The first-ever session of the School Changemakers’ Program kick-started with the first week’s theme ‘Stereotype Shutdown’, being introduced, where the mentors gave a brief overview of the topics to be covered. They started by discussing the various aspects of ‘assumptions’, where the usage of assumptions in a daily context were spoken about, which led to some new terms- stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination.
The mentors began with the concept of a stereotype—which refers to “an oversimplified generalization about groups of people based on a characteristic, which might have occurred”—covering diverse aspects of it, such as gender, religion, race, caste etc.
Next up on the agenda was prejudice, which refers to the “beliefs, thoughts, and attitudes held by someone, about a group, without any experience.” A relation was drawn between this concept and past historical events, including the fact that discrimination is one of the causes that stems from prejudice, and how it affects our lives routinely. It seemed to raise the idea that prejudice might occur, even unintentionally.
Finally, the topic of discrimination came to light, which simply meant actions being taken against a certain group of people based on various factors such as age, religion, gender etc. A lot of arguments took place back and forth, with every person giving diverse interpretations of the concept.
The session commenced further onto a case study: ‘Group paradigm by Henri Tajfel‘. The aim of the case study was to prove that prejudice stems from people’s ordinary ways of thinking.
It began with an animation being shown on the screen while the fellows were instructed to count the number of times it blinked within 30 seconds. After that, they were given a list of other student’s answers and told to fund money to one of them. It was seen that all the fellows who had underestimated the number of blinks funded the underestimators, and vice versa. Hence, the experiment was successful in its hypothesis that people discriminated against in trivial matters, even if it wasn’t in bad faith.
Then, the concept of amplifiers was introduced with the help of a few indicators. There were advertisements, toys, folklore, and social media, all of which showed us the subtle ways in which discrimination occurred, even today.
To boost these creative gears, the mentors then opened up a series of critical surveys where the mentees were told to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and make decisions. The questions covered diverse aspects: from underlying stereotypes of gender roles to the sheer hysteria around the LGBTQ+ community.
The mentors finally concluded the session by introducing a new task for all the members, which would make for an interesting next week. The forum was opened for doubts and each query was taken care of. It was a thoroughly engaging session which was enjoyed by the mentors and fellows alike.