About the "Unlearning Stereotypes -- Civil Rights and Race Relations" Project
The "Unlearning Stereotypes -- Civil Rights and Race Relations" Project of the New York Civil Rights Coalition (NYCRC) is a schools-based, semester-long program that helps equip students with the critical thinking skills and information they need to challenge common stereotypes and myths about people because of their race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sex, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. The program was initiated in December, 1989, following the racially-motivated killing of Yusef Hawkins, a black teenager, by a group of thugs in Bensonhurst, a predominantly white section of Brooklyn. We developed a special course on "Civil Rights and Race Relations" that was then taught weekly at New Utrecht High School in Bensonhurst by two NYCRC volunteer lawyers. Now, the class has bden revamped into "Unlearning Stereotypes" and is offered at public high schools, city-wide, and at two junior high schools in Manhattan.
We recruit volunteers--mostly lawyers and law students--who are skilled in the Socratic teaching method. These volunteers also come from other professions and disciplines. Our volunteers are assigned as teams of two -- usually bi-racial and co-ed -- to meet with the same high school or junior high school class every week during the course of the entire semester. Our volunteers function as discussion leaders and as such do NOT lecture, and they do NOT proselytize. They use role-play, courtroom scenarios, mock trials, debate, and TV talk show formats to engage the students and to get them talking with each other about current events connected with stereotypes and how to combat discrimination and bigotry, through legal processes (civics). Via these methods, students who were once "passive learners" become interactive learners, avid debaters, reasoned discussants, and thoughtful conversationalists.
Backed up by a curriculum that is always changing and keeping pace with new knowledge and developments in human relations, NYCRC's "Unlearning Stereotypes -- Civil Rights and Race Relations" Project is an effort to involve and to present to students "role models", who include professionals, law students and community leaders teaching our award-winning course that helps young people to examine and refute stereotypes of all kinds and which simultaneously helps to improve ethnic and race relations among youth. It is a much heralded program that has successfully engaged students in candid discussions that carry over to the cafeteria, the schoolyard, their neighborhoods, and back to their homes. As they continue to talk about social issues, the youths in the classrooms of our city's public schools begin to see that the strands of our diversity are the bonds of our commonality as human beings. Because we ask that they refer to each other by their names, students from various neighborhoods and backgrounds get to know each other and, thereby, once seemingly impenetrable ethnic and other barriers fall. There is laughter in the classroom as well as vigorous debate and animated story-telling.
The students are not graded; instead they grade our volunteer discussion leaders in the program, at semester's end. The program is run by the New York Civil Rights Coalition ( www.nycivilrights.org), and all volunteers are trained by NYCRC staff. To participate as a volunteer discussion leader or to enroll your school in the program (which is offered free of charge) contact us at (212) 563-5636 or E-Mail us: NYCRC@AOL.COM. Put "Unlearning Stereotypes" in the subject matter box.
Recruitment of volunteers and enrollment of participating schools for the WINTER/SPRING 2014 semester is now underway.
All new volunteers must attend one training session, which will be offered during September, with placements of the accepted volunteers in schools by early to mid-October. Because this is a citywide program we need volunteers who work, live or attend law school in all five boroughs. Classes are weekdays: mainly mornings, and early afternoons; no nights. These are regular high school classrooms in NYC public schools, and the school day is over by 3 PM. Classes run roughly 40 minutes. That, calculating travel time to the schools, and prep time, probably amounts to a time commitment of one and a half hours per week for our volunteers.
The executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition is Michael Meyers.