Lesson Plan: Don't Judge Me
Understanding the Power of a Stereotype

Activities and Procedures

3. Class Project

Divide students into small groups and provide each group with a copy of the reproducible "A Lesson from Santa."

Ask students to look at the image closely and to discuss the following questions in their small groups:

  • What do you think the artist’s purpose was in creating this image?
  • Who might her intended audience be?
  • What impression does this image leave on you? Does it stir up a memory?

Reconvene as a class and invite students to share their impressions with each other. Share with them that this was a poster created by visual artist Cynthia Duxbury to address the negative power of stereotypes in post-9/11 America.

You may wish to share the following background information about the artist with students. It’s excerpted from an article, “Unwrapping Stereotypes: Lessons from Santa”:

“I was looking at images of people in newspapers and books and started thinking how unfair it was, people just judging others on the way they look," she said. "I started to notice myself making some judgments on the people around me. I figured if I'm doing it, then a lot of other people are doing it, too.”

INS roundups, racial profiling, patriotism slipping into jingoism: Duxbury weighed it all as she created an image that played Santa's hat off the turban of a bearded, faceless man.

"We have all been fed so much fear," Duxbury said.

After creating the side-by-side Santa/turban images, Duxbury added the words: "Funny how the tiniest thing can make people feel different about you."

Duxbury emphasized that her message is less about politics and more about humanity. “It’s common sense,” she said. “I'm not very educated when it comes to political matters. This is about simple humanity.”

Duxbury hopes people pause when they see her artwork, take a moment to think more deeply, moving beyond shallow, conditioned responses.

“It's about awareness and empathy,” she said. “To stop and think, ‘Gosh, maybe I looked at someone today and judged them when I shouldn't have.'”

After the group discussion, ask students to create their own posters to spread awareness about the harms of stereotyping. They can select any group from the list that was generated during the warm-up activity. Remind students that, like Duxbury, they should write a caption for their poster. You might also encourage them (especially if they’re not comfortable drawing) to pull images and/or create a collage from a variety of media, including newspapers, magazines, and the Internet.

Note: There is an alternative lesson plan for this reproducible PDF online.

4. Homework or Longer-term Assignments:

  1. Ask students to write an “artist’s statement” to accompany their posters (some helpful guidelines are available at http://tinyurl.com/3bs2wo). You may wish to set up an exhibit in your classroom or in a prominent area of your school and invite students to present their work to their classmates or other members of the student body.
  2. Select several images from the website of the traveling exhibition THEM: Images of Separation, which “showcases items from popular culture used to stereotype different groups, including Asian Americans, Hispanics, Jews and poor whites, as well as those who are ‘other’ in terms of body type or sexual orientation.” (Note: some images include strong language so we definitely suggest that you vet the selections). Have students pick an image from your vetted list and ask them to describe the stereotype and research the historical period when such an image might have been created. This assignment should help students to view stereotyping and essentialism in a historical context.
  3. Have students create a visual timeline of popular stereotypes in the United States. Then ask them:
    • In what ways can the types of stereotyping and ethnic, racial, or religious profiling and harassment be remedied?
    • What can we do as individuals and as communities?

    Divide the class into groups and invite students to come up with action plans for an anti-bias project with clear start and end dates, goals, and benchmarks. This project could extend over the course of a quarter or semester so that students might see the impact of their vision. Possible projects might include: creating a school club to learn about world cultures and religions; organizing Diwali or Eid celebrations and inviting guest speakers; volunteering with a refugee program and getting to know Muslim arrivals; forming a book club to read books about the Muslim or minority experience in America.

  4. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life published its “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey” in 2008. The document “Beliefs Portrait of Muslims” offers a summary of the diversity of Muslims beliefs. Have students evaluate the findings of this study and write an essay about why it counters stereotypes.
  5. The website Change the Story is an online resource aimed at transforming harmful stereotypes about Muslims that persist in society. It offers an interactive experience where users—Muslim and non-Muslim alike—can meet their neighbors, learn about Islam and apply techniques of interfaith dialogue and action to local communities. Have students browse this website and its videos “Meet Your Neighbor.” Then, ask them to research a prominent American Muslim or go out into their community and interview a Muslim community member. They can write up their research or make a short video modeled on “Meet Your Neighbor.”

Related resources for this lesson plan.

I am a Muslim
Murad Amayreh‘s “I Am a Muslim” video tries to contradict stereotypes with a man named Muhammad who presents himself as an ordinary American. It has attracted over two million hits on YouTube.

The Power of Words
A lesson plan from “Teaching Tolerance” that provides students with the opportunity to increase their awareness of the effects of using language that reinforces stereotypes.

Five reasons to teach, This is Where I Need to Be.
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