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A Course in Interracial Relations

Just before schools closed for the summer, The Times published a story about a program at Irvine High School that is introducing a 4th “R” to learning in Orange County--racial relations and understanding.

The program was developed in 1981 by Bruce Baron, who teaches history, African studies and world cultures. It involves having teams of students from different ethnic backgrounds videotape skits showing prejudice and insensitive racial and religious remarks.

The tapes are then shown to other students, to generate discussion and help various ethnic groups be more at ease with each other and spend more time together, to help overcome the ignorance some people have of different cultures.

The approach is a first in Orange County. We hope it’s not a last. It has attracted the interest of Los Angeles County educators and administrators, and should be established on every high school campus when students return in September.

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The timing at Irvine High couldn’t have been better. The minority population in Orange County grew at three times the rate of the Anglo population during the 1970s, and it hasn’t stopped. One of the first places immigration is felt is in the schools, where minority students in some cases account for more than half of the enrollment.

In Irvine, minority enrollment has increased by more than 1,000 in the last four years, and minorities now make up 35% of Irvine High’s student body. Other districts reflect similar growth patterns.

In Anaheim and Santa Ana, minority students have become the majority, and in the state, only Los Angeles has more students speaking limited English than Santa Ana.

Bruce Baron and his students at Irvine recognized the trend early, and decided to do something to prompt students to spend time with people of different ethnic backgrounds and learn more about them. It’s an approach that should be followed on and off campus.

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