Stereotyping the World…Just Start in your Town

I remember the first time I saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire not because the movie was so great (which it was), but because of Cho.  The young lady of Asian decent spoke perfectly in the Queen’s English.  My stereotypes of English and Asian people shattered that day when I heard Cho speak.  Discusses world stereotypes is an important awareness activity.  I think we spend a lot of time discussing stereotypes however are we secretly embedding those stereotypes deeper into student.  Lets think for a moment about a traditional exercise where we view pictures and discuss the obvious stereotypes.

Typically in these activities the focus is on negative hurtful stereotypes.  Students review different examples and recognize the reoccurring themes.  However, at no point do students view any pictures that break these stereotypes.  Are we helping students move past stereotypes or simply reinforcing their pre-existing biases?  Simply discussing the stereotype not does not remove it from our consciousness.  The brain does a weird thing where even though we know something is not true we will continue to use that schema until we have one that replaces it.

We are bombarded daily with thousands of messages that reinforce stereotypes.   Another way to look at stereotypes would be to find the example and non-example.  Having students playing a matching style game with pictures that provide the stereotype and then provides the non-example.   Hardly ever do we replace the stereotype.  We also need to examine positive stereotypes because often they are just as damaging.   And to do this we do not have to discuss other cultures, we have plenty of stereotypes right here in the United States.  Having lived in a number of different states, I can tell you that people stereotype anything that they do not have direct experience with.  Try asking a rancher from Texas what they think about Oregonians.


Connecting to a Myth…the Most Dangerous Path of All.

We often hear stories or myths of Ancient Greek heroes.  Achilles could beat any man in battle.  Hercules had incredible strength that allowed him to complete his task.  Jason and his Argonauts captured the golden fleece.  These heroes possessed many of the attributes we idealize in our society: bravery, courage, strength, determination, hard-working, and intelligence.  We read these stories and now that they were created thousands of years ago and yet we still believe growing up that we are defined by these values and should seek to improve ourselves based on these standards.

Flash forward to modern day, we find the same ideals bombarding young boys on a daily basis.  Except instead of a few stories we see this same narrative play out everywhere.  Professional athletes are our heroes of the modern day.  The battle each week against their enemies in order to win the day.  Titans of industry face similar challenges as the seek the beat out global competition to ensure victory for their companies,   Advertisement constantly embodied these characteristics in the actors and message they transmit.  Kids see these traits in films (Avengers anyone) and on television.   Everywhere young people turn they see these ideals play out.  This message of battle and war is constant in our daily language that reinforce these manly ideals.

The question is what would we grow up to be without these embedded messages.  Would we seek to mimic behavior of our fathers, neighbors, uncles, or grandparents.  Would the message be the same?  Would change to one of compassion, caring, and creating?  The messages are stronger than every before and far more consistent across the media world and in family homes.  Should we be surprised that our boys are losing their confidence and self-esteem everyday?  Should it come as any questions that boys try to dominate each other to prove these ideals?

Literacy does not Equal Intelligence

The educated word lives by an single narrative best captured in Star Wars: Phantom Menace.  Qui-Gon Jinn askes Jar Jar…”Are you brainless?”  To which Jar Jar replies, “Mesa Speks!”  Qui-Gon response captures a majority of the educated narrative opinion, “The ability to speak does not make you intelligent.”  Living in a literate world for thousands of years, we have developed this narrative that reading and writing, in modern terms literacy are one the main indicators of intelligence.  However, we really think about this concept we can prove its falsehood.  We live in a world that chooses to write down things we consider important whether they are true or not is up to debate.  Once something is written down it becomes an indicator of intelligence most prized by society.  The questions is do we really prize the ability to read and write or has that simply become the primary method of capturing information.

Imagine a world we everything is spoken or that speaking and thinking are prioritized over reading and writing.  I know the immediate argument is that one person cant remember everything and therefore we have to write things down.  But we live in a  video world we every almost every person in industrialized nations have access to video recording and audio recording devices.  I am not making the argument that reading and writing is unimportant.  On the contrary, I am making the argument that reading and writing are not indicators of intelligence.   The 21st century requires people that can solve problems and think critically with the information they possess. Thousands of people for thousands of years have been able to solve problems for themselves regardless of their ability to read and write.  I would even make the argument that cultures that have not embraced reading and writing may be in a better position to handle upcoming problems within our world.   We must embrace every being as intelligent including animals as we progress in our understanding of the world as we seek to solve the many problems caused by our educated society and arrogance of being intelligent because we can read and write.  Other wise, we may well destroy our world while our less intelligent members of our species inherit the earth.

