Prejudice and Discrimination

Prejudice and Discrimination

“I was taught never to judge a book by its cover.”

This chapter explains two key interrelated terms: prejudice and discrimination. We explain that prejudice and discrimination cannot be avoided; we all hold prejudices and we all discriminate based on our prejudices. We argue that the first step in minimizing discrimination is to be able to identify (rather than deny) our prejudices.

Vocabulary to practice using: prejudice; discrimination; implicit bias

Imagine that you are on a hiring committee to identify the best candidate to join your school faculty. Ms. Hardy, the principal who chairs the committee, reports that there are too many applicants for the one position and that the committee needs to thin out the applicant pool. As she is distributing the files for review, she says, “Oh, here’s a male applicant. We definitely want to consider this one, since we have so few male teachers at our school.” As she says this, she is thinking, I really want to get some male teachers in here; just the other day a parent was complaining that there weren’t any male role models for the boys.

Liz, a teacher on the committee, thinks, Oh great, a man. That’s all we need. He’ll probably be the vice principal by next year; and says, “Yes, but there are many other dynamics associated with what a candidate brings.”

Wendy, another teacher, thinks, I hope he’s gay; men teaching at the elementary level usually are. He’ll probably be a blast to work with; and says, “Yeah, we should look closely at his application. And it would be so great to have more diversity around sexual orientation too.”

Mary, another teacher, thinks, Uh-oh, he’s probably gay … that’s going to be an issue for a lot of the parents; and says, “Yes, but we should consider how the candidate fits the culture of our students’ families. In the past, we’ve had problems around gay teachers.”

Liz exclaims, “Whoa, this is prejudice!”


Everyone is stunned by this charge. Wendy retorts, “That’s a terrible accusation! We have a process here, and policies that we will follow to ensure that every candidate is evaluated fairly. Besides, Mary and I don’t have a prejudiced bone in our bodies!”0

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