalism.
“It’s been reduced to a polarized binary, an either-or scenario,” said the University of Toronto political science professor, noting Canadians are generally divided into those in favour of diversity and those willing to close the doors on immigration entirely.
His new research book sheds light on the city’s history of diversity through the experience of one local public school.
Making a Global City: How One Toronto School Embraced Diversity recounts 129 years of the Clinton Street Public School, painting a picture of the school’s diverse population that has changed with the city.
Vipond combed through tens of thousands of registration cards in the school’s archive to discover how its demographic profile changed, in large part due to the immigration patterns of the time.
“The feel of the school would be quite different from time to time, presenting different challenges to the school administration,” he said.
For example, the school’s original mission statement was about creating a democratic and Christian society. But because the majority of the school population was Jewish in the 1940s, the mantra had to be changed.
In the years that followed, the number of immigrant children at the school kept increasing and the administration was obligated to start an English as a Second Language program, becoming a pioneer while “the school board was still indifferent” about it, said Vipond.
By the 1970s the school became more diverse with the arrival of Italian, Portuguese, Latino and East Asian immigrants.
The success story of Clinton Street Public School shows that matters of immigration should be viewed through the prism of “more or less” and not “either-or,” he said.
“This school has been a sort of microcosm of the changes that occurred in Toronto and in Canada as a whole,” he added.