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Area: Other Areas
Grade Level: Middle School, Primary/Elementary School
Topics: diversity, Equality/Equity, ethics, Fairness, Justice, Race, Stereotypes
Estimated Time Necessary: 50-60 minutes

Lesson Plan

Reflecting on “stereotyping”
To help students think about and define a working definition of stereotyping.
Evaluate problems with stereotyping
Determine potential problems with stereotyping and discuss whether this practice can be morally permissible.

Materials needed

  • Plenty of paper
  • Several sets of 5 different colored pencils or markers
  • Timer

Warm-Up Activity:

Ask your students to think about how they define a stereotype. Work in small groups to come up with a basic definition. Have your students write this definition down. After small group discussion, write each group’s definition on the board and discuss commonalities and differences.

Silent-Discussion Activity:

For this part of the discussion, you will use a “silent discussion” technique. Each group should have about five people in it. After reading the example as a class, pose the first question (see the example and question below).

Example:  Mr. Moore owns a convenience store near a school. He sells lots of candy and school supplies to middle school students. He has also had a lot of his merchandise stolen. Mr. Moore decided to implement a new policy requiring all students to leave their bags at the front with him when shopping in his store. If a student comes in wearing a large sweatshirt, Mr. Moore asks the student to leave it up front too. He does not ask women with large purses or men with briefcases to leave their bags at the front. When asked why, he tells the students that 90% of the people he has caught stealing have been students from the school, and he is just trying to protect himself.

Question:  Is this an example of stereotyping?

Students have one minute to respond to the question(s) on their own piece of paper. After responding, they must pass it to the student on their left. (Feel free to change the order or direction of passing for different questions, so students can respond to different classmates). Students will pass the paper four times or until it returns to the original person. Then everyone gets time to read what was written on their pages. Be sure to encourage students to respond directly to the statement(s) that have just been made during the writing periods.

  • Once your students have discussed the nature of a stereotype move on to the next question (again using the silent discussion technique).

Question: Is Mr. Moore’s policy morally wrong?

Repeat the same steps as before. And then follow with these questions:

  • How accurate is the stereotype in this case? Does the accuracy of the stereotype bear on whether it is morally wrong or permissible?
  • Be sure to point out here that many students that go into the store will not steal from Mr. Moore, but he is treating them as if they will. What if only one student out of one hundred would not steal from him if given the opportunity? Would he still be treating that one student unfairly?
  • To what extent does the fact that Mr. Moore believes he is protecting himself justify his actions?
  • It is not difficult to leave one’s belongings at the front of the store; however, the policy seems discriminatory. Is discrimination inherently wrong?

Concluding Activity

  • To conclude, ask students to raise their hands if they believe stereotyping is always wrong. Have this group write down at least one reason that they think this is the case.
  • Ask the other students who think stereotypes will sometimes be morally permissible to come up with either a second example of a time when stereotyping is not wrong or some criterion for determining if stereotyping might be permissible.
  • After they have developed their responses, partner students as evenly as possible with students of the opposite group. Give them time to discuss their answers with one another.
  • Return as a class and discuss.
This lesson plan was created for PLATO by: Kelsey Satchel Kaul and Heather Van Wallendael as part of a series of lesson plans in Philosophy in Education: Questioning and Dialogue in Schools, by Jana Mohr Lone and Michael D. Burroughs (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).

This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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