Name some specific stereotypes you have learned. From where/whom did you learn these stereotypes? Are they positive or negative? Are the stereotypes and prejudices the result of group membership/social and cultural identities? Which ones? How do they influence your behaviors when you have interactions with the people the stereotypes and prejudices are about?
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When I was young, I learned a stereotype about twins. I thought that they would have identical personalities. I got this from social experiences. I saw twins dressed alike. When I was in about 5th grade, I became good friends with a set of twins. I realized that they were NOTHING alike, even if they dressed alike and looked alike. Now, my best friend is yet another twin- completely different than her sister!
Unfortunately, I learned about stereotypes from my "friends" when I began going to public schools (after leaving military base schools). I had no clue that people were regarded differently simply based upon the color of their skin (certainly negative).
Since learning about racial stereotypes, I have been sure not to adhere to the beliefs of those who uphold them. I look at the person and their individual qualities.
One stereotype I have/had was that Japanese people are extremely polite and reluctant to speak their minds. I got that stereotype both from the media and, interestingly enough, from the Japanese langauge classes I took in high school. This affected the way I interacted with Japanese people that I met and befriended in the last 6 or 7 years (15 to 20 years after high school). It turns out that those stereotypes are no longer true, if they ever were.
This is actually a very difficult question to answer. We stereotype, I think, because of the way our minds work. We seek order, look for patterns, and form associations based on categories that are, to some extent, culturally determined. What is important, I think, is to be conscious of this, and to actively seek to challenge our preconceived notions rather than accepting stereotypes uncritically. But it's important to remember that we all do it.
No matter what anyone says, we all stereotype. Whether it be the poorly dressed minority child, the immigrant with poor language skills, the over-dressed blonde or the person with the southern drawl...we all think certain ways about certain people. I actually learned to pay particular attention to this from my parents. My dad had been in WWII and talked about the "Japs" and other minorities. I never knew any Asians growing up, so I had no personal experience. However, I have long since realized that my dad's bias was based upon his experience - namely, war. I also learned that this is why so many people make assemptions - limited experiences. From this, I have learned to try to be aware of my biases and know that one definition or characterization never has, and never will, fit any one group of people.
Stereotypes start from a real experience that is then generalized and applied to others without really thinking about whether or not the conclusion fits all members of the group. Somewhere, at some time in the past, a blonde woman who was not terribly bright became the original "dumb blonde" - and all blondes are now saddled with that stereotype.
One stereotype I've acquired is the assumption that people who are seriously involved in drugs -- even if it's "just" serious indulgence in marijuana -- are far less likely to be academically successful than people who either stay away from drugs or use them so moderately that I'm not aware of their use. I've formed this stereotype based on my interactions with a few students over the years and based on various media images. My own experience with such students has suggested that there is some real truth to this stereotype.
As suggested above we each develop our stereotypes based on our learning environments.
I thought I would mention that teachers also develop stereotypes about students, based on experiences. Remember a stereotype is created when you make an assumption about a large group based on a single experience or no experience.
Teachers often stereotype based on looks. We think girls are more academic than boys and "clean cut" kids will behave and perform better. We often think athletes are poor students and artistic and creative students are smarter. NONE of this is true. As you yourself know, we are each individuals and our strengths and weaknesses cannot be seen on our face or often even in our transcript. (i.e. Should coaches assume all tall kids are good at basketball?)
Perhaps you could consider how your own teachers, administrators, coaches, etc stereotype you, and your friends and classmates and in return, how do you stereotype them? Do you make assumptions based on age, gender, clothes, looks, ethnicity or even subject matter taught? (i.e. Should students assume that all P.E. teachers are not good at academics?)
A stereotype that I have inherited comes from my own very fortunate schooling. I was lucky enough to attend a private school in Britain, and as a result of this and my own middle-class upbringing I have a very "posh" accent. This does mean that I do have a stereotype of those that do speak with some regional accents being associated with certain classes and also certain strata of society in terms of their educational achievement. Working amongst such learners for a number of years is slowly making me realise that this is not true, however!
One stereotype I held for many year was that athletes were not intelligent. I think this was to some degree formed from my interactions with some athletes in a few classes I took. I have since changed my mind, believing that athletes are like anyone else, some intelligent and some not. I should also say that successful athletes have a form of intelligence that I clearly do not, a kinesthetic intelligence, and that, like most people, I suspect, I tend to value forms of intelligence that are most like my own and discount those that are not. I think that is not so admirable, and it is something I work on.
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