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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Stereotypes and Changes

Stereotypes abound.

They are a fact of life, and, in some ways, vital to our ability to function. Without stereotypes we would be forced to experience everything as brand new, completely unique, and utterly foreign. Every encounter would be a jumble of questions and discovery that would leave us exhausted at the end of the day.

"Will that two-year-old speak to me as an informed adult, or in gibberish?"

"Does the girl ringing up my purchase want a hug, or should I just smile?"

"Does that kid on the skateboard with piercings all over want to be engaged in a conversation about Calculus, or should I keep things 'chill' instead?"

Granted, the child may be eloquent, the girl may actually like hugs, and the skater boy may be very adept at Calculus. In fact, there's even a wildly popular TV show based around building up stereotypes and then taking them apart.

And so, while very useful--and the foundation of quite a bit of comedy--stereotypes aren't always accurate or helpful.

There are many of these less than ideal stereotypes surrounding homeschoolers... and Christians... and as a Christian who was homeschooled and then went off to a Christian University, sometimes I wonder how many of those stereotypes are closer to reality than would be ideal. And how much of a positive impact do I have on others, especially since I know my own foibles and failures all too well? How much real, positive change has my life had because of who I am, what I believe, and what I've been through?

Today I read about a book that seems to provide some interesting insight into the Christian side of things (sorry, it's not really about homeschooling at all). This book is written by a young man raised in a liberal secular home who decided to spend a semester at Liberty University. The review is fascinating enough, but I'm guessing the book will really open our eyes.


Rosslyn Elliott

May all of us--Christian, atheist, homeschooled, public school teacher, or otherwise--learn that we may be wrong about our assumptions and our stereotypes may be off. And may we all embody the good aspects of our particular groups' stereotypes in a way that inspires love and good-will.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

12 comments:

Mrs. C said...

My son Patrick DRIVES ME NUTS with this kind of thing. On purpose. He is 15 and comes home and tells me that he learned new doctrine in Stalin Youth today at public school... Then he dogs my "Amish bonnet-wearing" homeschool and asks about my buggy whip. He does this kind of thing ALL DAY LONG.

Do you want him to come over and visit? If he doesn't know a stereotype, he will make one up.

Melonie said...

This gave me a chuckle. Just a few days ago I got a response from a "green" blogger when I left her a comment about the Obamas starting the White House organic veggie garden.... she sent me a personal reply (which was very nice of her) that basically said she was enjoying "throwing it" in her "conservative" sister's face.

She didn't respond when I said, well, yeah, I'm a "crunchy con" ( a la the book Crunchy Cons about "green" conservatives) but glad to see the example being set and hoping it is followed through on.

I'm thinking she was set in her own stereotype that since I'm "green" and agreed with her that the garden was a good idea, I was automatically liberal in my political beliefs as well. ;-)

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Hi Luke,

I love the tip of the hat. Thanks!

I also had to laugh at the toothpaste post. I am a strict directions-follower with toothpaste, but my husband is a middle-squeezer who leaves the tube in discombobulated lumps.

Ken said...

Great post Luke. I picked up Unlikely Disciple when we were in Borders last weekend. It actually looks like in interesting read. The funny deal is that, in just browsing through the book, some of the stereotypes I had with respect to Liberty (both good and bad) were reinforced. Very interesting.

porterjennifer said...

Hi Luke- Thanks for your comment on my blog. Along with stereotypes, I was wondering if Sonlight Curriculum uses any of Joseph Bruchac's books, such as Pocahontas and Squanto's Journey? He is a Native author and I find alot of Sonlight's historical fiction books in their curriculum to be full of stereotypical and negative portrayals of Native Americans. Why not take a critical look at how Indians are portrayed through the books Sonlight has children read?
Jennifer

~ Angi :) said...

