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Massachusetts Fights Bigotry With TV, Curriculum

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Boston--State officials and civic leaders are working together on a public-education campaign intended to stem the growing number of acts of religious, racial, and ethnic bigotry in Massachusetts schools and communities.

The year-long project, which will involve the development of curriculum materials, workshops for teachers, and contributions by the media, begins this week with the launch of a television public-awareness series.

The media campaign--"A World of Difference"--will include monthlyms and public-service announcements produced by WCVB-tv.

The campaign will culminate at the end of 1985 in the publication by the Boston Globe of a curriculum guidebook that will be distributed to schools throughout the state.

The cost of developing the curriculum and staging several regional teacher-training sessions will be about $30,000, according to officials involved in the project. The media campaign, they estimate, will boost the cost of the effort to well over $1- million.

The project is being underwritten by the Shawmut Bank of Boston.

Acts of Bigotry

The prejudice-awareness project was initiated by the New England office of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith in the wake of a growing number of acts of bigotry in communities throughout Massa-chusetts. Many civic organizations quickly endorsed the idea.

The curriculum guide for 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th graders is aimed, according to the adl, to reach out to an age group that has been implicated in a number of the recent acts of bigotry. But officials also note that the insensitivity demonstrated bysuch acts is widespread among adults as well.

In a recent incident at several schools in Quincy, for example, white cafeteria workers wore blackface makeup and dressed as "Aunt Jemima'' to promote the availability of pancake lunches. (See Education Week, Jan. 9, 1985.)

"The problem is not the schools' alone," said Gerard T. Indelicato, special assistant to Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, who has endorsed the project. "We've got to get to the hearts and souls of the people as a whole," he continued.

The first televised program will be shown on Jan. 29, according to Donna Latson-Gittens, vice president of community programming for WCVB. The 90-minute prime-time special will offer a series of vignettes depicting individuals in a racially sensitive situation to which viewers will be asked to respond by means of a take-at-home questionnaire. The survey is intended to gauge the attitudes and reactions of viewers toward what they have seen.

In addition to the monthly programs, the television station will contribute to the awareness project more than $1 million in public-service announcements.

Social-Studies Program

Jerry Wishnow, a consultant to the project, sees the curriculum guide as its centerpiece. "Because the media part will fall away," he said, the ultimate goal of the project "is that the curriculum be imbedded in the [school] systems. Everything else is almost a prelude to getting the curriculum in the schools."

Schools in Massachusetts will begin receiving the curriculum guidebook in January 1986. To be field-tested this spring, the guide will take "an old-fashioned social-studies approach" to the issues, with an emphasis on critical-thinking skills and values, according to Howard J. Langer, director of the project for the adl's national office.

Working with Mr. Langer on the project are James Banks, professor of education at the University of Washington and an ethnic-studies specialist, and Jerry Ruderman, an administrator in the Philadelphia school system, who is developing a guide to help teachers use the material in the classroom.

The prejudice-awareness curriculum is not expected to be mandated, but Governor Dukakis plans to ask the legislature for teacher-training funds, part of which would be allocated to helping teachers incorporate its use, said Mr. Indelicato.

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