This weekend, Felix Baumgartner made an absurd and remarkable leap from the stratosphere to fall 23.5 miles and land somewhere in the New Mexico desert.
I mention this because it barely compares to the leap that the American Family Associationrecently made when it comes to the tolerance-building program called Mix-It-Up Day.
“Mix It Up” day is an entry-level “diversity” program designed specifically by [the Southern Poverty Law Center] to establish the acceptance of homosexuality into public schools, including elementary and junior high schools. ... Take Action. See if your child's school is on the list.
The New York Times reports that numerous parents had complained and almost 200 schools had canceled its participation in the program.
“No!” they wail. “We can’t let our kids be made to sit with people who are DIFFERENT! They might suddenly develop tolerance. Or cooties.”
“That’s how it happens. Spreads like ebola. My understanding of medicine is also somewhat limited.”
Look, I am all in favor of tolerance, but as most people who were forced at some point in their scholastic career to sit through a Swap-Lunch-Tables-With-People-You-Never-Fraternize-With luncheon will tell you, this panic vastly, vastly overestimates the possible effectiveness of this lunch.
Here are two scenarios that have never happened:
“Today was Mix It Up Day,” Billy says, coming home from high school with a pensive look. “I sat next to a kid from a different racial or socioeconomic background, and now I want people to be allowed to marry rabbits, and also I endorse everything that Michele Bachmann is most afraid will happen.”
“Today was Mix It Up Day,” announces Jeff, who has been bullied every day since the beginning of school. “I sat at a table with the people who had been so mean to me, and they all feel remorse now after we assembled a poster together about the qualities we thought a superhero of respect should have, and they’re going to bring all my lunch money back tomorrow and throw a parade in my honor, and I’m cool now.”
From the sounds of it, the American Family Association and the Southern Poverty Law Center are the only two groups who actually believe that events like Mix It Up Day will deeply and fundamentally change the way students think.
If sitting at lunch with a different person, even once, during a forced bonding exercise, was sufficient to change your outlook and stop you from bullying, intolerance would be rare and precious. Bullies would be threatened with extinction, like certain tropical birds. You would visit them in specially designed compounds and marvel at their plumage.
These forced bonding, tolerance-breeding exercises generally provoke little more than an eye-roll. At best, you make a new friend. At worst, everyone drops you during the trust fall. At a minimum, you are forced to yell things about soup.
(“When you mix something up, it’s not the same, is it?” the Mix It Up Day Web site quotes a teacher as saying in the course of Mix It Up Day celebrations. “Let’s say we’re going to make soup. . . . What kinds of things do we put in soup?” The students yell out different ingredients. “Carrots!” they yell. “Tomatoes!”)
Maybe everyone went home and realized that intolerance was wrong. But, again, if all it took was yelling the ingredients of soup, we could resolve all kinds of problems very, very quickly indeed. I once stood on a street corner yelling, “Beans! Beans!” at strangers for several hours and, if anything, they seemed less tolerant afterwards.
I’m confused how the American Family Association thinks this is going to promote homosexuality. Unless you sit at lunch with the same people every time, are you suddenly overcome by repressed cravings and forced to fling yourself onto your lunchmate? That sounds like wizardry. Do parents really have so little confidence that they think their child sitting at a different lunch table would jeopardize everything he or she has learned at home for years? Is it like a peanut allergy — one exposure, and you’re done for?
Sitting at a different table might be a good start, but it’s just that, a start. There is so much more to the educational experience than sitting at lunch tables.
Only one school official spoke to the Times on the record about canceling the day. Tabatha Walton, the principal of the Chattahoochee County Education Center in Cusseta, Ga., said the school year was packed enough as it was and educators were “too busy trying to meet basic state teaching requirements.”
Sounds reasonable to me.