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Hands Across the Campus


One of the greatest impediments standing in the way of success for our next generation is mistrust and misunderstanding of the "others" in our society. This lack of understanding and appreciating cultural diversity and ethnicity can also lead to senseless violence in our schools. As you know, there has been an alarming resurgence of group hostility in the United States Over the last decade. Racial epithets, religious bigotry, and ethnic slurs have all too often escalated into acts of violence In this regard, Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado epitomizes this lack of understanding. The American Jewish Committee launched Hands Across the Campus in 1981 in Los Angeles. It has proven so effective in reducing intergroup tensions that today it is used in hundreds of communities across the country.

Hands Across the Campus is the cornerstone of many successful prejudice reduction programs developed by the American Jewish Committee. Introduced into Twin Cities area schools in 1996, it is disseminated here by Educational Resources, Inc. The program is widely used in Robbinsdale, Roseville, Inver Grove Hts., and the W. St. Paul School Districts; with increasing requests to bring the training program into several more for the coming year.

The teen years are crucial in the formation of attitudes and the shaping of values. The greater the number of students who graduate from high school free from prejudice against those unlike themselves, the greater the chance that the next generation of Americans will reject the extremists who preach hate.

The program has three components: training teachers and staff on strategies to integrate prejudice- reduction content into the curriculum; increasing student awareness of prejudice and how to combat it; and educating community members about respect for diversity.

The curriculum is used in the first component of Hands Across the Campus, teacher training. The lessons are presented in such a way that they can be used to supplement the regular social studies and literature syllabi. Teachers who have used it express great enthusiasm both for the flexibility of the lessons which allows for easy access, and for their smooth integration into the existing curriculum, so that multicultural sensitivity can be taught as an organic part of the academic disciplines.

Hands Across the Campus
Meeting the Needs of a Pluralistic Society

Meeting the needs of a drastically changing society can appear to be an insurmountable task, or a once in a lifetime opportunity. The philosophy of the Hands Across the Campus curriculum adopts the latter outlook as it embraces students with lessons, readings, critical questions and activities which celebrate the cultural, ethnic and religious diversity of this nation. The Hands Across the Campus curriculum and co-curricular components stress the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic origins of the United States as it works to dispel stereotypes and foster positive cross-cultural understanding among the members of the school community and the community at large, as students acquire positive lifetime values.

Objectives

1) Developing self identity and understanding: this is an objective consistent with the findings of educational research which acknowledges that students who are knowledgeable about and appreciative of their own background are more accepting and understanding toward others.

2) Providing multi-cultural education: empowering students to appreciate and understand the roles and contributions of people of various cultural, racial and religious backgrounds are better prepared to live comfortably and effectively in a pluralistic world.

3) Developing critical thinking and questioning skills: empowering students to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes which permit them to establish, evaluate and clarify values necessary for individual achievement/satisfaction and better become effective participating members of a self-governing society.

4) Developing empathy and the understanding of personal responsibility in a democratic society: empowering students to act as democratic citizens through mutual support, cooperative decision making and synergistic learning.


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