Students examine stereotypes
Students examine stereotypes through hands-on experiment
pictureFreshmen in Bryson McGuire’s AP Human Geography class at Danville High School received a hands-on lesson Tuesday about stereotypes and how they can unfairly label individuals or groups.

As students entered the classroom, McGuire gave each student a new identity by placing a label on their back. Students were given identities ranging from a Muslim to a retired senior citizen.

The activity started with McGuire reminding students not to reveal their peer’s label. Then students were divided into smaller groups where they would each take turns asking a series of fifteen questions to help uncover their new identity.

pictureAmong their small groups students began asking questions like “Can you tell by looking at me what my label is” or “would you let me take care of your children?” As their classmates answered they took note of their responses and tried to guess their identity.

It’s all a part of the course’s culture unit where students are challenged to explore behaviors and belied characteristics of a particular group.

After each group completed their questions McGuire led a class discussion. He asked students to share their experience with their identity. His students were eager to share.

“I was homeless and couldn’t do much just because people didn’t think I was capable,” said Eleanor, one of the freshmen in the class.

picture“There were many things I couldn’t do because people feared not being able to communicate with me,” explained Hope, a freshman who was hearing impaired for the exercise.

When McGuire asked the class what they learned from the experience several hands waved in the air.

“I learned people judge homeless people more than they try to help them,” said Eleanor.

“People can be rude,” said another student.

A student who received a Muslim identity during the exercise was surprised that her group members did not want to bring her to their religious services.

“I know I judge people when I see them but I am always open to trying new things,” explained the student.

pictureMcGuire explained to the student she was not alone and asked for a show of hands from students who make judgements.

“Through this exercise my desired was for students to understand the struggles that others face daily, and how we unconsciously discriminate against others, said McGuire.

He was proud of how engaged his students throughout the experiment.
“The best way to have compassion on others, is to remember when someone has compassion on you. It is up to each of us to tear down these stereotypes and to remove the stain of discrimination,” said McGuire.