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2/11/2008

Bias and Prejudice




In a world where wars still rage, and people still kill other people simply because they look different, you would think that it would be unanimous that bias and prejudice should be subjects that are taught in schools. What is the best way to counteract any problem? The simple answer to that is education. If you understand another person's background, or race, or religion, then you may be able to appreciate the differences between that person and yourself.

Is bias and prejudice still a problem in the world today? You better believe it!

What can we do to solve the problem? Educate the world. Should this all be covered in a classroom? I would hope that these issues could be solved at home, but frequently the home may be the source of the problem. Therefore, it is somewhat necessary for schools to discuss and deal with these issues.

Often the main problem behind a bias is either a lack of understanding of another culture, race, sex, religion or other factor. The other reason there may be a bias is because of someone specifically being targeted and being a victim of circumstance.

I can understand the second option much more easily than I can the first. The first one can be solved quite easily by gaining more information, and by keeping an open m
ind.

There are many types of prejudice still being displayed in our world today. People still, even after the sacrifice and labor of our forefathers have issues with people of different colored skin. Others have a superiority complex over another gender... "Girls can't do that! That's something only a man can do." It doesn't end there... Cultures battle over traditions, religious leaders ridicule other religions, and much more.

It seems that some people simply gain satisfaction by
putting other people down. I don't understand what other reward they could obtain by slandering or offending someone that isn't of the same group.

In my classroom we've had some good discussions about these topics. I've tried to make strong points, and keep teaching my students to keep an open mind about issues of bias. Much of what my students learn in these cases comes from their homes. You can see some strong beliefs being passed on from old to young. My main priority through all of this is to show the whole picture. The school I teach at is 99% white. We celebrate Black History Month, and learn about notable Americans of the past who fought for equality. We talk about the issues of slavery and the struggles people had to go through. We read the novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, which really paints a picture of the hardships faced by blacks in the early 1900's. We talk a
bout other cultures and the troubles they have had, or are having.

Education, what an eye-opening tool!

One of the other things that we talk about in my classroom is empathy. Empathy is the ability to place yourself in someone else's shoes.

How did they feel? What would you have done in his/her situation? Can you imagine what it was like for him/her?

Empathy is a topic that I continually come back to throughout the year. I may have to talk to someone out in the hall, "Barb, I'm not sure you realize how hurtful the words you used were. Can you imagine what it would be like to have someone say those words to you?"

It isn't always easy for everyone to obtain empathy. Some people just don't get it. Some children just do not have remorse, or compassion, which is a sad fact. What I try to do in those cases is point out the fact that whatever they did was not the right thing to do. I'll put it out there for them, make it plain and simple, and see if I get a reaction. If there is none, then I tell them to simply apologize.

Yes, teachers sometimes have to play other roles such as peacemaker, conscience, police, babysitter, judge, coach, nurse, doctor, and much more.

The main point behind all of this though is that bias and prejudice are still rampant. Would there be wars if it weren't?

The best solution to solve a majority of the problems with bias and prejudice is education. If you have an understanding as to why people are they way they are, then there is a lesser chance of having issues with that person.

In all reality, all people start out in this world naked, and leave this world the same way. I wish there weren't so many holdups because of the other factors.

12 Comments:

At 9:06 PM, Anonymous Amy said...

I wish they would instate something like that in schools. Even here in Australia -and particularly with the heated attitude towards the Middle East- we could really use that sort of education to get people out of the Us vs. Them mentality.

 
At 9:01 AM, Blogger NYC Educator said...

My lessons about prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination occur whenever I see such things displyed in my classroom.

While racial discrimination occurs with less frequency, particularly after kids hear me, anti-gay comments are regarded as absolutely acceptable by many, amny kids, reinforced by just as many ignorant adults, many of whom are running the country.

 
At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Sue said...

I deal with a lot of bias and prejudice because I teach Learning Disabilities. People, even teachers forget that when their child/student was tested they had to have an average or above average IQ to qualify for special education but difficulty learning. I tried to teach my students and their teachers that they are very good at some things and we just have to find ways to compensate for the areas that they have difficulty with. It is very hard to solve problems of war and prejudice and bias in society but maybe if we teach our students to accept themselves as lovable and capable as well as those around them it would help.

 
At 4:37 PM, Anonymous Hula Doula said...

Here via Blog Explosion
Just saying hi
You should meet my friend from Weekly Scheiss. You both have a passion for education that is FANTASTIC!

 
At 6:52 PM, Anonymous AnthonyB said...

As a 4th grade teacher in NYC, I have a great class, as many here, with kids representing 16 countries and 6 continents. But, even with all of that diversity, I still have racism. At this age, it definitely comes from somewhere and often times it IS home, as you pointed out. I have found that talking to students who use the word "racist", they don't even understand it's full meaning beyond a skin color issue. To deal with this, as many problems, the kids have to see it as part of the real world, and our studies. Through our explorer and colony units, we have learned and shared a lot about ourselves and have found that not only can we trace our roots back to many similar places, but also that are ancestors came to America, and especially NYC, for VERY similar reasons. It may not solve the problem completely, but these kinds of issues NEED to be a part of our curriculum and not always just a class discussion, especially with 8 and 9 year olds.

 
At 12:15 PM, Blogger andrea said...

What a beautiful and insightful post! The world needs more teachers like you. Know that what you do will make a difference.

I personally embrace diversity. I am christian but have been to a mosque as well as a temple and found it greatly enlightening. I have many friends from different backgrounds and find it only enriches my life.

I have a friend who has a site called e-m-p-a-t-h-y.blogspot.com which you might find interesting.

I am so glad I stumbled upon your blog! Have a teriffic day!

 
At 8:15 PM, Blogger Bonnie said...

This is so important to be taught today because there is such intolerance. Nice post.

 
At 2:37 PM, Anonymous Ryan said...

The first thing we need to do is stop preaching "tolerance" and start preaching "acceptance".

Very insightful post, I enjoyed it

 
At 4:16 AM, Blogger Miss Profe said...

What has not been said here is noting the unexamined views of the teacher. We constantly focus on the students, which, in many cases, is where hope remains for any lasting and enduring change. However, if we are asking adults who have not ever seriously examined their own views, then we can't accomplish very much. Many teachers just don't know, have never experienced or just don't give a flying hamburger about racism.

 
At 11:14 PM, Blogger Tachizuno said...

Education = teachers learning too

I give a flying hamburger about racism though... is that a start?

By the way, this blog is written toward the teacher or parent that does care. It is part information and insight, and part inspiration.

I'm not perfect either. I have my own biases, but I am willing to be educated. I say "Prove me wrong!"

 
At 9:29 PM, Anonymous STACIE PETERSON said...

WOW is all I have say! I totally agree that it should be taught in schools because the home obviously isn't doing a very good job.

 
At 3:15 AM, Blogger Shumayal said...

Discrimination on basis of racism is especially harsh. I have been a victim, of a really serious type of discrimination and knows how it feels.
I would love to share my story with you.

Nice article.

 

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