- Making a Global City: How One Toronto School Embraced Diversity by Robert C. Vipond
Toronto has undergone remarkable demographic changes since the early twentieth century. From an overwhelmingly Anglo-Protestant, British base, it has emerged as one of the most diverse cities in the world. Half of its current population was born outside of the country, and more than 140 languages are spoken by its residents. In Making a Global City, Robert C. Vipond considers the issues surrounding this transformation through a study of one school – Clinton Street Public School – on the west end of downtown Toronto. In doing so, the author sheds light not only on the history of education but also on changing ideas of citizenship and how one school in Toronto, a microcosm of what was going on more broadly in the country, grappled with diversity.
The author organizes his narrative into three distinct periods that he sees representing three distinct communities that shaped Clinton public school and its surrounding neighbourhood from 1920 to 1990. The first period, which the author calls "Jewish Clinton," lasted from roughly 1920 to the early 1950s. The influx of mainly Italian and Portuguese immigrants transformed "Jewish Clinton" into "European Clinton" from the 1950s to 1975. The final period, which the author calls "Global Clinton," saw the school and its [End Page 160] neighbourhood once again transformed into a "hyper-diverse" multicultural school that included Europeans, East Asians, and Latin American students as well as a growing number of children from young, professional "Canadian" couples returning to the downtown neighbourhoods their parents had left behind.
In each of the three periods, Vipond identifies a signature issue that would come to define the community's Canadian citizenship. In no small way, the author argues, was the debate about how best to educate immigrant children at Clinton public school connected to the idea of citizenship in Canada more broadly and what exactly it meant to be a Canadian. Jewish Clinton was provoked to resist the "Drew Regulations" of 1944, a provincial education policy that initiated system-wide religious instruction in Ontario and that, in its own way, attempted to link the meaning of Canadian citizenship to Christianity. As Vipond demonstrates, however, Jewish Clinton was able to carve out its civic place in the face of these regulations in a way that allowed its children to "think of themselves both as Jewish and as full-fledged Canadians rather than citizens-minus." The shift in thinking from assimilation to integration characterized the period of European Clinton. Language and special education programs were designed to meet the needs of new Canadians. As in the rest of Canada, the old ideas of assimilation at Clinton public school waned while "new theories of integration and multiculturalism ruled." The idea of multiculturalism continued into Global Clinton but was challenged when the school was thrust into a controversial debate about whether to include heritage language instruction as a part of the regular school curriculum. In Global Clinton, "there was a serious, sometimes divisive, debate about how comfortably the terms 'multicultural' and 'citizenship' fitted together." As with the other periods, Vipond illustrates how students, parents, teachers, and administrators at Clinton public school ultimately grappled with the debate about citizenship in a way that saw it embrace the community's diversity.
In the end, Vipond's study of Clinton public school provides us with a renewed way to imagine citizenship in our own time. Indeed, in the concluding chapter, the author drives his point home. Vipond laments the state of current public debates surrounding diversity and citizenship that challenge the foundations of liberal democracy. Quebec's controversial Charter of Values, which would have banned public servants from wearing conspicuous religious symbols, and the Harper government's intervention to prevent a Muslim woman from wearing a niqab at a Canadian citizenship ceremony are but two recent examples that Vipond uses to highlight "how easy it is to drift off course in the face of heavy weather." In the history of Clinton Street Public School, however, Vipond shows...