Kløkt og fordom: <br>Om holdningsendring i klasserommet
English title: Prudence and prejudice. On changing attitudes in the classroom
Most teachers have experienced various forms of prejudice expressed in the classroom. When one hears attitudes or opinions that go against school and society’s values, it is not always easy to know how to respond appropriately and wisely.
Educators have a social responsibility both towards the individual and the community. Individuals are the learning subjects, but the context for learning is group-based. Teachers’ social responsibility entails both individuals that have expressed prejudice against a particular group, and those who identify themselves with this particular group. In addition, educators have responsibility for the group based learning arena, which all the individuals belong to. Beyond this, schools are expected to contribute to a democratic society. Preventing prejudice expressed in the class room will not only ensure a safer environment for the pupils, it will also contribute to society as a whole by promoting democratic values. In other words, there are several reasons why schools should work to prevent prejudice.
Many have antipathies or prejudices against groups of people. However, but some groups are more often faced with prejudice than others. A prerequisite for the development of prejudice is the formation of categories. People are able to suppress their prejudices. Prejudice is not created in a vacuum; they are social stances that must be understood in the context of the specific human environment. Studies show that if a person has prejudices against Jews, for example, the person tends to be more disposed to have prejudices against other groups as well, such as for example gays, , Muslims and immigrants. This disposition is called "group focused enmity."
When a child is between eight and twelve years, the child starts to check and correct its perception of the world. Before it reaches this stage, the child’s comments about out-groups mainly stems from other people’s instructions. Studies from the USA have shown that negativity towards people with a different skin color decreases from around the age of 10 compared to when the child was younger.
An individual's attitudes are formed on the basis of that person's overall experience. Although formed individually, experience often take place in social interaction with other individuals. In social settings, people find their significant other, that is, an individual or individuals they may mirror and adjust to. Such individuals may include parents, siblings, friends and teachers. The school is therefore a very important arena for promoting positive attitudes.
Albert Einstein allegedly claimed that "It is harder to crack a prejudice than an atom." But even if we take hold of prejudices and actively seek to fight them, it will require time and energy. The process of changing a person’s attitude is significantly longer than the process of developing a person’s academic knowledge and skill.
It is often said that "prejudice must be fought with knowledge." Prejudice consists of both beliefs and attitudes. It is important that educators have access to constructive meeting arenas, read books, play games and watch movies that can make room for empathy. It is essential to find learning resources, initiatives and approaches that promote values such as empathy and community, and then creating positive experiences for the pupils.
Copyright (c) 2014 Solveig Moldrheim
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