Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Beyond FRESHMAN YEAR: New CACI Conference and Retreat Dates Announced

The Campus Awareness+Compliance Initiative (CACI) has rescheduled this year’s National Student Conference on the Mixed-Race Experience for September 22-24. College students of mixed-race heritage and faculty from across the country will participate in the conference in St. Paul, Minnesota. The event will be hosted by members of Bridges, “a student organization for bi- and multiracial, cross-cultural, and transracially adopted students” at Macalester College, a highly acclaimed liberal arts school in St. Paul. The theme of the conference, “How Do We Fit In: The Role of the Mixed Experience in a Multicultural Society” will be explored via workshops and presentations throughout the three-day weekend. For more information, go to the CACI site; a link to conference details is provided in a menu under “Updates.”

Also look for details on the CACI site for the third annual National Mixed-Heritage Student Leadership Retreat scheduled for June 23-26 outside Seattle. At the past two retreats, students from across the nation spent several days exploring their mixed heritage and learning valuable leadership and grassroots organizing skills. Up to 40 applicants will be accepted for the retreat. Interested students (aged 16 and up) should go to the CACI site to download a registration packet and obtain more information.

The Campus Awareness+Compliance Initiative (CACI) is just one project of the very active MAVIN Foundation.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Beyond FEATURES: Cindy Rodríguez on Overcoming Prejudice

Today’s Denver Post features a telling piece by staff columnist Cindy Rodríguez called “Overcoming Prejudice Takes Work.” Rodríguez writes about a recent workshop on “unlearning racism” she attended at the Jewish Community Center in Boulder. I’m intrigued by details she provides on the workshop leader (diversity trainer Lee Mun Wah) and the documentary viewed during the workshop (Last Chance for Eden) and will discuss Wah and Eden in future posts. I was most impressed, though, by the quotes she attributed to a former president of the Boulder Valley School Board, Bill de la Cruz:

“I tried to raise issues of bias in the schools during the six years I sat on the board, and I got no support,” de la Cruz said. He noted that while he’d had some supporters in this effort, when it came time to speak out, they disappeared. De la Cruz also said he will continue to prod the board to include workshops to help children work through issues of bias and discrimination. “We are so heavily focused on academics that we don’t realize children need social skills,” he said. “They need to know how to have conversations about sensitive issues without fighting. That is a skill they need: to be able to communicate and listen.”

Certainly schools across the country would benefit from workshops on bias and discrimination, especially with the recent increase in tensions regarding immigration. Maybe we could all sign up to attend. “We all have some element of racism inside us,” Rodríguez notes, “and it will be passed on to succeeding generations unless we purge ourselves of it.”

Photo © Tan Wei Ming - FOTOLIA

Friday, April 07, 2006

Beyond THE FUTURE: The Global Campaign for Education Send My Friend to School Week

The Global Campaign for Education (GCE) brings together organizations in more than 150 countries to promote education as a basic human right and mobilize public pressure on governments to provide free basic education for all people. The U.S. Chapter of the GCE is a coalition of more than 30 organizations, teachers unions, foundations and child advocates with these same goals.

To raise awareness of the need for universal basic education, the GCE is sponsoring the 2006 Send My Friend to School Week, which will run April 24-30. Individuals are encouraged to write letters to their newspapers and/or contact their political representatives to help spread the word about the need for free quality education for all children. Schoolchildren are also invited to create posters or cut-out “friends” with messages about the importance of education for all. See the GCE site to learn how these posters can be mailed (to be received by April 17) so they may be considered for display on the GCE website or at Send My Friend to School Week events in Washington, D.C.

More than 100 million children around the world do not attend school. Another 150 million children will drop out before they finish primary school. One third of all children, and one in two in Africa, never complete five years of primary school—the minimum length of education needed to achieve basic literacy. Obstacles that keep so many children out of school include fees their families can’t afford, child labor, lack of basic school supplies and trained teachers, discrimination against girls and women, lack of access for children with disabilities, HIV/AIDS epidemics in Africa and parts of Asia, and on-going wars and civil strife.

While campaigns like this one for global education and World Water Day (see my March 21st post) may not coincide directly with tolerance initiatives, I believe they help eradicate discrimination by creating critical opportunities for improved quality of life for the poorest of the poor. Americans involved in organizations such as the GCE deserve support and encouragement as they strive to reach beyond U.S. borders to raise awareness of international issues. While increased awareness promotes understanding, public pressure on politicians to pay attention to the needs of the poorest among us can only help move our world, however slowly, to a place that’s better and safer—and much more tolerant. So check out the GCE site and write a letter about the importance of free education for all. Then consider that without your own education, you’d be able to do neither of these simple tasks.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Beyond FRICTION: Colorado Students Struggle with Tough Tolerance Lesson

Waving your country’s flag reveals your own patriotism and inspires respect. Waving the same flag in the face of someone from another country reveals your own ignorance and intimidates, insults, and infuriates. Some students at Skyline High School in Longmont, Colorado, learned that lesson after all flag-waving was banned this past week at their school. Articles from the Associated Press and the Rocky Mountain News this morning describe the disturbing incidents that incited the ban, as well as the peaceful protest of 100 students against the ban.

As one school administrator and one insightful student commented, however, many of the students in the walk-out failed to understand exactly what they were protesting. By the time everyone returns from spring break a week from Monday, school administrators say they will be prepared to explain the concerns behind the ban and work to reunite a potentially divided student body.

One student suspended for waving an American flag in the face of a Hispanic student was quoted as saying, “If this country means freedom, then why can’t we fly our own flag? It’s ridiculous.” I have a feeling it’s going to take more than a talk with the principal to teach this student the difference between patriotism and prejudice.

Photo © Mike & Valerie Miller - FOTOLIA