My Experience With Prejudice and Discrimination
Prejudice and Discrimination
My first realization of prejudice occurred when I was just five years old. My parents were required to register me for schooling at that age, although Kindergarten was not yet a requirement in our city's education system. I was administered a battery of assessments from which the school district recommended enrolling me in Grade 3 at age 5, since they had no classes or extra activities for gifted children. I was punished for my assessment results when I arrived home and I was held out of Kindergarten.
I learned later that my mother dropped out of school after Grade 6 at about age 14 and my father had not completed college, although he earned a significantly above-average salary. They were afraid that "someone would find out" their secrets - more specifically, that I would figure it out and "tell everyone." My mother, especially, was very angry with my assessment results.
Historic Long-Term Prejudice Against Gifted and Talented Groups In Schools
I learned to read and write from television programs before I was 4, with a little help from my mother with the alphabet and simple single-digit addition and subtraction; and did not find much challenge in Grades 1-3. I was told I was able to read silently too fast and to slow down by saying each word separately in my mind. I was not able to regain my reading speed until college.
I was ambidextrous and was emotionally leaned on very heavily by the teacher to become right-handed. I was not permitted to use my left hand to print, draw, or cut with scissors. I did not recover all of that ability until I had exercised both sides of the body in martial arts classes and become a 1st dan black belt as an adult.
The biggest thing I learned was that other kids (bullies) did not like the group of us that got homework done and could answer questions correctly when called on in class. They would hit us for it as soon as recess was called, until we started fighting back. This was all not a pleasant time and it lasted until 6th grade.
Since that time I have seen that when some Adult Education/GED students approach completion of their studies, certain of their classmates and even family members begin to sabotage these students' progress. In fact, some of the younger students go away to Job Corps in order to be able to complete a high school education or GED.
There seems to be a prejudice against accomplishment in this country and in some places, more so against minorities and women; but in other places, against white men.
In the Encyclopedia Of American Education under "Gifted", we find an interesting idea.
It appears that even in the ore wealthy school districts, administration and staff avoid targeted education for the talented and gifted (termed TAG in some districts).
Some researchers find that this avoidance is caused by a historic belief that in the USA “all men are created equal” and thus not deserving of special educational programs. Others feel that this must be an excuse, because that belief does not at all seem to stop special education for the developmental disabled and MR/DD populations or those with other special needs, except by occasional funding cuts.
According to some educators, the result has been a cultural bias against gifted students. “In America,” according to the minutes of the 1993 annual conference of the National Association for Gifted Children, “we often make fun of our brightest students, giving them . . . derogatory names. As a culture, we seem to value beauty and brawn far more than brains.”
Unfortunately, this prejudice targets people to the end of their life spans, even far into old age.
Discrimination In the Classroom
- Genius Denied ~ Welcome to Genius Denied
Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds, authored by Bob and Jan Davidson with Laura Vanderkam and published in 2004 by Simon & Schuster, is hailed as a “manifesto for change” by gifted education advocates and experts.
- GT is NOT... - Unwrapping the Gifted - Education Week Teacher
Tamara Fisher is a K-12 gifted education specialist for a school district located on an Indian reservation in northwestern Montana and President of the Montana Association of Gifted and Talented Education.
- Hoagies' Gifted: Exceptionally and Profoundly Gifted Students: An Underserved Population
Our task as educators is to place the extremely, gifted child in the environment that will least restrict her opportunities for socialization. Research suggests that the inclusion classroom, with age peers, may not be the most appropriate environment
- Myriad Myths about Giftedness | Duke University TIP
Top Ten Ways to Annoy a Gifted Child
- Top Ten Ways to Annoy a Gifted Child
The ten things guaranteed to make an insta-enemy out of even the sweetest child. How many will YOU try?
In Grade 4, gender prejudice arose to run parallel with prejudice against academic achievement. We did not have girls' sports per se, but we did have Physical Education outside when the weather was good. This often included dodge ball contests and foot races with boys and girls participating against one another in the same groups. I'll never forget the time that I won a foot race and the teacher announced loudly that the win did not count, because only boys were allowed to win. Some of the girls began bringing notes from home stating that they were injured or not well enough for Physical Education on those days.
In Grade 5, our teacher administered a test in word definitions. All those who scored a 100% were given failing grades - big black F's marked on their papers. A couple of students cried - boys and girls - and the teacher told us that it was about time that some of us "perfect" kids received an F to see how it felt. Parents were enraged by this activity, complained to the principal and school board, and the grades were raised.
