How to Reduce Prejudice & Stereotyping in Schools
School grounds can be the site of bullying and violent behaviour between students. At the root of many cases of bullying are stereotypes, or generalisation about a group of people, and prejudice, an unfavourable opinion about a group based on such stereotypes.
By facing stereotypes and prejudices head on and educating students, teachers can help make schools a safer, more secure place for students of all backgrounds.
Tackle the issue head on by encouraging middle and high school teachers to talk about stereotypes and prejudice in their classrooms. Discuss racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia, and other biases. Investigate different stereotypes, where they came from, and how they impact people's views of one another. Through such discussions, preteen and teenage students can gain a better understanding of the unfairness of prejudices and the dangers of stereotyping an entire group of people.
Promote education about different cultures. Teach students about different races, ethnicities, religions and other groups to help students know the truth about people who are different from themselves. Fun activities such as discussing holiday celebrations or cooking ethnic food can provide an opportunity to explore the differences and similarities between groups of people. For help planning a lesson, browse lesson plans online (see Resources) to find a variety of multicultural activities designed to teach children about different cultures. When students learn about other cultures, there is less room for them to make false assumptions. Becoming familiar with other cultures also removes the fear that can come from things that are different and may seem odd.
Teachers can use a storybook as a way to introduce and illustrate these difficult topics for younger school age children. A plethora of children's books have stories about stereotypes and prejudice. Understanding Prejudice offers an extensive list online of many such books (see Resources). A teacher can begin by reading the story, then have a discussion about the story and its related themes. The teacher can ask open-ended questions while reading the story about the characters' feelings and about the students' own experiences to explore prejudice in a way that is understandable by younger children.
Invite a speaker with relevant experience or knowledge to address the students. Police officers, government officials, and community members from different groups who are interested in public speaking may share their stories with students and make clear the dangers of stereotypes and prejudice. By hearing about an actual example of the damage of prejudice, students may quickly learn how their thoughts and words can harm others.