Learning the Limits of Behaviors
The Limits of Behaviors; Building Responsibility
Lesson Objectives: Students will learn that there are limits to what is considered acceptable behavior and that harmful or hateful attitudes and/or actions are not acceptable in any culture. Students will learn that every individual is responsible for limiting his or her own behavior. Students will learn the meaning of the word discrimination. (See below.)
Curriculum Areas: Social studies, life skills, language arts
Time Required: 40 minutes
Materials Needed: Copies of Lesson 9 Reproducible (PDF); board and markers
Key Concept: There are limits to tolerance of behaviors, and understanding these limits makes for a safe and free world. Even though we strive for mutual acceptance and respect among cultures, hateful attitudes, hateful behaviors, and harmful actions are not acceptable in a civil society. Everyone has the opportunity and responsibility to make choices that prevent intolerable behaviors, such as bigotry, prejudice, violence, etc.
Lesson Background: This lesson bridges prior learning about stereotyping and prejudice (unjust attitudes) to an understanding of the word discrimination (an unjust action, process, or system). This lesson will focus on the key concept that discrimination is often rooted in prior attitudes and develops from that foundation.
What You Will Do:
- Draw the diagram on the upper right on the board. Explain that the diagram represents the progression from stereotyping through prejudice (review definitions with students) to discrimination (actions designed to exclude others unjustly). Stereotyping can be the foundation of, and lead to, discriminatory acts or systems.
- Now write the following three statements from the bottom to top stair, and have volunteers read them aloud. Bottom: Blue-skinned tree-warts are untrustworthy. Middle: I don’t trust any blue-skinned tree-warts. Top: No blue-skinned tree-warts may own a business or have a credit card.
- Explain that each statement respectively expresses a stereotype, a prejudice, or an act of discrimination. Can students see any difference between the statements? (This may be difficult for students.) Discuss students’ answers. Students should understand that statement 1 expresses a stereotype because it is a generalization about blue-skinned tree-warts. Statement 2 is a statement of prejudice, a personal negative reaction based on the stereotype. Statement 3 describes discrimination—in this case it is an action taken to keep blue-skinned tree-warts from taking part in business and commerce.
- Distribute Lesson 9 Reproducible, “A Grave Injustice.” Have students read the information and answer the questions that follow. Then use the answers to stimulate discussion.
Make sure students understand that while there is a progression from stereotype and prejudice (attitudes) to discrimination (action), the final step is not inevitable. At any point along the way people can say, “This is wrong.”
- Was the internment of 110,000 Japanese Americans inevitable? At what point do you think it could have been stopped? What could an individual have done?
- Since the events of 9/11, and with fears of terrorism, there has been a backlash against Arab Americans in some communities. What could you do to stand up against stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination against Arab Americans today?
Create a “This Is Discrimination” bulletin board using examples from newspapers, magazines, and online sources about situations in which stereotyping and prejudice escalate to discrimination. Have students respond to items of particular interest by writing journal entries, Letters to the Editor, or letters to appropriate authorities (e.g., their elected representatives).