Cafeteria Mapping

Dear Dr. Jones:

With all the recent incidences of school shootings and other acts of violence, school administrators all over the country are trying to think of ways to prevent such incidences from occurring at their schools. You, too, are probably faced with the concern of school-related violence and how to prevent it. Many school administrators are considering forcing students to sit with students who aren’t in their group or clique, but is this actually a good idea? Will forcing students to sit with people they don’t like and/or don’t want to sit with actually help them to get along better, or will it encourage more violence towards persons of other cliques? I believe that more problems will be created than will be solved by following the proposed solution.

First of all, the problem upon which we are deliberating involves the formation of groups in the school. To find a solution to a problem, you first must know the cause(s) and result(s) of the problem. There are many reasons as to why students form groups. One of the largest factors in the formation and choice of cliques is common interests. Students want to hang out with people who like the same (or similar) things that they do. For example, if there are two students in the school, and one likes sports and the other likes drama and art, they most likely won’t get along well because they don’t have anything in common. If two people have nothing in common, they will get bored if they hang out with each other since they won’t be able to find anything that BOTH of them want to do. If you look at all the different groups in our school, most people in each one have something in common – the guys in the football clique all play football, the girls in the cheerleader clique all cheerlead, etc. Although most people who play the same sport or are involved in the same activities are in a group associated with that sport or activity, not everyone in that sport or activity is in that group. Often, these students aren’t in the clique because they and the other people in the activity/sport have a major difference. A few such examples could be the middle school they attended or other interests they may have. Often, students who go to the same middle and possibly even elementary schools have already found some good friends and they want to stick with their friends in high school. Whatever activities/sports the students are involved in, they still want to be friends. If one of the friends, for example, played football, he might not hang out with the other football players, or just hang out with football players from his middle/elementary school.

Now that we know the cause of the formation of groups and reasoning behind it, this is where the problem and result come in. The problem is that students in the group(s) that are considered the most popular group(s) – the ones with the most people in them, which in our school would probably be the football players, the cheerleaders and the jocks – often don’t want people with different interests to hang out with them. The “popular” person may like the other person perfectly fine, but doesn’t want to hang out with him or her for whatever reason. In some cases, the “popular” student may not like the other person at all and doesn’t want to hang out with him/her for that reason. Whichever is the case, the end result is usually the same: Not being accepted can cause the other person hardship.

You may be thinking that if “popular” students were forced to mingle with other students, then they might make some new friends, but this is not always the case; in many cases, it may even make the “popular” person dislike the other person even more. If a “popular” student is forced to sit with someone (s)he doesn’t like, it will often make him or her upset. He or she will be mad that (s)he can’t sit next to his/her friends, and (s)he will either ignore the person (s)he is forced to sit next to or mistreat that person (put them down, pick on them, etc.). This does not help students relate to one another better; it just makes things worse.

If forcing students to mingle is not a good, profitable solution, then what is? I think that the whole problem lies in people’s attitudes towards the different groups in the school, not in the groups themselves. If students in different groups only like the people in their groups and mistreat others, it isn’t the groups we have to get rid of, it’s the students’ bad attitudes we have to get rid of. Changing students’ attitudes towards others is not an easy task, especially when students are older. If teachers and parents work together to teach children good behavior at a young age, they will have a much easier task accomplishing their goal. Then, as students get older, although they still may form groups, they will treat members of other groups the way they should be treated – with respect and kindness. There still will be cases where a few students rebel and don’t treat others nicely, but that is all covered if the other children are brought up correctly; someone brought up to treat others with respect will treat others courteously whether they are treated considerately or not.

Please consider the situation from my (a student’s) point of view and don’t force students to do things they don’t want to do. Instead, encourage them to respect others and treat fellow students in a highly regarded manner.



Erich Musick