A long time ago I was in a BEd\Bsc program at University.
It was supposed to end with me having two degrees. One Degree in Education and one in Computer Science. But the two faculties couldn’t agree on the course of studies over 5 years. And when I got to year 5 it turned out both expected me to do at least one more full year in each faculty. I wasnt financially in a position to do that and had to decide which to finish. Since I had more credits towards my BSc at that point I finished that. But I did have the better part of 3 years of a BEd under my belt as well.
One of the things that came up for discussion during that education was “labels” and how they affect not only the person(s) being labelled, but also the person who applied the label. If you thought of a kid as “slow” or “stupid” or some other negative term, then you, as their teacher, were more likely to react and treat them in accordance with those labels. And you could inadvertently contribute to that child being treated as “slow” or “stupid”. How you perceived them had a direct impact on how you treated them.
If instead you thought of this student as “smart” and “capable” that too could factor in to how you treated those students.
The best defence was to realize when you were doing this and ACTIVELY work to combat doing this. (This article is VERY good on what to do and how to avoid it)
This sort of thing occurs a lot. We probably all do it from time to time. We label people in various ways. Kind. Considerate. Jerk. A-hole. You name it.
The trouble with applying such labels is that once they are applied they tend to stick. And this assumes that whatever behaviour was labelled is permanent, unchangeable and fixed for all time.
A single clumsy attempt at a joke could end up getting a person labelled as a jerk. And the person applying that label remembers that forever and treats that person as “a jerk” from then on. And never bothers to attempt to ever see that person they labelled in any other way. They were “a jerk”. They are “a jerk”. They always will be “a jerk”. Period.
The trouble is that it’s not realistic. People can in one moment be jerks, and in another extremely considerate, caring and compassionate. Rarely are people ALWAYS some singular label. People ARE complex and labels are often too simplistic. Especially if they are applied rigidly and NEVER re-examined to see if the reasons we labelled that person that way. Re-examination is hard because its very likely we base that re-examination ON the labels we have already applied.
The other downside to labels is that the person applying the label can use that label to dismiss the other person. Whether its complaints, concerns, or whatever its easy to see how labelling someone a jerk leads to “so I dont have to listen to them or try to understand their concerns – they’re jerks !”
And since “they’re jerks” everything is seen through that lens. Reasonable criticisms are seen as “Its by that jerk so I dont have to listen or even try to see IF they have some legitimate reason for that criticism. They’re jerks !”
I’ll admit that I do get frustrated with people and complain about them.
Esp as I drive (ask my wife) I do try to avoid labelling people – but its not a 100% success rate.
And, to be honest, I expect that the people this post is meant for might not read it.
Because they have applied a label which they feel gives them permission to ignore this.
Because that single fixed label that requires no thought, no reexamination, or consideration of anything that other person says, thinks, or does.