On Oct. 29, some 6,000 schools will reportedly be participating in the 12th annual Mix It Up at Lunch Day. The initiative, organized by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project, encourages students to break out of their habitual social patterns and sit with someone new at lunch time. “When students interact with those who are different from them,” a release explains, “biases and misperceptions can fall away.”
But this year, as seems only fitting, Teaching Tolerance is going beyond schools and asking Congress to participate as well. Maureen Costello, the organization’s director, has sent an open letter on the idea to U.S. representatives. Here’s an excerpt:
I've checked the calendar and you're all in session on Oct. 29. Why not plan to eat lunch in the Senate or House cafeteria? Your interns could help you find a group that includes people you don't normally hang with. Don't worry about what to say. Simple conversation starters like "What was your favorite TV show as a child?" or "Do you have a pet?" can help you get to know each other as human beings.
Don't plan on talking about healthcare, taxes or the federal debt, OK?
Instead, you could do what the students at H.C. Wilcox High School, Meriden, Conn. did and create a paper chain of written suggestions of ways you could be kinder to each other. Or, if lunch is really fun, you might be inspired by the students at Chaminade College Preparatory School in West Hills, Calif. and leave the cafeteria in a conga line.
We won’t hold our breath on the conga line, but the paper chain idea doesn’t seem like too much to ask ...
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.