Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Diversity Writing Contests for Students Promote Better Understanding and Tolerance for Others

Around the country, schools do their part in raising an awareness in their students about the invaluable lesson of diversity. By sponsoring diversity writing contests for their students, schools aim to promote better understanding and tolerance for others who come from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

One high school student from Staples High School wrote the following:
“Beyond economic strength, a mix of ethnicities will make us more tolerant and empathetic towards others. Rather than recoiling from a gay couple or crossing to the other side of a street from a black man in a hoodie, we can learn to see these individuals as people rather than a blanketed ‘other’.”

This is part of her winning essay about diversity, and she was one of the 3 students from Staples High who won the TEAM Westport’s Teen Diversity Essay Contest, conducted for all high school students who are residents of Westport or attend school in the town, and co-sponsored by TEAM Westport and the Westport Library.

Another co-student writes, “I don’t think I can really complete an education in life until I join bigger, more varied conversations. America’s diversity means access to cultures and traditions and ideas from every corner of the globe.” Her essay won the 1st prize.

The contest asked teens to reflect on the impact of changes in U.S. demographics with the expectation that racial and ethnic groups that are currently in the minority in our country will collectively outnumber whites within thirty years, and specifically, to “describe what you think are the benefits and challenges of this change for Westport and for you, personally.”

Recently too, in Oklahoma, a similar competition was held by the YWCA Enid for elementary, middle and high school students, its annual Stop Racism Youth Challenge, the goal of which is to empower students with the skills to lead and influence others to eliminate racism and prejudice.

Students from elementary schools within the area of Enid were asked to submit a poster depicting their view of racism and prejudice. Middle and high school students, on the other hand, were asked to write an essay on the topic, “Diversity, what would the world be if everyone was just like me?”

Diversity has become a byword these days. True, especially in the academe and in the workplace, but the concept of diversity is not truly comprehensible, nor deeply ingrained, as it should be. Racial hatred still lurks in many corners of society.

Thus, it has become more imperative that schools do their best to teach and inculcate an appreciation for diversity, so that students can learn to get along well with others, develop an understanding of and respect for different perspectives, and foster genuine friendships with those from other races, cultures, and beliefs. One way then is through such meaningful activities as diversity writing contests.

Diversity writing contests are also a means to let children and the youth in schools to collaborate with one another, as did the Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge, which was sponsored by Pepco Holdings and B’nai B’rith for South Jersey students. It is a contest that asked high school students to write and illustrate an original book to help elementary school children celebrate tolerance and diversity. Read more

The children and the youth of today are the hope of the nation, and starting them young to become more tolerant, appreciative and respectful of the growing diversity in American society, it will not be long when "outright injustice and violence, discrimination and marginalization" will no longer tread this great land. To quote UNESCO,
Education for tolerance should aim at countering influences that lead to fear and exclusion of others, and should help young people develop capacities for independent judgement, critical thinking and ethical reasoning.

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