Critical ThinkingEducationPop Quiz

Pop Quiz: Givens

It’s a given that all college professors are liberal, that all students are lazy, that all politicians are corrupt…

Stereotypes are thought to provide rapid information about a situation to reduce processing time.  They develop from generalizations and therefore remove any individual differences.  The issues with it are well known (I hope).

The stereotypes I run into when I am at conferences or workshops and I explain I teach at a women’s college are…interesting.  I’ve written previously about gender-segregated schools and some of the links there share the common misconceptions about women’s colleges – that there is a lot of backbiting, petty bickering, lesbian orgies, what have you.  The assumptions that women devolve into this “mean girl” when there are no men around fascinates me.  The stereotype of the faculty at such an institution seems to be that we are all fire-breathing, bra-burning feminists if women and cowed, brow-beaten wimps if men.  One of my male colleagues enjoys playing into that stereotype on occasion, which I find extremely irritating.  It doesn’t really help our students’ notions of themselves when their faculty feed into such negative stereotypes in front of them!

There is also the concept of stereotype threat, where when students are reminded of what they’re “supposed” to be like, they perform in accordance with the stereotype.  In fact that’s one of the arguments for gender-segregation, though it may be exacerbating the problem (pdf, pdf – yeah I know pdfs…).

The thing is, stereotypes are probably really useful, cognitively speaking (pdf).  Given their utility, it’s hard to not have them and use them.

Here’s my question to you: how do we teach our students and ourselves to be cognizant of how we use stereotypes and to evaluate our thought processes?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the afternoon (ET).

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Apostrophobia

Apostrophobia

Apostrophobia is a college professor at a women's college in the US. She teaches biology, does pedagogical research on her guinea pigs (aka students), and has an existential fear of misplaced apostrophes.

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