Jewish World Review Nov. 24, 2003 / 29 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

Joanne Jacobs

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Integrating lunch; peewee athletes; The Promise | Mix It Up at Lunch Day doesn't mean stirring green beans into the mashed potatoes. On Nov. 18, at 7,000 schools across the country, geeks lunched with jocks; band kids sat next to skaters. Popular and punk, black, brown and white, they broke down social barriers, made new friends and lived happily ever after. Well, not really.

At an Oklahoma high school with Mexican-American, Indian and white students, kids were supposed to sit at tables labeled by their month of birth. Instead, many students skipped lunch, ate outside or defied organizers to sit with friends.

Denise Ramos, a sophomore, put it this way: "I thought it would be like always, and it is like always. They don't talk to us, and we don't talk to them. Why would we? Why do I want to go sit next to people who call us Beaners and Spics everyday?"

. . . Bree O'Seland, a junior, chalked it all up to insecurity.

"People just want to hang out with the people they usually do. It has to do with people's own insecurities."

O'Seland, who also chose not to sit by birth month, says she is a victim of others' insecurities every day.

"I'm Pagan, and there is a lot of religious discrimination here. People think I'm a devil worshipper. They say it to my face and behind my back."

At a New Jersey middle school, everyone knows his or her place in the  social order.

At one table, four boys seem to focus so intently on each other they form a protective bulwark. One pretends to smoke a plastic straw and another lines up pizza crusts like race cars.

"We're the unpopular group,'' one says bluntly. "We're not the sports group and everybody likes sports. People make fun of us."

Donate to JWR

"It's fun to have your own table and be the boss of your own group,'' he notes.

Lunch periods, by the way, are 15 minutes. Not much time for making new friends.

Wanting to hang out with your own kind is natural, says radio host Joe Kelly, father of an eighth grader.

In fact, I suggest that pairing up children outside their normal peer group for such a short period of time will likely widen the chasm that exists between them since they’ll only have enough time together to recognize stereotypes, not explore similarities.

Students who get together to do something -- play a sport, sing in the choir, act in a play, etc. -- tend to make genuine friendships across racial and ethnic lines. Of course, then they're jocks, choir geeks and theater geeks, so it doesn't count.

I sympathize with the desire to persuade students to look outside the cliques that formed early in middle school. But can't they have some unstructured time in the day to be with friends?

Peewee Athletes

Kids start playing on sports teams before they can tie their own shoes. Pediatricians aren't keen on the growth of organized sports for pre-schoolers. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, some kids start tackle football at the age of seven.

Like the dinosaurs, sandlot sports have vanished, and no one knows exactly why. Child-care experts generally attribute the demise to the increasing number of single-parent and dual-income households, and to heightened anxieties about child abduction.

In other words, parents are too busy to keep an eye on neighborhood games and too afraid to let children play without supervision. For a few hours a week, at least, organized sports solve both problems. But they create others.

Parents rush around to ferry kids to practices and games, eating up family time. Dad doesn't teach the kids to throw a ball in the backyard; that job now belongs to the coach.

When I look back, it's amazing how little adult supervision we baby boomers had. We walked to school with other kids from kindergarten on. We stayed after school to play pick-up games of soccer baseball or softball. We played in the park without adults. Intermural sports started in high school.

The Promise

Does your heart need warming? Read this San Antonio Express News story of a fifth grader who was offered a college scholarship by basketball star David Robinson if he stayed in school. Thirteen years later, Tyler Darden is back at his old middle school in San Antonio.

"I had to come home," said Darden, a first-year teacher assigned a class of boys with behavior problems.

"I felt like I needed to come and give back what was given to me over the years."

Darden constantly reminds his students that he came from their neighborhood. And he urges them to go to college.

For their part, Davis students have thanked Principal Ruben S. Fernandez for giving them "a real teacher."

In addition to Robinson's promise, Darden had a mother, grandmother and aunt who cared for him. He had the Boys and Girls Club to keep him away from trouble, and athletic talent that won him a football scholarship. He used Robinson's money to pay for a master's degree in special education. Sadly, less than a third of his fifth grade classmates were able to claim scholarships.

Robinson also funds the Carver Academy, a private school in San Antonio.

Every weekday publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Joanne Jacobs, a former Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer, blogs daily at She is currently finishing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. Comment by clicking here.

11/17/03: School Principals Gone Wild; School vs. Bloggers; A Is For Absent
11/10/03: Feeling history; no-sided history; passing on a record; winning respect; bright flight
11/03/03: Super Pay for Super Teachers?; ‘Failing’ Teachers; Dissect the Bunny; Yuck
10/27/03: Parent, teachers, parents as teachers; cramming in education; out of control
10/21/03: Go, Samaritan; 2 + 2 = ?; Majoring in Middle-class Status
10/14/03: To Gag a Mockingbird; saying 'hate' is hate speech; protest school
10/08/03: No Homework Overload; Self-centered Social Studies; The Boy Code; Codswallop; College 101: Don't Jump Out of Your Bunk Bed
09/29/03: Flunking mom; classroom classics; ritalin gag rule; lousy children
09/22/03: Order, disorder
09/08/03: No Child Left Behind: A Primer
08/29/03: The Decline and Fall of Social Studies
08/18/03: F is for valedictorian
08/14/03: Start-up success
08/11/03: Subliterate Superintendent
08/04/03: Alternative High School
07/28/03: Out of the System
07/21/03: Too Snobby for Shop
07/14/03: Be very afraid
07/09/03: Know-nothing nonsense
06/30/03: Affirmative action reactions
06/23/03: Overdressed Students, Underdressed Teachers, Dressed-down Exams
06/16/03: Paper 'Is-ness,' Excluding Awards, New Racial Consciousness and Politics
06/09/03: Racist math, red tape for charters, potty reading
06/02/03: Teacher Pay, Illiteracy , No Republicans Allowed
05/27/03: Research papers, athletics, reading
05/19/03: Soft America, plagiarism, Minutemen and Jets
05/12/03: Demographics, nerves, valedictorian, vouchers
05/05/03: Gender Bias, Banned Words, Helen of Troy
04/28/03: Tests, home-schooling, self-esteem
04/25/03: Lessons, American Pride, Iraqi Schools
04/14/03: Iraqi Textbooks and the English language
03/31/03:Teachers, hugging, text messaging
04/07/03: War talk at school
03/24/03: Watching the war
03/10/03: Classroom chaos
03/03/03: Teaching tales
02/24/03: Segregation stories
02/18/03: Writing Essays, America, Beyond Bert and Ernie
02/13/03: Size matters
02/10/03: Parental homework, cheaters and memoirs
02/03/03: Diplomas, academics, preschools and Ritalin
01/27/03: Head Start, Social Studies, Marx, Africa and Math
01/22/03: Teachers as targets
01/13/03: Big Bully's Feelings
01/06/03: School of 60's Whining and Communal Destruction
12/23/02: Teaching in
12/16/02: Chocolate city?
12/10/02: Mandatory Victimhood --- and when cleaning up a school is 'racist'
11/25/02: Multi-colored math, sensitive science
11/20/02: How to leave no child behind
11/18/02: The tummy track
11/11/02: Dysfunctional documents?
11/04/02: Why go to college? Why test schools?
10/28/02: Pride goeth before an F
10/21/02: Diversity adversity
10/14/02: Bad hat day
10/07/02: Inflated sense of worth
09/30/02: The Royal road to knowledge
09/24/02: Sierra's Club
09/20/02: Stupidity Watch
09/03/02: First, win the war
08/26/02: Out of their field, out of their minds?
08/20/02: Fun with failure

© 2003, Joanne Jacobs