Picture is worth a thousand words

In the era of digital everything, people have become more and more savvy in their picture taking.  Gone are the days of professional photographers.  Now we live in a world where everyone has access to a higher quality camera at all times.  The everyday photographer through trial and error has developed many of the same techniques that professional photographers use.  People understand how to take their picture to make them look happy, excited, sad, or mad.  People understand angles and lightening and their effects of the picture.  This bodes the questions can any picture truly be trusted.

Check any Instagram and Facebook feed and you will see pictures of happily ever after people.  People have begun branding their life a certain way for public audiences.  Do you want to be know as the perfect family?  Now you have tool to brand this message to your followers and friends on line.  The families of the past did this same type of behavior trying to be the ideal image of a family, father, or mother.  However this generally was confined to public spaces and one photo.  Now days, every family outing or event requires photo documentation of how wonderful the experience was/is and how the family simple loved in as many takes as necessary to get the right picture.  We begin crafting our own digital illustrated narrative regardless of the reality of our lives.  We tell the story we want to others to know.  Does this break from reality change the idea that  picture is worth a thousand words?  Maybe it would more realistic to say a picture is worth a careful crafted thousand word message.

Language is the Code

Just how important is language, try thinking about how to solve the world’s problems.  Chances are you can’t and it s not because you don’t want to.  It is because you lack the language to begin to honestly think about how to  have the conversation in your head.  Let’s think for a minute about how language originated.  By design language is a exclusionary code designed to for two or more people to be able to communicate with each other without others being able to decode that message.  Grog and Og were talking one day about the best place to hunt mammoths.  In the bushes, Zog overheard this conversation and went killed all the mammoths.  Grog and Og said this will not happen again and developed some new grunts so that Zog would have no idea what they were saying.  Over generations, language expanded and now Grog and Og’s decedents decide to write down their code.  No one had done this before, the were able to control the information and decide who should have access to it.  They provided this access by teaching their friends and children the language skills needed to access the information.

Flash forward to modem day advertising, corporate messages are developed in order to allow the target audience to decode it.  For example, Accenture has wonderful commercials that are targets towards educated adults in a specific economic bracket.  Their commercials use languages that a majority of people do not understand. and therefore have no interest in the product.  For those that can decode the message, they may seek more information on the product.  The same goes for Apple and teens.  The IPOD commercials were successful because the message was designed for teens and young adults.  They have the tools to decode the message and be included in this secret club.  Don’t believe, ask your mom what the song your listening to is about.

Code of Ethics…special rules cause special problems

A journalists code of ethic should serve as the basis for their life’s work.  Seek truth and report it, Minimize harm, Act Independently, and Be Accountable and Transparent.  These ethics should drive the decision made by media organizations and the people that produce the information we receive.

Journalism is not the only occupation that creates a gate keeping society.  All professions have individuals that control the flow of information to stakeholders.  For example,  a teacher controls the information that the students receive in their decisions of what to read, write, or hear.  Operating as a gatekeeper for students, teachers often control the flow of information and limit their access to information.  This type of situation also exists for the medical field or legal field.  As knowledge building continues to grow at an exponential rate in our society, finding the means of access to information becomes the number one of advantage in life.

The moment any industry starts to create special rules or deviates from their code of ethics for individuals we begin to see the transmission of information breakdown.  No this reporting entities are not provide equitable information to all people furthering the gap between those in the know, and those who don’t know.  All people who work in a service industry that controls the flow information should move to a model that demands people follow a code of ethics and strive to ensure that all people have access the information.


Brand Loyalty…Always Subject to Change

At this point in my life, I am pretty brand loyal,  I have tried different clothes, shoes, cleaners, cars, etc.  I have experience with products and have over time decided which products work best for me.  Most of the times these choices are very surface level.  For example, I do not examine a companies environmental impact, or the manufacturing decisions that impact other countries and people.  I usually choose brand that are influenced by the advertised lifestyle that accompany their products.  Although I know I am being influenced by advertising, I am not willing to spend the time to find other products that work as well.

The current company that I identify with the most is Nike,  I grew up in Illinois during the era of Michael Jordan and the explosion of the Nike brand.  This time period definitely influenced my thoughts on the quality of Nike products.  Over the year I did not maintain that brand loyalty until moving to Oregon four years ago.  Now living in the land of Nike,  I have become very brand loyal to the company because of access to the employee store that takes away one of the major hurdles, cost, and Nike has donated money to Oregon schools to support the AVID program.  These two things have cemented my brand loyalty to the company and their products.  As I am always a consumer, this is subject to change.