I like what you've said about the value of stereotypes, Luke. In a world where it is becoming increasingly 'dangerous' to categorically categorize, an occassional stereotype added to a conversation sure does help communication go further, much more quickly. A stereotype can give succinct speech in a pinch - and still remain aloof from any derogatory content.

(Well, that's what I got out of your comment! LOL)

Luke said...

Mrs. C, that's actually really funny... from the distance of a blog <smile>. I'm guessing it does get really annoying. Hang in there.

Melonie, I'm all for taking care of the planet and being good keepers of animals (one of the reasons we get cage-free eggs at our house), but I don't particularly like the political side of the "green" movement. Too much nastiness for my taste. But, yes, it is fun when people assume you are with them simply because you agree on some points. ...there's probably a good lesson in helping bridge gaps in that...

Rosslyn, thanks for posting about it <smile>. And I spend some time every few nights straightening out the toothpaste tube after my wife's used it <smile>.

Ken, I'd love to hear your thoughts if/when you've read through the book. I don't know much of anything about Liberty University, but I'm always happy to learn more <smile>.

Jennifer, my mom is always looking to include the best books out there, so I'll be sure to pass your suggestions on to her. It looks like we do sell The Arrow Over the Door by Mr. Bruchac... so it seems my mom has at least read one of his books <smile>. Thanks for the suggestion, we're always happy to get ideas on how we can make Sonlight better!

As for why Sonlight carries books that have errant stereotypes, I doubt I could give a complete answer. I can say that the goal is not to include bad stereotypes, but rather to choose titles that are engrossing and informative. Sometimes the best literature contains less than ideal content. We try to approach all titles critically and only choose the best. Whenever we find a book that is better, we try to move in that direction <smile>.

Does that make sense?

Angi, you said it really well: A good stereotype "can give succinct speech in a pinch - and still remain aloof from any derogatory content."

Thank you all for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I really appreciate it <smile>.

~Luke

porterjennifer said...

No, Luke, it bothers me. I trust Sonlight to choose books that teach my child the truth about American History rather than books that are simply "informative and engrossing". It isn't okay that the books Sonlight chooses hurts my daughter's and my feelings because we have Native American ancestors and they are portrayed, no matter how engrossing or supposedly informative, inaccurately and without the full truth. If your best literature contains less than the ideal content, you should not be using it to teach anything other than Literature. See, now I can't trust Sonlight's curriculum anymore because any book containing a negative stereotype should exclude it from use when there are many many informative and engrossing children's books that do not do that.
Jennifer

Luke said...

Jennifer, I am going to look into this more fully for you, but that is going to take some digging on my end. Thanks for pressing me on this very important issue, and I'll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

To make it even easier for you, I'd be happy to email you when I have a response--which I will also post here--that way you don't have to keep coming back to this post day after day <smile>. If you'd like me to email you when I've got some answers, please drop me a line (lholzmann@sonlight.com) so I can email you back.

Thanks so much!

~Luke

Heather the Mama Duk said...

I am often told that I don't "seem" like a homeschooler because I'm not "weird" and can carry on a normal conversation with people. I always tell people they have probably come into contact with many (former) homeschoolers, but they just don't know it. It's not like we go around introducing ourselves saying "Hi, I'm Heather, formerly homeschooled." That would just be weird (especially if your name wasn't Heather). I actually was friend with someone from church for several months before I found out her husband was homeschooled. Most people find out quickly I was just because it's the easy reason for why I homeschool my own kids: because I was homeschooled and loved it. (And, for the record, my never homeschooled, always public schooled, now a college professor, older brother is WAY weirder than most homeschooled/formerly homeschooled people I've ever met!)

Luke said...

"...especially if your name wasn't Heather..." <laughing> So true!

And, yes, I've met some really weird public schooled kids who are just as socially awkward as any homeschooled kid I've met.

~Luke

Luke said...

Jennifer, I have attempted to continue the conversation here. If you're watching this post, please read this one and share your thoughts. Your insights are invaluable! Thanks.

~Luke


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