What are some common labels used in the school setting? How can these hurt youth?

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mizzwillie | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Some common labels used in the school setting are old such as dork, stupid, retard, gay, and brainiac, while others are newer in the facebook, instagram, instant messaging which students use to anonymously attack someone.  They may not use labels but tell falsehoods about what someone has done.  Here in Minnesota, a student falsely said that he had kissed a teacher which made the teacher look bad and ended with him enrolling in a different school.  Labels and falsehoods hurt youth enormously even to the point of suicide.  The constant teasing, namecalling, pursuit of someone on the available media especially those where the acccuser can be anonymous are all degrading to the person being persecuted, making them feel unwelcome and unwanted.  Those who remain friends with them are often also attacked.  The hardest part is that parents cannot really help stop these attacks as they did when the labels were used in public where there was hard evidence.  The label of gay seems to be the most destructive to young people as the label is often used in disgust, cruel attack mode, or just plain inhumane.  I have a gay brother, gay friends, have had gay students and worked with closeted gay teachers all of whom experienced the torture that name calling inflicts.  Destroying self confidence, putting them in a label box from which they are not allowed to leave, all lead to youth feeling low self-worth at best and suicidal at worst.  Finally, society is beginning to see the destructiveness of such labeling, and is Beginning to support efforts to stop it.   

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Wiggin42 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) Valedictorian

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Geek and nerd are two words often thrown around in my high school. However, people tend to take this as a source of pride. We're a public school but one of the best in the state. Our Math and Science competition teams always place within the top four or five. In general we keep trying to join the ranks of elite private and magnet schools. Being called dumb, stupid, "regular", are more hurtful than whats considered hurtful in other areas (dork, nerd, etc). 

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thewanderlust878 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 3) Salutatorian

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All high schools use labels for people, whether the students or faculty realize it or not. While most of them seem hurtful or untrue, the unfortunate part about it is that labeling people, or putting them into a certain category, is a part of life that not only continues into adulthood, but has also been a part of our society for many, many centuries. Society puts people who act, look, or are similar in some way into categories or groups mostly for the sake of describing more than one individual. 

That being said, some labels are hurtful and downright rude, and as a child or teen it can destroy self confidence and force them to not be true to themselves in order to fit in. For example, someone who is intelligent being called a "know-it-all" (much like Hermione Granger) might start doing poorly on tests or homework assignments just so the teasing stops.

chrisyhsun's profile pic

chrisyhsun | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Salutatorian

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“Geek” and “nerd” are two labels commonly associated with the high school setting. These can hurt youth because they both have negative connotations, making students feel bad for doing well in school, even though this is something to be encouraged. On the other hand, even if an individual can understand that the label of “geek” or “nerd” is actually not anything bad (because it means they are doing well), this can cause them to become overly scared of making mistakes, even though mistakes are oftentimes important in the learning process.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are the labels of “dumb blonde” or “dumb jock”. Like with the other labels, students who are called these names have to endure the social pressure of the connotations associated with these names. Through pop culture, we all have stereotypes associated with each of these terms, and these categorizations are harmful in that they either make the student conform to the stereotypes (thus detracting from their full potential) or force them to combat the teasing of other students who see that the individual doesn’t fit that prescribed mold.

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