After reading The Whistling Vivaldi, I was intrigued and interested by this idea of “Stereotype Threat” and how it has played out in my life and in others around me.
I picked up a book I read two summers ago by Laurie Olsen called Made In America. Laurie Olsen’s research within her book is extremely important in relation to the “Stereotype Threat” and incorporates the idea of becoming “Americanized” through discrimination. Schools can be sites of social reproduction of inequality through the nature of teaching because cultural values are reproduced in schools. If the teachers don’t acknowledge cultural differences and incorporate a new pedagogy when changes in population occur, there will be a continuation of negative racialization and resistance, gaps in achievement, and discrimination will grow within the school environment. Minority students seemed to be experiencing the “Stereotype Threat” and were viewed through the lens of a negative stereotype. Students feared of doing anything that would confirm their culture’s stereotype in school. There was an example in the book where a girl got annoyed by her relative who would constantly speak Mandarin to her and she wanted to avoid the family member so she wouldn’t be seen as a different ethnicity other than white. Also, the idea of clothing was a large issue to fit in and become “Americanized.” Their clothing styles would create laughter from the American students and this would make the newcomers feel judged and different than the white students. The idea that whites in the school racialize their peers through racial identifier.
There were tracks offered within the school and the teachers would mostly reinforce stereotypes by how they treated each student academically. There was an academic hierarchy within the school and the white and Asians were mostly in the college prep classes. When the white students began to analyze how they were racialized, the white students did not see themselves as having a privilege and they pointed out that things “are not fair” because black students get into college easier. It was also an interesting point to realize that the whiteness of the students is invisible and it does not negatively affect their ability to learn in school. The newcomers felt like the whites were telling them to “stay out of our way” and this led to even more divisions and unwelcome feelings of the newcomers. The division of the newcomers made it hard for them to be exposed to the English language and also made the day-to-day tasks of fitting in and conforming to the “American” way more difficult. The newcomers don’t have the ability to interact and have the experience to learn English with an “American friend.” This is impossible to find an “American friend” because most of the white students are mean to the newcomers. The ways of non-cooperation or rage that American students feel towards the newcomers impact the relationship with the different ethnic groups.
How can we as a country stop this “Stereotype Threat” in schools. As teachers and educators, we can teach the next generation to combat this. If our schools are places where stereotypes are created and fueled, we are failing.
This especially needs to be viewed through the lenses of Obama’s new plans regarding deportation increase the number of diverse cultures within schools (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/14/us/obama-immigration.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0)
Just a thought and connection of new and old learning on this Saturday afternoon 🙂