A Study of the Atlanta Public Schools Ethnic Heritage Studies Project’s Staff Development Processes, Multiethnic Student Resources, Multicultural Press
Celebrating Ethnic Groups Contributions to America:
The United States celebrated its Bi-Centennial on July 4, 1976. The previous year, the Government, for the purpose of celebrating the contributions of ethnic groups to the nation’s development, granted millions of dollars to school systems across the country. The Atlanta Public Schools (APS) received $37,000, perhaps the equivalent of $100,000 or more dollars in today’s money. The system agreed to release three teachers to the Social Studies Coordinator to develop and implement a six week long international education program that would become part of the middle school curriculum.
The grant identified Atlanta’s major ethnic groups in 1975 as Black / African, Jewish, Asian, Hispanic and Greek origins. The development group was supposed to make an effort to include a black middle school teacher, Asian elementary school teacher, and Greek high school social studies teacher. The system was unable to find a Greek high school social studies teacher and instead selected a Jewish-American social studies teacher, namely me, Arnold Heller.
APS Ethnic Heritage Studies Project:
I had just spent 1972 – 1975 at West Fulton High School on Bankhead Highway principally teaching ninth grade Geography and junior level U. S. History classes. During the Spring of 1975, I developed and taught a Future Studies class based on the teachings of Alvin Toffler and other futurists. I published my experience of teaching the first future studies class in Georgia and the South in the Georgia Social Studies Journal and that brought me to the attention of Mrs. Jeanette Moon, the APS Social Studies Coordinator.
I was empowered for two years to train 20 middle school teachers, provide an innovative curriculum for 462 adolescent students, and develop educational materials to be placed in all APS middle school libraries for teachers to share. The first year I developed the Jewish-American and Hispanic-American curriculums and helped participating teachers to employ the materials in their classrooms. The second year I re-ran the program in order to measure its cognitive and affective components for my doctoral dissertation that I was preparing for Georgia State University. It was approved and accepted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Philosophy in the College of Education.
Testing a Theory to attack prejudice through education:
I believed that ignorance contributed to all forms of prejudice and that education was the key to combating it. The theory that I wished to test employed a treatment that taught students the ethnic groups’ cultures and contributions to the nation to foster the concepts of respect and equality among all Americans. The target group was sixth and seventh grade students considered by the Swiss educational theorist Jean Piaget to be the last malleable age to modify attitudes. My aim was to utilize the Ethnic Heritage Studies Project to produce a statistically valid prejudice reduction treatment that would be integrated into the mainstream curriculum. My hope was for school systems to become major change agents in attacking prejudice and ethnocentrism.
My dissertation committee included Dr. Charles Crosthwait, Dr. Alan Hoffman, Dr. John Diehl and Dr. Charles Hopkins – these four gentlemen expertly guided me in drawing my conclusions from the data that I collected. The four advisers believed that statistical validation produced an innovative and important research study that would impact education, society, and human attitudes. Unfortunately, changing technology soon rendered the study invisible to academia and consigned it to a research abyss.
Rise of the ERIC Search Engine:
The ever greater computing power and capacity of mainframes changed the role of university libraries by allowing for central storage of data. At the time of publication by the Georgia State University Press, the ERIC search engine, the world’s largest educational research data base, was being established (Education Resource Information Center, www.eric.ed.gov). I prepared my dissertation for inclusion in the new ERIC data base but for some reason that remains a mystery, it did not get installed. I followed up many times to assure the study’s availability to scholars in the field but there was always a problem that could not be overcome. After years of trying, and increasingly becoming involved in growing career responsibilities, I gave up trying.
Thirty-five years of anonymity – “better late than never”:
This dissertation is my contribution to research and for scholars to finally access. I hope that it still possesses research, academic and educational value. The Abstract follows and the full dissertation will be placed on line chapter by chapter.
The writer also wishes to thank his late mother, Mrs. Jeanne Heller Polinsky, for having taught me the power of persistence and patience in accomplishing goals. Finally, I thank my late wife Sue Auerbach Heller, for her continuous support and understanding.