Brush and Palette

Students explore the dangers of a single story

Ben Kellogg, Reporter

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On Tuesday, Dec. 5 and Wednesday, Dec. 6, in association with our district’s adoption of the No Place for Hate campaign, English teachers engaged students schoolwide in an activity and discussion that encouraged the rejection of stereotyping based on limited perspectives.

No Place for Hate is a nationwide program that over 1,600 K-12 schools have joined to stop bullying. This program teaches how students should act and how their actions affect others. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is the organization that runs No Place for Hate. Although ADL works with many different causes, their original goal was religious equality. Founded in 1913, their mission was to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all…” This remains one of their bigger missions.

Currently, English teacher Dawn Hunnicutt leads the effort to bring this program to our school. A discussion with teachers from other schools began last spring and No Place for Hate was determined to be a good fit for our district.

“The No Place for Hate committee right now consists of teachers and administrators. It is our goal that [the students] drive the remaining activities in the spring,” said Hunnicutt.

The problem that the classroom activity focused on was the danger of assumptions made about others. The goal of this activity and the accompanying TED Talk video was to show how a single story, or single perspective, can rob an individual of his or her dignity.

“I want students to feel both safe and supported on our campus. It saddens me that a good number of students feel targeted, marginalized and forgotten,” said Hunnicutt.

The speaker of the TED talk is Chimamanda Adichie, a novelist, who shared her understanding about how one story or stereotype might provide a truth, but alone, it provides an inadequate depiction of a person who deserves much deeper recognition.

“I think the speaker was eloquent in her presentation. I think to hear her speak and to understand the misconception people have about her is compelling,” said Hunnicutt.

While the judgments that have affected us individually vary greatly, one common fear among high school students pertains to how they will be perceived with regard to their final college selections.

“I chose to go to a school that I obviously knew was easier to get into – not because I don’t have high expectations for myself, or did not have a good enough GPA or standardized test scores to get into other schools – but because I fell in love with the campus and the school as a whole. I knew that my future opportunities in the nursing field there would be just as amazing as if I attended an Ivy League or a university that Laguna Beach High School kids thought was ‘more prestigious’,” said senior Mackenzie Peasley.

This activity inspired many LBHS students to share their own experiences with stereotypes, and it provided everyone involved to learn from their peers and gain deeper empathy for others.

“I’m not my height – someone isn’t just their gender,” said senior Aleya Post. “Learn to think outside the box and step into someone else’s shoes.”

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Students explore the dangers of a single story