Tracking is a racist practice that favors white students and keeps students of colour, many of them black, from long-term equal achievement.

Chairs sit empty in a school classroom.
Credit: Wil C. Fry, Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Canada became my home at the age of five. I entered the Canadian education system as a kindergarten student. Although I felt some racial tension throughout elementary school, it was not until I reached high school that racism became bluntly obvious. Upon my acceptance into high school I was immediately placed into general level courses. This meant that I would be prepared to go to college but not university. This practice is called “tracking.” 

“Tracking” (sometimes called ‘streaming’) is a process of designating students for separate educational paths based on their academic performance as teens or younger. It is also a racist practice that favors white students and keeps students of colour, many of them black, from long-term equal achievement.

We often believe that tracking only happens in the United States, not so. Tracking is practiced in Canada as well. Tracking affects the lives of many youth of color who have dreams of attending University. I saw many of my friends referred to the general courses by the counselors. Upon graduation from high school we were unable to apply to university because we did not have the necessary advanced courses. Even if we now hoped to attend university, we could not. In my case I did not challenge the general course referral because I believed that I would be unable to manage the university course work. But that is another story. Consequently, many of us were unable to secure decent paying jobs to live more comfortably. Today, tracking continues to be an experience for many visible ethnic minorities. 

Our creator acknowledges our equality as human beings in Galatians 3:28. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

Everyone should have the opportunity to choose the type of education they want to pursue. It should depend on their willingness to make the effort within their own choices. Our education should not be a decision made by those who are influenced by their own prejudices. The United Church has made a decision to be not only welcoming but affirming to all peoples, as we are all one in Christ Jesus!

How can we as a Christians stop this racist practice? How can we hear more stories of those who have experienced the unfriendly side of Canada? How can we become involved in making changes?

For more information on the practice of tracking in Canada, see:

-Carmen Ramirez 

Carmen currently works at the United Church General Council Office as intercultural animator. She holds a Masters in Theological Studies degree from University of Toronto. An MA from York University and is currently in a PhD program in Practical Theology.

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