Tuesday, February 2, 2016

From the CETL Library: Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do

“People on the street may not have recognized the Vivaldi he was whistling, but they could tell he was whistling classical music.  This caused him to be seen differently, as an educated, refined person, not as a violence-prone African American youth.”

This book by Claude M. Steele provides an insightful look into the stereotypes surrounding us throughout our lives – both the ones that we ourselves emulate, and the ones we recognize in others.  Through several of his experimental studies on this subject, Steele suggests we look closely at the stereotypes we inherently see and consider the ways that we allow them to affect our perceptions.

Filled with several different case studies and social experiments, Steele has compiled a collection of experiences covering a wide range of populations including specific portions focused on race, gender, sexuality, age, and assigned groupings based on specific topics (i.e. “overestimators” vs “underestimators”).  Each of his studies showed a specific interest in how populations reacted to stereotypes that were either emphasized or smothered depending on the study.  The findings for each are fascinating and work to broaden our personal self-perceptions as well as our perceptions of others.

One such revelation stands out in particular when Steele specifically looks at the grade disparity seen between white and black students upon arriving to college despite having equal SAT or ACT scores.  After implementing several experimental testing situations, Steele discovered that black students tended to score lower on their college work.  Further exploration as well as Steele’s projected reasoning behind these lower scores can be found in chapters 2 and 3.

This book provides an interesting look into the circumstances that surround the stereotypes we have, the ways in which we use them, and the ways we allow stereotypes to affect different aspects of our lives.  A good read for anyone interested in the diversity they find within their classes, and how to become more aware of the ways their own perceptions affect the ways they teach in some way, shape, or form.

Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do can be found in the “Diversity” section of the CETL library.

Review Provided By: Jessica Moser

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