In junior high or middle school, although I'd been awarded a John Phillip Sousa Award and sat first chair trumpet in the Concert Band, girls were not permitted to join the Swing Band. Many people said in general that girls are incapable of playing brass instruments. This discrimination disappeared in high school and I sat first chair in marching and concert bands. However, looking forward to college, I was disappointed to be informed at Admissions that women were not permitted to join the marching band or several other musical groups.
After a back sprain, I'd enrolled in martial arts for flexibility. The activities cured stiffness and alleviated pain and I began to progress. In the higher black belt levels, it was a good thing that I had a near-photographic memory for form patterns ("kata" in Japanese), because I was the lone female practicing with men who refused to show two forms to me. I saw the forms once each during one practice as others did them. My uniform was stolen before a testing day, but I had another and, and passed that test and subsequent tests. Still, the grandmaster and other instructors celebrated birthdays in the group, excluding mine, and began cutting me out of other events. I had been required to open a studio for the last part of the 4th dan test requirement (it was suggested to the others up for testing as well) and was the only one to do so. By 5th dan, I had joined a different group.
I have studied five martial arts for long hours inside and outside in all weather conditions, struggled with prejudice, and paid an equivalent of 5 times the market rate total for black belt dan rankings 1 through 9, because of gender and less than ethical administrators (before I could learn the market price and protest). However, I have several sets of skills that cannot be taken away.
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Prejudice In the Job Market
After college, I found that in applying for jobs I would be turned down quite often and quickly. Interviews seemed short. This was frustrating and I could not maneuver around some large and unseen barrier. Discrimination is shocking, especially when you feel well qualified and have credentials to show. EEO had been in effect for years at this time, but had not yet eradicated all unfair and illegal barriers to employment. Some employment applications still asked for family medical history.
Not having had any instruction on completing job applications or arranging and successfully completing employment interviews, I filled in as much family medical history as I knew. It turned out to be too much, since two people on one side of the family died of cancer and several on the other side were heavy smokers with heart conditions.I was healthy and never smoked personally, but the family medical history was my nemesis.
One particular company interviewer mentioned the term "high risk" in relation to health insurance costs and I realized what was happening. Afterward, I left family medical histories on job applications blank and soon EEO stepped in to remove this obstacle to employment.
Prejudice In Treatment
When my father's employer offered health and medical insurance for purchase, he declined, because he felt both were overpriced. In addition, His salary and company investments and pension were such that he could pay for catastrophic illness or accidents out of pocket, so he thought little of it (I never saw a penny of the money, though, or inherited any, in case you wonder). When I was 14, I was hospitalized for 3.5 days with abdominal pain that prohibited me from standing straight. My father explained to hospital staff that he would pay all costs out of pocket with no problem.
Despite the ability to pay, I was placed into a room that was being used for storage of equipment and supplies. It was difficult to get into the bed because of this.
I was given an IV saline solution the first noontime and no subsequent food or IVs. The day before my discharge, my father received a tentative bill that charged for food and, learning that I had received none, was very angry. Despite his confrontation with hospital staff, I received no food during the rest of my hospitalization. I also received no treatment during the 3.5 days, although the bill listed several procedures. Another confrontation lowered the bill. I was discharged with no diagnosis. The pain slowly dissipated over the next week and the family physician gave the diagnosis of "twisted ovary causing painful ovulation." This experience left me with a lasting negative opinion of American Healthcare.
Added to this is my experience working with disability and pain and stress clients. Repeatedly, I saw lower income, older, and rural patients treated minimally for major conditions, even when they had good insurance. Two women admitted to the hospital through the ER with cardiac symptoms were sent home the same day and died of heart attacks. And so it goes.
At one company that employed me and on a board of directors of another that had recruited me, I was the single person of my race, the others being of another one or two. It is hard to describe the attempts at discriminating against and isolating me from important events and projects. I was able to find workarounds in each case, but these required long hours of more work than should have been necessary. Discrimination wastes resources.
Equal Opportunity Information
- US EEOC Home Page
United States Equal Opportunity Commission - Check out the History section.
- Illegal Interview Questions and How to Handle Them
Be prepared for your job interviews by knowing and understanding that there are certain questions that you do not have to answer. In fact,...#5/30