To spread its message even further, Bridge the Divide teamed up with other organizations, including AllSides, a service that offers balanced news coverage, to launch Mismatch. The program pairs classrooms in politically divergent parts of the country and encourages them to learn from each other as they share their opinions on free speech, voting, technology, and other relevant topics.
Using Mismatch, Laura Sofen’s 12th-grade public school class in suburban New Jersey was paired with students from Ruel Haymond’s religious private school in Utah. They spent about an hour videochatting with their partners—and the results were impressive, both teachers say.
“My students . . . were primed with these expectations [about the Utah class]: They’re Mormons, they all have huge families,” Sofen says. And Haymond’s class was shocked that the suburban students could swear in school, a serious offense on their campus.
But despite their differences, the two classrooms were able to bond quickly. They talked about families, sports, hobbies, and more. Some of the teens in Utah brought their laptops outside so they could show their New Jersey partners the mountains. There was even some dancing in front of the camera.