SOCIAL CONSTRUCTS AND THEIR EFFECTS ON SOCIETY
As seen in “Eye of the Storm,” it only takes one person with a dominant character to control a room of people. Jane Elliott goes on to prove her theory, using Hitler’s methods, from third graders in California to college students in New York to working adults in Britain, of segregation. This same process is still seen in schools today and is identified as bullying; kids who lash out at other students and even their teachers. The teachers can have this prejudice too against students who are slower to learn due to dyslexia, color blindness, or autism.
These disadvantaged students do not see themselves represented in media or toys they may play with. There is not a number of them to stand up for their rights in each classroom. It’s usually 1 for every 30 students that will struggle for a reason beyond financial, relational, or personal control. The student might want to learn, but the parent isn’t educated enough or is too distracted working to support their other kids to pay attention. The teacher doesn’t appreciate the distraction that child brings to the classroom and the time they take away from other students. The children without these learning disadvantages see that it is ok to single these kids out and harass them.
The reality for these slow learners is that they are not as important to their families, peers, teachers, and the media — four out of five agents of socialization. This is a sad realization for these young people and it will go on to influence everything they do in their daily lives. They will feel less important, less needed, and less intelligent. Their families will fight more over the time, finances, and behaviors of the individual. Their peers will tease them and leave them to sit in the corner in class and alone in the lunch room.
The teachers will get flustered because they don’t know how to handle the situation, the lack of education in society about it, and the lack of staff to help give that student a chance to learn and thrive at their ability level. Cartoons aimed at children don’t show kids like them, so they must not be normal. Other animals in nature prey on the weak, so they must be like a broken zebra in a field of lions — and that’s what it feels like to them. This is their reality as they have come to know it based on the consequences put upon them externally leading to internal conflict.
Learning disabilities are not the fault of their owner. These students are human and they want their basic needs to be met too. They want to feel warm, safe, and capable — of completing the paragraph to read aloud, to color by numbers correctly, and to make it through lunch without a disturbance that further plays on their anti-social behavior. Not everyone on the autism spectrum is a savant and not every other student in the class will grow up to be astronauts and doctors, but the competition is there — it need be more equal.
By more equal I mean, it shouldn’t be the colorblind against those with glasses or 20/20 vision competing for a job as an electrician, but the person more able to do the job correctly. Society has made it easier on those unable to see or hear as clear as others by providing glasses and hearing aids, but what about those students who can’t differentiate between colors. They are not even given the chance to compete because they, and those around them, know they will lose. This is an unfair advantage, but perhaps that provides the power differential necessary to maintain competition in the education and work force realms.
People might like to think that they work better as individuals, and that might have some truth to it, but it has been proven how well we can use that individualism together to achieve greatness — the idea, the builder, the moderator, the inspector — of planes, skyscrapers, and cell phones. These students shouldn’t be singled out for a disability beyond their control, only for their lack of trying in any individual’s case. People like to help those that see them helping themselves. People in power, the students without learning disabilities, shouldn’t have to put other children in a lower social position in order to achieve their goals. The teachers shouldn’t allow this behavior to happen as it lowers the self-esteem of those picked on and the morale of the class by leaving the shy kids as a quiet witness to these brutalities.
Everyone struggles with issues — personal flaws, public persona, financial obligations, family issues, and finding themselves — whatever that means to them. Jane Elliott should be more of an influence in classes everywhere along with another good film, based on real life, called “Freedom Writers” which is about the methods used to stop the pain of segregation. The teacher had the students write to Miep Gies, the woman who saved Anne Frank from the Hitler regime, and she flew from Amsterdam to visit their class in Long Beach, California.
It might be easier to judge someone based on the color of their skin rather than the less obvious internal differences, but that doesn’t make either acceptable. From a functionalist point of view, these students serve as motivation for classrooms and society. Don’t be the student who can’t read quickly, color correctly, or go to sleep at night without banging their head on the wall. Don’t be the student that can’t get certain jobs when the problem to add shape recognition to the colors is easily fixable; or the student who can’t coordinate their business attire for the office, and accept that they may only work in black-and-white fashion industries.
These seemingly unforeseen inabilities can also pose a health risk to those that suffer and those around them. Only by knowing which light, red or green, goes on top or to the left of a traffic light can someone who is colorblind tell the difference at an intersection. Someone with dyslexia is likely to say the number wrong, but type it correctly, or vice versa which affects them in class, at work, and on vacation. These people don’t need the added stigma to this ordeal.
Someone with autism might be sweet in the classroom, but a teacher’s nightmare on the playground. They can be nice during lunch, but hold food in their cheeks at dinner posing a choking hazard and a lack of eating. These situations can be difficult, and not something just anyone is capable of dealing with. Some autistic kids don’t portray this behavior, but society needs to get rid of the stigma and replace it with understanding.
This system stabilizes society right now, giving people without these issues something negative outside themselves to focus on. This builds the non-issue people’s self-esteem and maintains a balance in society so that people can continue to feel an unneeded struggle and feel right about the position in life that they live. People may feel that they have earned this situation or that they don’t deserve these difficulties. This puts more strain on an issue that if worked on together could have less of a negative impact, so people are free to focus on more purposeful things in their lives.
People feel this system works, but having states opt out of the No Child Left Behind act because the schools, teachers, parents, and community can’t keep up with the demands that advancements in evolution and technology demand of us is not a working system. It is dysfunctional and gives purpose to those who struggle to change the way things work. They fight in the political system, they fight for civil rights, and they fight for a better tomorrow. A day that will bring a bit of change and a bit more sunshine into the dim looking futures of those that are bullied for seeming to appear less worthy in the eyes of society.
A famous quote by Bert Lance, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In this instance, if it serves a function and society is continuing on, then people shouldn’t interfere with the process. Lance also states, “… The trouble with government:…not fixing things that are broken.” C. Wright Mills argues that as a social product, the human mind might be deteriorating in quality and culture. Some might argue his tumultuous lifestyle conflicted with his theory. Society thrives on conflict to drive motivation and innovation. This means that giving these kids a chance could lead to more positive social interaction and change.
“We don’t need a melting pot…We need a salad bowl…You want the vegetables…to maintain their identity. You appreciate differences.” – Jane Elliott
*all images collected from Google