Their View: Organization project should be widely implemented
Last Tuesday, students at North Hardin and Elizabethtown high schools mixed it up. Now don't get the wrong idea, this mix-up was a positive learning experience for the students involved. Joining more than 4 million other young people in school cafeterias around the country, these high school students participated in the fourth annual “Mix It Up at Lunch Day.”
Many adults who look back on their high school years would agree that the cafeteria was often a place of distinct division. Students today would offer that their lunchrooms are no different.
Territorial boundaries are quickly drawn down a variety of lines including socio-economic, ethnic, academic and extracurricular interests to name a few. Athletes command one table and band members another. “Popular” kids congregate in one area, while self-proclaimed “geeks” cluster around a different table.
Although crossing the imaginary lines that separate one lunchroom territory from another might not get a young person the same aggressive response we might have encountered years ago, the boundary is no less real for students today. In 2002, a majority of middle and high school students surveyed in a national poll said their schools were “quick to put people into categories.” In the same study, 40 percent admitted they had rejected another student who they considered wasn't part of their group and one-third admitted it was difficult to become friends with other students from different groups.
“Mix It Up” began in 2001 as a project implemented by the Southern Poverty Law Center. At the time, organizers saw the event as an opportunity for students to constructively identify and break down the social barriers that separate them from fellow classmates. By sitting at a table outside their typical “territory” and conversing with others who aren't part of their routine peer group, students are encouraged to get to know one another on a more personal level. The result organizers seek is that by doing so, the students will think about why their barrier groups exist in the first place.
Those who organized and carried out the event at both schools are to be commended for their efforts. Most especially, the students who actively participated in the activity are deserving of recognition for getting out of their comfort zone and getting to know other individuals in their schools. We encourage each high school and middle school within the community to plan to participate next year as well.
Communication is the first step toward understanding, and understanding is the foundation of tolerance. As adults, we could use a little “mixing it up” as well.
- The News-Enterprise