From a Cairo
High classroom to another a thousand miles away, connections are shooting
through cable and fiber and, slowly but steadily, forging between lives.
In Dr. Zerric
Clinton’s visual arts classes this semester, students have connected – through
Skype and social-learning platform Edmodo – with seniors at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School, a
private, rabbinical school in Livingston, New Jersey. It’s part of a pilot
program launched by the Museum of Tolerance in New York, aimed at encouraging
dialogue between members of widely disparate communities.
High and Rae Kushner, there are a million tiny variations in culture, education
and upbringing. Cairo High is a public school in a tucked-away, rural setting,
with a population that is comparatively racially diverse. Rae Kushner is an
urban, private school that primarily serves Jewish students.
When Clinton met
Dr. Natasha Poor, manager of education and public outreach for the Museum of
Tolerance, and Rabbi Richard Kirsch, a sociology teacher at Rae Kushner, they
saw, in all those differences, an opportunity.
So the two
classes have met, virtually, all semester, first for a Skype conversation in
March, then in chats on Edmodo. It’s been a chance to build students’ awareness
of diversity, and to prepare them for the increasingly global world they’ll
encounter when they graduate.
“The world in
general – locally, statewide, nationally and geographically – is just diverse,”
Clinton said. “The more you can expose students to diversity at an early age,
the better off they’ll be in the future as adults. They don’t have
apprehensions about, ‘These people are this, these people are that.’ They’ll be
able to dispel those rumors early on.”
continue, the students’ questions have ranged from basic to mind-bending. The
Cairo students have quizzed their counterparts on what it’s like to wear
uniforms to school, and whether a Kosher diet allows trips to McDonald’s.
delved into deeper issues. Some of the New Jersey students didn’t know much
about the South beyond what they’d seen on television and in other media; that
sparked a conversation on race and its role in Southern life.
really adamant on, ‘How is it really, in the South?’” Clinton said. “They kind
of understood that the South, historically, had racial oppression and racial
issues, so they were really interested in that.”
The project will
culminate with a final video conference and, most likely, with an art project
that tasks the students with creating a visual representation of the
connections they’ve made.
those connections keep flying between cables, putting a face on diversity and
helping students see that, though we’ve all led wildly different lives, there’s
something beneath the surface that’s the same.
There always is.