This curriculum module is designed
to help students understand the role various stereotypes play
in social relations between individuals, communities and even
nation-states. It facilitates students' learning of how to
define, identify, cope with, and overcome stereotypes that
are prevalent in all societies.
Stereotypes are pervasive. We rely
on them in our daily lives for they provide us with serviceable,
simple, summary images of other people (individual or groups)
we have to deal with. Our lives are hectic and we desperately
need quick answers about who "the others" are and
how we are supposed to interact with them. Sometimes we use
them because we are lazy: its easier to apply a ready-made
image or description of some group of people than to invest
time and energy into finding more information about who they
really are. It must be remembered, however, that the empirical
accuracy of stereotypes is dubious. As Walter Lipmann - who
is widely believed to introduce the term to the social science
in 1922 - quipped: "All Indians walk in single file,
at least the one I saw did."
Relying upon stereotypes may make our lives easier, at least
in the short run, but we should understand that by using them
we usually hurt those whom we are stereotyping. This in itself
is a problem: on ethical grounds this is wrong. More pragmatically,
we should refrain from doing unto others what we would not
want them to do to us. Additionally, however, the reliance
on stereotypes prevents us from gaining a more thorough knowledge
of other people and other cultures. This is dangerous, because
our social, political, and economic relationships with people
from other cultures and civilizations are increasingly vital
for our own well-being in the rapidly globalizing world.
While the complete eradication of
stereotypes from our thinking is perhaps impossible, it is
imperative that we understand their - often unintended yet
devastating - consequences.
This curriculum module will address several important aspects
of the study of stereotypes and presents various methods of
dealing with them. It can be used on its own or in tandem
with other curriculum modules offered by Global Citizen 2000.
The module was developed by a team. The
final research, organizing, writing and editing was done by
Martha and Jan Kubik.
JAN KUBIK, Associate Professor of Political Science and Director
of the Center for Russian, Central, and East European Studies.
His work is focused mostly on postcommunist transformations
in Eastern Europe and revolves around the relationship between
culture and politics and contentious politics. His major publications
include The Power of Symbols Against the Symbols of Power.
The Rise of Solidarity and the Fall of State Socialism in
Poland, University Park: Penn State University Press (1994)
and Rebellious Civil Society: Popular Protest and Democratic
Consolidation in Poland, 1989-1993, Ann Arbor: The University
of Michigan Press (1999), co-authored by Grzegorz Ekiert.
MARTHA F. KUBIK, Enrichment teacher at West Amwell Elementary
School in Lambertville, NJ. Working in a school that is dedicated
to the enrichment of every student, she and her students are
participating in this and other innovative projects. In her
other lives, she has worked as a high school coordinator for
the United Federation of Teachers, an editor, and a librarian
(and still is).