The following article was written by Yoshita. Yoshita is currently studying language arts and mathematics at HEROES Academy.
Looking back, I realize how many times that happened to me and I didn’t do anything about it. Back in third grade, I was considered a “nerd” because I usually got everything right. But, that’s not true! Normally, during recess I would stay inside reading or helping the teacher out in class. But, I had to give someone else a turn. So, I went outside much to my dislike. I decided to go play on the playground. As I walked up the stairs to get on the slide, a kid known in the school as “The Chewer”* pushed me off and said, “What’ya doin’ here nerd? Go’an play chess with them other losers!” I personally love chess, I would never call someone who plays chess a loser. However, not knowing what to do or say ---that’s what I did. I remember going home in tears that day. This was one to many times that this happened. That’s when I realized that was the last time.
I was never going to take something like that, EVER.
The problem is that labeling happens so often, that people don’t recognize that they are hurting somebody.
Jason P. Stadtlander from the Huffington Post says, “No, I am not a sum of my labels. I am someone unique, with my own views, perspectives and opinions. But to say that I am a word or that a word really describes me wouldn’t be accurate.” This shows that he will not become what those labels say he is. He will be his own person. Unjudged.
Even after my promise not to take those labels, I have been labeled countless times. But this one time it happened to my friend Anjali.* She missed maybe six months of school because she went to India with her parents to take care of her sick grandparents. Seeing as she missed more than half of the entire school year, she had to redo fourth grade. The kids in her class called her “dumb”, “an insult to all Indians around the world,” “idiot.” She gave up her social life, risked being ridiculed by her classmates, and went to take care of her grandparents.
One way that we could stop or at least lower the amount of times that this happens is by educating kids and adults about the dangers of peer labeling. Educating adults will show them what’s happening to their children and the fact that this is happening in the adult world as well.
According to Carol N. Trueman, author of The Labeling Theory, “Labeling can also mold the way someone behaves in their lives especially if they cannot shake off that label.” This means that people will behave the way that they are labeled if they cannot get rid of their label. For example, if one kid is called a nerd and he can’t shake it off, he will become a nerd just to fit with that label. Adam Alter, author of The Dangers of Peer Labeling, says, “But it's important to recognize that the people we label as "Stupid," "slow," "rich," poor," smart," and "simple," seem stupider, slower, richer, poorer, smarter, and simpler merely because we've labeled them so.” This means that even though we label people to be a certain way it does not make them how we think they should be. Many people have had this problem, but some bullies take it way too far. The victims take actions that may be regrettable. Many students notice the labeling, but are afraid of what is called “Social Death.” Telling the teacher, principal, paraprofessional, etc, would cause all of the other students to laugh, call them a crybaby, snitch, or altogether stop talking to them, you know, “shunning.”
Another way this can be stopped is by making an anonymous “tip” box, so that students can anonymously report what they see is happening from their point of view. So that they can feel good about reporting something bad that happened, but will not get teased by their friends. But even so, it will not stop.
Research by Kate Dailey of Newsweek shows this, “Kids are the ones who are most damaged by Middle-school labeling. Those kids are also at a disadvantage because the label that sticks the most isn’t one given by peers, but by the Middle-school system itself, and one that disproportionately affects kids. Tracking—the process of putting kids in remedial, gifted, or average-level classes—has a lasting impact well beyond graduation.
“They get messages all along the way about how good and bad they are. The kids who are on the low tracks know that they are. They know what their status is,” she says, and the label of “smart” or “dumb” carries long beyond “band geek” or “nerd.” This means that people aren't labeling each other, the school system itself is labeling them. By putting kids in certain classes the school system itself is the one starting all of this bullying and such.
One other way to stop peer labeling is not to make students feel bad about class that they are in. Putting kids in remedial, gifted, or average-level classes, is not right, and they should be treated the same. Just because a kid is in a remedial class, it doesn’t make them stupider than everyone else. If a kid is in a gifted class it doesn’t make them smarter than everyone else. Everyone is equal.
Thinking about the future, I realize that if we don’t take action on something like this then, we will be in a horrific shape!!! It reminds me of my favorite book, Divergent. The main character had to “Stick with her own clan” and not make friends outside of it. We will soon become like that if we don’t take action about this issue.
Has my question from the beginning been answered? Peer labeling is happening all over the world, and we have to do something about it. There are many different ways to solve this worldwide problem. With these solutions I hope, that many people will take action and stop this problem from expanding.
Alter, Adam. “Why It's Dangerous to Label People.” Psychology Today, Sessex Publishers, 17 May 2010, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/alternative-truths/201005/why-its-dangerous-label-people. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.
Trueman, Carol N. “The Labelling Theory.” History Learning Site, History Learning Site, 16 Aug. 2016, www.historylearningsite.co.uk/sociology/crime-and-deviance/the-labelling-theory/. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.
Kulhanek, Sadie. “Middle School - Labels & Stereotypes.” Prezi.com, 18 Oct. 2016, prezi.com/yad_wdriiunj/middle-school-labels-stereotypes/?webgl=0. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.
Stadtlander, Jason P. “Casting Off Stereotypes: I Am More Than a Label.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 20 June 2014, www.huffingtonpost.com/jason-p-stadtlander/right-and-wrong-good-and-_b_5504133.html. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.
"Indiana University Bloomington." IIDC - The Indiana Institute on Disability and Community at Indiana University. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.
Dailey, Kate. "Can You Ever Escape Those High-School Labels?" Newsweek. N.p., 16 Dec. 2010. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.