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$2.1 Million Carnegie Program Targets Teen Prejudice

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With grants totaling $2.1 million, the Carnegie Corporation of New York is hoping to breathe new life into what many scholars see as a critical but neglected field of research: adolescent prejudice.

The New York City foundation this week will formally announce the 16 grants, which were awarded earlier this year to research projects from Massachusetts to San Francisco to find out how America's children develop their attitudes toward people from different backgrounds.

Carnegie officials hope the initiative will improve intergroup relations, while also encouraging greater investment in such research by other philanthropic organizations and by government agencies.

"Financial support for this type of research has withered really badly, primarily as a result of fewer funds from the federal government," said Anthony Jackson, the Carnegie program officer leading the effort. "We are hoping to stimulate a rebuilding of the field."

Reviving Interest

The desegregation of the public schools during the 1950s and 1960s helped fuel new research on intergroup relations, but the interest of possible funders began to dry up around 1980, Mr. Jackson said.

The foundation sought to revive that interest by offering $1 million in new grants last year. When the foundation was flooded with proposals, officials added about another million dollars to the total.

"We turned down some very good proposals," Mr. Jackson said.

The grants range from $50,000 to $175,000, and researchers across the country are using them to examine how young people pick up their prejudices and how effective special curricula and other programs can be in shaping those attitudes.

Carnegie hopes the projects yield insights to help schools plan new programs aimed at reducing mistrust and boosting mutual respect between adolescents.

"What we need to do is build a bridge from our two best types of knowledge: our evidence from scientific research and the wisdom of innovative practice," said Ronald Slaby, a senior scientist at the Education Development Center in Newton, Mass. The research center received a $175,000 Carnegie grant to build on its previous work on the role of bystanders in intergroup conflicts.

The grantees are to meet in Washington next month to compare notes and encourage other foundations and government agencies to consider a greater investment in the field.

Many More Questions

While much of the research done before 1980 focused on relationships between black and white students, many of the current Carnegie grantees are examining how multiple racial and ethnic groups get along in schools.

Miami's Immigration and Ethnicity Institute at Florida International University, for example, is using its $175,000 grant to study the interrelations of Haitian, Mexican, Cuban, West Indian, African-American, and white students.

The population of the nation's children will continue to become more diverse into the next century because of immigration and the higher birthrate among America's nonwhite women. Census projections released earlier this year showed that, for the first time, non-Hispanic whites will make up less than 50 percent of the country's school-age population by 2040.

Given these trends, Mr. Jackson said he sees an even greater need to support research into how these different groups get along.

"I can't predict if there'll be a kind of rioting in the streets," he said. "More likely what we'll see is a gradual decline in our capacity to survive as an economic force if our kids don't learn to get along."

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