How would you describe yourself in one word? How would your best friend describe you? Now, consider how someone from the other side of the world, who has never met you before describe you? Every day we use labels to search and process our environment. Just like a tag, labels are search terms which describe and define us. So how great an importance do we put on these labels and how often do we rely on these tags without thinking of their consequences?
On Tuesday 19th February, PEPY and the PEPY Tours team took part in the first “Global Buzz”, a new global experiment set up by Melibee, a global education consultancy firm. The “Global Buzz” calls for communities across the globe to come together on a specific day for a grassroots conversation on a subject that is of interest to international educators and communities. The topic for this flagship event was ‘The Dangers of Labeling People.’
To stimulate the discussion and to allow a common frame of reference for all participants, Melibee shared an article with all groups taking part in the discussion called ‘Stereotypes and the Dangers of Labeling People’, by Adam Atler. The article looks at the reasons for, and consequences of labels, as well as the possibility of labels being ‘self-prophesising’; if a child is labeled as smart they will become smart. Therefore if someone is labeled as a threat, does this simply encourage both sides to believe it more?
The discussion began with a sharing of our initial thoughts about the article, and then went on to discuss personal experiences of labeling – what labels do you use to describe your own culture? What labels do you know others to associate with your culture? Amongst the PEPY NGO and PEPY Tours staff, there are 6 different nationalities, from 3 different continents. There were a wide variety of labels which came up throughout the discussion, and it was interesting to see how certain label connotations were shared within different nationalities. In particular, we looked out how our different cultures are labeled when abroad.
The discussion allowed for a greater understanding of other cultures and raised questions about how much value we put on labels. For example, labeling something or somewhere as dangerous can be a useful label as it provides us with knowledge to protect ourselves. On the other hand, how do we know this label is true? Can this label ever change? Is this label simply based on another label, and therefore an escalation of a stereotype?
From travel guides, to deep set racial prejudices, a label can cause a lot of trouble. Through the discussion we found that whilst labels are necessary for processing information, the problems arise when people are unwilling to change those labels and don’t allow themselves to be proven wrong.
We really enjoyed the event and there were some very interesting questions raised. Following the success of the event, we’re looking forward to getting together as a team more often to discuss more social topics that affect our world.
‘Stereotypes and the Dangers of Labeling People’
A Global Conversation: Announcing the Global Buzz