A Lesson on Stereotypes
Michael Ramsburg

The word “stereotype” is just a way for to demonize the law of probabilities, which is sometimes grounded in truth sufficient to justify behavior and sometimes not. For example, if I am driving and observe another vehicle piloted by a small white head barely peering over the steering wheel, I give that vehicle a wide berth, not because I believe that all little old ladies are bad drivers, but because I’ve seen evidence sufficient to convince me that a good many of them have lost the ability, but not the right, to safely navigate multi-lane roads at high speed and I do not wish to risk my safety or the safety of my passengers on the chance this one happens to be as sharp as anyone in their prime. I do the same when I observe teen drivers, whose music is so loud it actually vibrates my own vehicle. And more often than not, my caution is rewarded by observance of an unsafe lane change or some other unsafe maneuver that but for my cautionary approach could have resulted in an accident, which furthers my resolve to avoid such situations. “Stereotyping”? Probably, but I vehemently disagree that all “stereotyping” is ignorant, pernicious or as you put it, “stupid.” As human beings, we can’t know everything and so we must make decisions based on what we do know or at least what we think we know and we do it every day in a thousand different ways. True, sometimes people don’t know that they lack sufficient information to make an informed judgment but make that judgment anyway. Sometimes the information people have would justify their judgment if true but it turns out the information is incorrect. The answer isn’t to “paint them with broad strokes” as being “stupid” (I hope you see the irony) but to correct the information they have so they can make better informed judgment (albeit always without the absolute complete data set, since that is simply not possible). Thus, I not only disagree with your thesis, but find it guilty of the same behavior you purport to condemn. And as an aside, based on information I have today about educators, I do not believe you when you say children of the Appalachians are being taught not to say “yes ma’am, no sir, and please.” Maybe that happened once or twice, but my incomplete information about teachers says that your incomplete information about teachers is wrong. And finally, I disagree that teaching correct spelling, pronunciation and word usage is either wrong or necessarily strips you of your culture. I have many bi-lingual friends whose second language is learned at home and they are equally at home with both English and whatever is spoken by their parents. So frankly, unlike those getting on board the “politically correct” train, I don’t think your article has any redeeming value at all.

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