View Full Version : All NYC At a Long Island Middle School, a Course in What Unites and Divides

10-24-2010, 11:49 AM
This from the N.Y. Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/23/nyregion/23metjournal.html) by Winnie Hu:
Fifteen eighth graders at Jericho Middle School (http://www.jerichoschools.org/ms/index.htm) were considering a fictional case of stereotyping by hair color the other day, or how a boy came to be prejudiced against people with green hair, or “greenies.” From there, they extrapolated to the stereotypes in their own lives: dumb football players, Asian math whizzes, boring bankers.

“We can feel stronger going back to our hallways,” the teacher, Elisa Weidenbaum Waters, said, “going back to our homes, going back to our society, and saying: ‘You know what? What you said is a stereotype, and that’s not cool.’ ”

This year, Jericho, a high-performing district (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/27/education/27valedictorians.html), is offering an unusual elective for its middle-school students that channels the soul-searching and team-building activities of a diversity workshop into a yearlong class for credit. The course, which focuses on diversity, “will have you actively thinking about everything from food through language in a way you may never have before as we learn about what unites and divides all of us, and why,” a description said.

“What I’m looking to do,” said Ms. Waters, 40, who has long been active in social causes, “is build acceptance, awareness and appreciation that people may be different than you.”

There are no quizzes or tests in the class, and homework is assigned only occasionally. Instead, there are free-flowing discussions about privilege, discrimination and oppression, and readings, like the recent one about people with green hair from “Prejudiced — How Do People Get That Way?” — a book published by the Anti-Defamation League (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/a/antidefamation_league/index.html?inline=nyt-org).

Jericho’s new class comes amid a renewed focus on diversity and antibullying programs in schools, heightened by the suicide of Tyler Clementi (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/tyler_clementi/index.html?inline=nyt-per), a Rutgers University (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/r/rutgers_the_state_university/index.html?inline=nyt-org) freshman whose intimate encounter with a man was said to have been streamed over the Internet by his roommate and another student.

“It’s a concern that students are not prepared for what they’re going to face when they leave the school district, particularly in more homogenous communities,” said Timothy G. Kremer, the executive director of the New York State School Boards Association, who supports the elective.

read more>> (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/23/nyregion/23metjournal.html)