Prejudice is universal, and yet universally despised, especially where it touches children. Because nearly 40 percent of the nation's school children will be members of minority groups within a few years, school communities need to seek solutions. An atmosphere of indifference to insult interferes profoundly with everyone's learning. Minority children's consciousness of prejudice is a major reason for academic failure and subsequent disinclination to work. Strangely, those involved in the vast movement for school reform do not bring up prejudice. Perhaps some fear the power of politicians involved in social engineering, saying that crusaders for integration caused harm. Some see a need to hold a hard line against minorities' anger. Others believe that virtue cannot be taught. But for teachers struggling with plug-in anti-prejudice, anti-violence, or character development programs, a need for whole school change becomes clear.
The first step toward a sense of community might be to develop a carefully crafted charter or mission statement, focusing on mutual support, warm-hearted cooperative learning, and enjoyment of one another during many extracurriculars, as opposed to the cool sound of legally prescribed programs for those labeled handicapped or victims of prejudice. Without this increase of community attention to school atmosphere as not just the context but also the generator of feelings, more motivation to learn and more choices not to be prejudiced against those who are unpopular or different are unlikely.
Statements that draw people together are already initiating academic reforms. Parents, teachers, and administrators coming together over a period of time to create a mission statement for a school has proven power. The spirit engendered in the collaboration is more important than the page or two of resulting text. The development of caring, responsible, and committed children is generally endorsed. Parents have been far more willing to help in the school after signing such a document.