Thursday, July 18, 2013

Stereotype Threat

The passage below is from a 2009 interview of Claude M. Steele conducted by Henry Louis Gates about the effects of "stereotype threat" on Afro-American achievement, or anyone else for that matter. I do not subscribe to the prevailing notion of diversity in the American education system, but a thoughtful discussion of the topic covered in this interview should be a required right of passage discussion for all Ethiopian-American/Canadian kids.

HENRY LOUIS GATES, JR.: Claude, what exactly is “stereotype threat”? And why does it matter for the intellectual performance of Black youth at school?
CLAUDE M. STEELE: Stereotype threat is a very simple experience that everybody has, I believe, a couple times a day. It refers to being in a situation or doing something for which a negative stereotype about one of your identities—your age, your race, your gender—is relevant to you. You know then that you could be seen and treated in terms of that stereotype. And if you care about what you’re doing, the prospect of being judged and treated this way can be upsetting, distracting, and can interfere with your functioning in the situation.
GATES: But I was thinking of Black immigrant children.
GATES: As opposed to indigenous, African American children.
STEELE: You get very little stereotype threat effects among first generation immigrants, but you get them in second generation immigrants.
GATES: Because they become “Americans,” replete with psychological conditions induced by socialization?
STEELE: They become Americans and they know how they could be seen. And they don’t have, say, the same dialect, or maybe the same features. The social patterns that they know in the first generation will deflect their being seen stereotypically — “If people know this about me they’re not going to see me in terms of this American racial stereotype.” But their kids don’t have those same markers, so to speak. And they know they could be seen that way.

Here is a link to the video of the interview and here is a link to the print version.

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