Free Resources for Students and Teachers of English as a Foreign Language in China - by Paul Sparks

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Paul Sparks, Online Business English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas for Grade 1 English Conversation Lessons at Xiangtan Normal University...






The purpose of this lesson is so that students will understand that assumptions can lead to stereotypes and unfair judgments about individuals and groups and that stereotypes and biases affect our lives.


People often use labels or categories to describe others, these labels can be based on such characteristics as clothing, looks, the way a person talks, or the groups to which he or she belongs. People often make assumptions about groups of people they don’t even know.

When we make assumptions about an entire group of people, those assumptions are referred to as stereotypes. When assumptions and stereotypes influence our attitudes, we may find that making a fair judgment about someone or something is difficult. This influence on judgment is called a “bias.”

Stereotype are general ideas of a person, created without taking the whole person into account. When we stereotype a group of people, we depict all of the individuals within that group as having the same characteristics even though they are probably all very different.

Stereotypes normally reflect differences between one's own and a different culture.

Here is a more advanced definition (from the Oxford English Dictionary): "A stereotype is a preconceived and oversimplified idea of the characteristics which typify a person, situation, etc.; an attitude based on such a preconception. Also, a person who appears to conform closely to the idea of a type."

assumption - Definition: An idea that is taken for granted but not necessarily proven. Example: "Non-Asians often make the assumption that Asians are smart."

bias - Definition: Attitudes or behaviors based on stereotypes of people. Example: "When we omit people of color in our history lessons, we display a bias that suggests that their contributions are not important."

ethnicity - Definition: A categorization of people according to shared culture, language, or geographic region. Example: "The terms “Italian” and “Irish” describe two distinct ethnic groups."

race - Definition: A categorization of people based on shared biological traits such as skin color, hair texture, and eye shape. Example: "One function of the U.S. Census is to count the citizens by race, which is categorized as Black, White, Latino, or Native American."

 “Think about a situation when someone made a biased judgment about you or acted unfairly toward you because of your age, skin color, clothes you were wearing, gender, the way you speak, where you live, how much money your family has, or some other reason.” 

What are stereotypes and how do they affect people’s lives? 
Can you think of any events in history that were influenced by stereotypes and biases? 
How do people learn to make stereotypes? How might they unlearn them? 
How can the media (newspapers, television, movies) help to reduce stereotyping? 
Do you think certain groups are more subject to stereotyping than others? If so, why? 
What do you think an individual can do to help reduce bias and stereotyping?

Examples of common stereotypes about Americans are Freedom, Fast Food, Cars and Highways, Television, Computer, Culture and Sport. Americans are free people living almost without any restriction. That's why we speak about the "American Way of Life".

There is probably some truth in stereotypes, but they tend to be very general. For example, it is true that America is the home of Fast Food. With enterprises like Mc Donald's and KFC.

English speaking countries have many stereotypes about each other:

British and Canadian thoughts on Americans... 
Americans are loud, there are 4 kinds of Americans - (the Super-cool who live in Manhattan apartments - red-neck southerners who burn crosses and persecute anybody who isn't blonde-haired and blue-eyed - bible-Bashing Mid-Westerners - dizzy Californians who hire people to watch out for new Band-Wagons to jump on),  Americans have the average intelligence of a lobotomised amoeba, That Americans are all gun-toting, trigger-happy sociopaths, Americans are all obese from ludicrously large and fatty meals.

American thoughts on the British...
British are all pretentious and and look down their noses at other cultures, There are 2 kinds of British people - (friendly Cockney types with dodgy accents - relatives of royalty who live in mansions and drive Rolls Royce's or Bentley's), British use copiously large words when something more diminutive will suffice, Violent crime in Britain never gets worse than Maggie Thatcher hand-bagging the unemployed, The British are all obese from food that is either boiled or deep fried

Common Stereotypes about the Germans include:
The people like to drink beer, are always on time, unfriendly, especially in shops and supermarkets. Germans have rules, regulations and laws for everything. 

What does it mean to act like a man?  (e.g., men don't cry, men are tough, men are strong, men's jobs) 
What does it mean to be ladylike? (e.g., girls are polite, girls are neat, girls are passive, women's jobs) 
Where do we learn these gender roles? (People in entertainment? Sports? Media?.)
Where do women learn these messages? (Parents, Society.)

A stereotype confirms the belief that if you are a girl or a boy, or a woman or a man, you must perform these specific roles, and do them well. This belief takes away our personal choices in deciding our own interests and skills. It also discourages men from participating in "women's work" (such as flower arranging and child care) and it restricts women from choosing roles that are traditionally "male" (such as engineering and science). 

Have you ever experienced a situation where you were expected to act a certain way because you were a girl or a boy, even though it may not have been the way you felt like acting?

Differences in our society are many, including age, religion, physical and mental abilities, gender, sexual orientation, income, family or social status, and physical appearance. Anyplace where differences are found leaves room for stereotypes.

Stereotypes are generalizations about people usually based on inaccurate information or assumptions rather than facts. Stereotypes do not take into account the great diversity of people within a group of people. Nor do stereotypes consider the present circumstances of the individual. Even worse, stereotypes can lead to prejudicial or discriminatory behavior.

Stereotypes are learned. Young children learn to stereotype others by the comments or behavior of their parents or other adults in their lives. Some stereotypes show up in television, music, books, school textbooks, and advertising. People may learn stereotypes by believing someone else's opinion when they haven't had firsthand experience.

What can we do to reduce or eliminate stereotypes in our lives?

1. Focus on every person as an individual.
2. Become more aware of stereotypes and how they interfere with our ability to perceive and interact with people.
3. Remember that there are more differences within a group than between groups.
4. Recognize that we're all part of many groups, none of which can totally explain or define who we are.
5. Learn to look at things from the other person's point of view.
6. Adapt a more humble, tentative attitude about the accuracy of our judgments.
7. Be willing to learn more about the culture and background of people different from ourselves.
8. Take opportunities to neutralize stereotypes when we hear them.

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