Picture the labeled lunchroom map from the movie Mean Girls: jocks, nerds, preps, band geeks—all sitting at their separate tables in the cafeteria, not daring to defy the social cliques that permeate many high schools, and even elementary and middle schools. Mix It Up at Lunch Day disrupts all that.
On Tuesday, October 30, students will be encouraged to step outside these self-imposed groups and their social comfort zone, and mingle with someone new.
Mix It Up was started by the Southern Poverty Law Council (SPLC) 10 years ago as part of their Teaching Tolerance curriculum. Since 2002, over 20,000 schools have recognized the day, reporting very positive results like school unity, new friendships, and acceptance of people from different backgrounds.
Schools have the freedom to construct their Mix It Up day as they please. Some will assign students to certain tables; others will hold activities that highlight acceptance, teamwork, and empathy. All of them aim to show support for tolerance, prevent bullying, and promote a positive, safe school environment.
Some 2,700 schools nationwide—plus some in Canada, Japan, Greece, and Israel—have signed up online to participate. Unfortunately, because of recent protest from the American Family Association, which claims Mix It Up is trying to promote homosexuality, 200 schools have been discouraged from joining in the event.
Maureen Costello of SPLC claims these charges couldn’t be further from the truth, that the goal of Mix It Up is unbiased and focused on promoting tolerance towards all people. The idea is to foster "a positive environment where every child who walks into a school feels that he or she belongs there and they feel welcome," she told CNN on Monday.
Bullying is a serious and growing problem. Nearly 160,000 students stay home from school each day for fear of bullying, according to DoSomething.org’s Bully Report, released last week. A GOOD post about this rampant bullying called for more vigilant intervention from school officials, teachers, and parents. By promoting healthy, positive relationships in a safe school setting, Mix It Up at Lunch Day hopes to empower students to prevent bullying themselves, by thinking beyond social cliques and stereotypes.
Let's hope the spirit of Mix It Up at Lunch Day will go beyond a one-day event, and encourage a movement to eliminate social boundaries and prejudices. Spearhead your own Mix It Up Day at work on October 30 and prove that we can mix it up at any age.