8th Grader Learns Lesson About Intolerance
by Marcia Segelstein
by Marcia Segelstein
Catherine Vogt is an 8th grader in Oak Park, Illinois. Just before the election, Catherine, with the approval of her history teacher, decided to conduct an experiment about tolerance at her school.
As John Kass wrote in the Chicago Tribune, “She noticed that fellow students…overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama for president. His campaign kept preaching ‘inclusion,’ and she decided to see how included she could be.” So one day she wore a T-shirt to school on which she’d written “McCain Girl.” She carried a journal with her to record the reactions she got. And what was the response? She was called stupid, very stupid, and told that she shouldn’t be wearing it. Then fellow students told her to “go die.” In fact, she reports that she was told many times she should be killed. One student told her she should be “crucifixed” for wearing the shirt. Catherine found it almost funny that he didn’t even know the word “crucified.” One teacher also remarked on the shirt, telling Catherine that she wouldn’t judge her for her choice, but “she was surprised that I supported McCain.”
Catherine got very few even remotely positive comments. One girl privately told her that she liked the shirt. The next day, Catherine wore a T-shirt on which she’d written “Obama Girl.” The response to that? “People liked my shirt. They said things like my brain had come back, and I had put the right shirt on today.” After the experiment was revealed, her history teacher engaged her class in a debate. “I said, here you are, promoting this person [Obama] that believes we are all equal and included, and look what you’ve done? The students were kind of like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ I think they got it.”
And the teacher who had expressed “surprise” when Catherine wore the McCain shirt? When she found out about the experiment “she was embarrassed because she knew I was writing down what she said.”
Catherine turned the experiment into a report for her history class and got extra credit. (booklady note: well we are sheep afterall, right?)
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