Originally created 05/16/04

Diversity is key in school, teens say



Schools dominated by pupils of one race lack the diversity necessary to teach pupils about an increasingly diverse world, said members of The Augusta Chronicle's Teen Board.

The board includes teens from area schools who regularly contribute stories and ideas for Xtreme, the newspaper's teen section.

Fifty years after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed segregated schools, Augusta-area schools have largely resegregated, with some public schools almost entirely black.

Board members agreed that is not a good trend.

"It's better to be socially integrated because a lot of people aren't exposed to a lot of other (types of) people," said Aaron Spivey, an Evans High School senior who is white.

Sana Hashmi, 17, a Lakeside High School junior of Pakistani descent, said a lack of diversity could lead to dangerous misconceptions about people.

"When you're not exposed to diversity, it decreases the knowledge," she said. "It makes you racist, even. People start to think 'they' are different and they think 'they' are inferior."

But in a racially mixed school, pupils learn from one another.

"It's good to have some kind of mixture," said Sarah Adams, a sophomore at Greenbrier High School who is white. "Showing culture is good. It will break apart some of those paradigms you may have built."

One of those stereotypes, Sarah pointed out, is that only people of certain colors do certain things.

"If you know people personally, it changes your ideas about things, like not all black people listening to rap," she said.

Mattie Sue Judd, who is white, says attending a diverse school helps pupils learn that there is more to a person than just skin color.

"I would never say that all white people are the same or all black people are the same," the freshman at Augusta Preparatory Day School said.

"Your race doesn't equal your culture. How else can you know that?"

The board agreed that the only way to learn that lesson is to meet and interact with people from different backgrounds.

"You're never going to meet someone the same as you," said MeShae Hankerson, a sophomore at Burke County High School who is black. "I think you can always learn something in a person's personality."

Though the board made light of the fact that pupils rarely have much control over where they attend school, it unanimously agreed that predominantly one-race schools leave a lot to be desired.

Kyle Fitzpatrick, 18, who is of mixed-race heritage, said America is made better by the many types of people who comprise it.

"For everybody who says America is not a melting pot, it is. America is diverse," said the senior at Westside High School. "By breaking into schools or colleges that are one color, we are regressing."

Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or kamille.bostick@augustachronicle.com.