Posted: August 7th, 2013
Exposure to Stereotypes
Exposure to Stereotypes
A stereotype is a conviction that may be adopted regarding certain types of individuals or ways of doing things (McGarty, Yzerbyt, and Spears 2002). Stereotypes come in various forms and can affect everyone, since the belief they predispose to the people affected may be true or false. Entertainment is a major contributor to stereotyping, through movies, video games, songs, television series and products such as toys, which are the most common play tools among children. Toys have a direct influence on children, and thus it is not hard to believe that they are largely contributory to a child’s behavior.
Research by McGarty, Yzerbyt and Spears, asserted that toys credited most appropriate for boys differ in a number of ways from those judged apposite for girls. Toys viewed as more appropriate for girls were rated as attractive, nurturing and subject to manipulability while masculine toys were branded as more competitive, aggressive, productive, and conducive to handling, encouraging sociability and reality based. He also added that toys stereotyped as feminine included domestically oriented toys and stuffed toys, whereas boys’ toys included vehicles, guns and construction toys. Collectively, these differentiations are more likely to signify that boys and girls are more likely to play with their own gender stereotyped toys.
To make the matter worse, parents and the society expect the children to play with their respective gender toys. For instance, it would be more appropriate for a boy to play more extensively and frequently than with female stereotyped toys because boys tend to receive criticism from the parents as well as their peers for playing with the female stereotyped toys, whereas girls receive less criticism for engaging in the same manner. This, in turn, has an effect on children and further draws them to interact and socialize with their own gender as well as take part in activities correspondent to their own gender.
Schools assemble many children from different races, cultures, background and gender. Such stereotypes, such as those of gender (aforementioned), seem to separate children in different strata. Paley (1992), in her work as a kindergarten teacher sought to bring out the diversification of children in a classroom set up. In her book, “You Can’t Say, You Can’t Play”, Paley noted that, with every group of students, a caste structure developed year after year. Under this structure, certain students were given the power to make games and the rules. They were the ‘bosses’ who determined those to take part in the games and those to be excluded. Those who were expelled from the games were given the status of ‘rejected’.
The ‘classroom hierarchy’, which she addressed, had several impacts on children. Being excluded from the games by the ‘bosses’ caused the ‘rejected’ children to isolate themselves from the rest of their classmates, rather than being the epitome of ridicule among their peers. Despite being ridiculed, children also become isolated and depressed and develop low self-esteem. The new rule, ‘You can’t say, You can’t play’, proved to be effective, because it gave the ‘outcasts’ a voice to speak out on the effects of being rejected. It also elevated the children’s self-confidence and enabled them to play with whomever they wanted without the fear of being rejected. In a completely new light, the rule helped children to accept each other despite their differences.
The problem of stereotypes does not limit itself to the playground but also to other areas in the education sector, the most common being teaching materials. Teaching materials such as textbooks are the most influential and cannot be ignored. Research from McGarty, Yzerbyt and Spears, shows that, students spend most of their class time using textbooks and that most teachers make a majority of their decisions based on textbooks. In her book, Roots & wings: Affirming Culture in Early Childhood Programs, Stacey York (2006) provides strategies that can be adopted to eliminate stereotypes in teaching material. Stacey also provides ways of dealing with intricate issues such as racial prejudice and cultural assortment for early childhood educators.
Strategies given by Stacey for combating racial and cultural bias are drawn up from misconceptions regarding multicultural education. The misconceptions border mostly on the education of multiple races in a typical classroom setting. Some of these fallacies include worsening of cross-cultural relations when talking about human differences, inability of children to grasp differences among people, multicultural education is only indispensable where there are diverse cultures and that multiculturalism will lead to autonomy.
It is due to the mistaken beliefs mentioned that culturally based and anti-bias activities are drawn up. Such strategies include care-giving practices that accolade the parent’s style for caring and educating their children, classroom environments that replicate children’s domicile cultures, instructing strategies familiar within the children’s home cultures, approaches that help children learn about human diversity and gain knowledge of distinguishing and opposing stereotypes.
People usually assume that children do not understand what they see or hear outside but surprisingly, whatever is taught to a child will always have a meaning to it regardless of the child’s age. It is therefore correct to surmise that children, as much as adults, also get affected by stereotyping, and that much should be done in order to help them open up their minds on the dangers of stereotyping. Appreciating and accepting each other’s differences is far much easier because it puts emphasis on unity, after all, divided we stand, mutually we plunge.
McGarty, Yzerbyt, & Spears. (2002). Stereotypes as explanations: The formation of meaningful beliefs about social groups. London: Cambridge University Press.
Paley. (1992). You can’t say you can’t play. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
York. (2006). Roots & wings: Affirming culture in early childhood programs. St. Paul, Minnesota: Redleaf Press.
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