Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Learning At The Middle School, Part 1: Prejudice, Who Me?

I am a principal and one task of my job is to conduct "walk-throughs."  This is spending a short amount of time in a classroom to get a feel of the class, recognize the classroom objectives, and the amount of student engagement through teaching strategies in use.  I recently was in our speech classroom and the students were working with a partner filling out a personal survey.  One of the students did not have a partner so I sat down to use the questions and to be interviewed by her.  An interview directive said, "Name some of your prejudices."  Of course, I said I had none.  The next part of the lesson described that we ALL have feelings of prejudice and the rest of the lesson would help identify these feelings.

A middle school lesson caused me to have several days of self reflection and contemplation.  Prejudice means to "pre-judge."  It is a preformed opinion based on lack of information, insufficient knowledge, or irrational feelings.  On the world wide web, I confess that I am guilty of prejudice.  Let me name a few that I found:      

  • NASCAR fans - I have a mental picture of NASCAR fans in tank/halter tops, a Bud in one hand & the rest of the 6-pack in the other, and loud.  I have never been to a NASCAR event and every part of my image is "pre-judging."  I now know that lack of information drives these feelings.
  • Tattooed Persons - I am getting better at this one, but I have a long way to go.  I now make myself engage in a conversation with a wearer of tattoos.  I think it's because I am still wondering why.  Sadly I am sure this comes from my own culture and upbringing.  Insufficient knowledge causes me to not understand this group.
  • British - It has nothing to do with any past wars or any historical conflicts between nations.  I just feel they are looking down on me.  The most common word sounds so "fancy" and "uppity" when they say it.  It also irritates me that they call us "Yanks."  They also call soccer........ football.  I guess it is somewhat easier when someone from another country speaks an entirely different language, for me, anyway.
  • Drivers of "4 x 4" Trucks - Now I have had 4-wheel drive trucks and have lived in places where it was needed.   I'm talking about the trucks with oversized tires, lifters - that require a ladder for the average person to get inside, especially when they are driving these vehicles on I-35.  I know they get 2 mpg and I just don't get it.  Yes, I have irrational feelings toward them.
  • Canadians - They are so obsessed with hockey and I just don't get it.  Their national symbol is a leaf...........really?!?  All the cold fronts seem to originate from them.  Classic lack of information, because I don't even know anyone from Canada.
If you are a member of any of these groups, please forgive me.  I admit that I have allowed my own lack of knowledge form my opinions.  Maybe I should buy a 4x4 truck, get a tattoo, attend the next NASCAR event, and vacation in Canada & Europe.  Or maybe I just need to become more educated and less judgmental.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Loved this concept of thinking through our prejudices; identifying the stereotype we have and striving to "get to know" more people who we tend to put in an all inclusive category. What a great exercise!

You and Chris are a blessing to so many. Thank you for sharing!