The University Record, January 11, 1993

Huron High/U-M project fosters multicultural awareness

By Terry Gallagher
News and Information Services

A "dramatic" improvement in multicultural awareness and sensitivity in schools may result from a joint project of Ann Arbor Huron High School and the U-M.

Skits focusing on issues of race, gender and age differences at Huron served as the basis for an in-service training session for 125 professional educators at the high school in early November. The performances were directed by Jullie Nessen, lecturer in musical theater at the School of Music, and performed by students in the Department of Theater and Drama.

The five skits were written by Detroit playwright Stephen Mack Jones, based on observations of students, teachers, and administrators at Huron High. Some of the issues raised include the "achievement gap" between white and Black students, insensitivity to racial and gender differences among students and teachers, and conflicts between older teachers and younger teachers.

After the performances, small groups led by fellow teachers discussed the issues raised in the skits. The teachers who facilitated the discussions had received training on multicultural awareness issues from staff in the Office of Minority Affairs.

"The overwhelming response of the Huron staff was they found the use of drama to teach multicultural concepts extremely valuable," according to Desmond P. Ryan, a teacher at Huron who coordinated the program. "One teacher said it was one of the most useful and unique days that she went through in in-service training.'

A survey of Huron students and their parents last year showed that many considered racial and gender attitudes to be barriers to learning. As a result, raising multicultural awareness among teachers, staff, and students is one of the goals set by the educators there as part of an accreditation process. Ryan notes, "This is just one step in that process."

"The skits reflected the complexity of the problems related to multicultural education," according to Andrea Monroe-Fowler, project associate in the Office of Minority Affairs who coordinated the U-M's participation in the program. Monroe-Fowler and other staff members, including Todd Sevig and Pamela Motoike of the Student Counseling Office Ximena U. Zuniga in the Office of Intergroup Relations, worked with the Huron faculty to develop the program over several months.