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  • Susan Stoderl

Stereotypes | What’s in a Word?

stereotypes in shcool
Stereotypes in middle-grade and upper grades

Categorizing a fellow student as a “nerd” in middle grade or upper grades is applying a stereotype to a human being with feelings. It is used to imply someone is studious and unadept socially. The word did not come into heavy usage until the 1960s and continued strongly through the 1980s. With the rise of technology, nerd and geek became more cool and popular—especially as they became multi-millionaires at twenty years old!

My other stereotypes in junior and senior high were “Goody Two-shoes” and “Wall Flower.” I devoutly went to church, was studious, and never had a boyfriend. And I was sure I was not attractive for a variety of reasons. Besides, if I hadn’t been a Goody Two-shoes, my grandmother would have made sure I never went outside the house. Years later, this was confirmed. At my twentieth-year high school reunion, one of the guys I had a tremendous crush on in high school told me the reason I didn’t have dates had nothing to do with me. Some guys wanted to go out with me. It was facing my grandmother. She was a small but formidable woman.

Goody Two-Shoes has an interesting origin as a stereotype. It comes from a children’s book entitled The History of Little Goody Two Shoes published anonymously in 1765. It was written either by either John Newbery or Oliver Goldsmith. The fact that I knew who Oliver Goldsmith was when I was in junior and senior high probably solidified my nerdiness. During that period I read The Vicor of Wakefield and perhaps saw the play She Stoops to Conquer on PBS. Nerdy was further confirmed because I watched PBS whenever I could get it and liked classical music. Uncool!

And, of course, the cheerleader stereotype implied they were popular with the guys and were probably a C student. Many have a 4.0-grade point and, with much more athleticism being introduced into cheering, are quasi-gymnasts. They are also not always the prettiest girls in the class, either. When you are a middle-grader going on into your teen years, defining who is beautiful changes. Particularly as you get into your twenties and thirties. Some girls grow into their beauty.

Stereotypes are just that. Be who you are—your unique self.


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