More time for mixing it up

One day of tolerance isn’t enough to make a significant difference for the people who need it

Lauren Komer
Lauren Komer

I remember being told go sit at a table with my fellow Februarian birthdays one fateful lunch period in middle school. I did so, but reluctantly.

Taped to the middle of the table was a list of “icebreakers,” the cheesy questions asked about siblings, pets and other cliché topics. It looked like someone had pulled them straight from the Internet and didn’t bother to check if they were any good.

Needless to say, the lunch period was a flop. People lied about their birth months to sit with their friends. As for me, I was fine, because some of my friends actually were born in February. But I didn’t meet any new people or build any lasting friendships in that one day of sitting at a different lunch table.

Cougars United is sponsoring a similar get-together on Nov. 10. Called Mix It Up Day, once again, people will be asked to sit at tables according to their birthdays.

The idea is a good one, and schools all across the United States are participating. According to the Teaching Tolerance web site, the goal of Mix It Up Day is “to break down the barriers between students and improve intergroup relations so there are fewer misunderstandings that can lead to conflicts, bullying and harassment.” That seems like a tall order for one day.

In order for something like this to work, it has to be over a longer period of time. Relationships take time and effort, as well as common interests between people. Some elementary schools pair up bully types and the children who are picked on. They eat lunch together a few times a week with a teacher or counselor present. The children also get out of class early and participate in activities and play games together.

If Cougars United wants to “break down barriers,” it’s going to take a lot more than one lunch period. Perhaps a buddy system should be put in place, where “troublemakers” are paired with good examples. Once a week they could get together and do something fun. Same thing goes for the “outcasts”. If they were paired by a common interest, like sports or music, they might even build a close friendship.

I sincerely hope that Mix It Up Day is a success. With all the concern about school violence, it makes sense that we’re trying to make everyone feel included; I’m just worried about the actual participation. I know I’ll take part and do my best to form some new relationships, but I can’t help but be skeptical. Still, if worse comes to worst, all I’ve lost is one lunch period filled with awkward conversation. If that can help one person feel a little more included, it’s worth it.